Traveling in a time of COVID. Seriously

September 22, 2020

“You know what I regret?” my wife, Alison, asked me a few weeks ago. She was in full sales pitch mode, knowing that her target customer (me) would be skeptical of buying.

And she was about to go for the Hail Mary.

“We didn’t go when we had the chance, and I’ve regretted that ever since,” she said.

Alison was laying out the case for a dramatic change in our lives and the lives of our three children. We’ve been stuck in self-quarantine for six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, rarely venturing beyond the walls of our Pennsylvania house, our yard, or the occasional run to the hardware store.

She wanted something more than just a few days in a well-designed Airbnb. She envisioned a month away, somewhere imaginative; but with adequate WiFi and in the same time zone as our house, since we both work jobs from home.

She used the past as her best case for convincing me to support the idea.

Eleven years ago during the Great Recession, we faced as serious a crossroads as we had ever faced. I’d been laid off from my job as a newspaper reporter, struggling to find freelance work or a full-time gig.

We felt our dreams of owning a home and starting a family slipping away without knowing when everything might turnaround.

We could’ve just forgotten those dreams, hit the road, go explore, try new things. We tangentially considered it. But it seemed reckless.

We were raised to make safe career choices. That’s truly hard to ignore.

When faced with a choice, we went the safe route.

Alison kept her full-time therapist job. We took advantage of home buying incentives thanks to federal government programs and purchased a townhouse, then came the first baby, a reinvention of my career into public relations, a second baby, then a third, and the rest was suburban domestic bliss.

But you cannot snuff out wanderlust. You just can’t. You can ignore it, you can deny it, but it never, ever goes away.

Before we married, my wife and I in our separate ways pursued adventurous lifestyles.

When she was in college, Alison sailed around the world.

When I met her, I had built an outdoor lifestyle, hiking and backpacking and working for a gear retailer.

Six months after we met, we went to Ireland for 10 days. Our honeymoon was spent in Costa Rica – whitewater rafting, hiking volcanos, staying in ecolodges without electricity.

We dreamed large. We tried to live up to those ideals. We also believed after mortgages and children such things could be behind us.

Or maybe not.

For my part, I have to admit, I’m mired in an abyss of stress, anxiety, and a drought of creativity.

I used to write. I used to photograph. Used to.

I realize I’ve let the pandemic, the responsibility of parenting three young children, the duty of full-time work, all of it feed excuses to not write, to not make images

As I listened to Alison make a pitch about going to stay somewhere other than home for a month, I realized all of those excuses are self-defeating piles of bovine excrement.

What if, my wife and I asked ourselves, we travel to a place, rent an Airbnb, and do all the things we do now to stay safe (social distancing, mask wearing, and so on)?

The only difference, it seems, would be that we can walk to an amazing landscape right outside the front door that we otherwise couldn’t get by staying at home.

It would be healthy for us. And for our kids.

So we’re going for it. Soon. We’re packing the minivan and the SUV, the kids and the cameras, the books and the laptops.

I plan to write. I plan to photograph. And I gotta say, I haven’t felt this level of enthusiasm and inspiration since I can’t remember when.

This is also going to be incredibly hard. It won’t be like any other vacation in that we can’t do the things we typically love to do when traveling — eating in unique places, visiting amazing or historical sites, and so on.

Just can’t.

But what we gain, though, is a different back and front yard. A change of scenery. A new way to experience self-quarantine.

Who knows what we’ll find. But we feel compelled that it’s time to go.

If you could go anywhere right now to self-quarantine, to do everything you’re doing now to stay safe just in a difference location, where would you go? Would you even go?

Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He and his wife, Alison, have three sons. You can contact him at

More about Dave Pidgeon

Dave is the author of and lives in Lancaster, Pa., with his wife and their three sons.

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