One Tripped Up, about a tour operator who refused to comply with a consumer protection law, was published while the company was being actively investigated by the Massachusetts attorney general. I dived into the hotel industry’s blitz of new health and hygiene guidelines and examined questions about enforcement and workers’ safety. And while researching why some companies prefer to rebook, rather than refund, customers, I came across a handful of hoteliers who are setting the standard for how hospitality industry employees should be treated.
I’ve also had the immense privilege of considering what comes next. Alongside the inimitable journalists Tariro Mzezewa and Elaine Glusac, I tackled the biggest question of all: What does the future of travel look like? No one has a crystal ball, of course, but all indicators so far point to local, drivable trips, increased desire for privacy and razor-sharp scrutiny on disinfection protocols and cancellation policies.
But it’s the fun, lighthearted story I wrote in April, about how people were paying tribute to their canceled trips while stuck at home, that sticks out as a favorite. It’s a reminder that good nature, humor and creativity can prevail, even during periods of great stress and uncertainty.
This dormancy has also offered a broader opportunity to reflect on why travel is meaningful. How does it make us better? Beyond the flash and the pomp — the country counting, the racked-up miles, the Instagram shot, the bragging rights — what value do we hope to gain from a trip? When I eventually (finally) fly to London to see my brother and sister-in-law, I will be keeping those questions in mind.
Friends have asked me whether I’ve flown since the pandemic started. The answer is no; I’m content keeping a low profile for now, and I’m grateful for the chance to rediscover the places and people I know the best. But when that happens, travel — for me, for everybody — will be a totally new skill. Picking a destination, navigating an airport, deciding whom to vacation with: We’re all in training pants again.
Last September, when I wrote about the start of Tripped Up in this space, I recalled a trip to Sicily — a glorious destination where everything went wrong. Today, though, I’d give almost anything to be back on that Ryanair flight, crammed into a seat that doesn’t recline, holding my shrieking 14-month-old son (who just turned 2) while listening to a flight attendant hawk lottery tickets over the intercom.
I wrote it then and I write it again now: As with anything, perspective is key.
Sarah Firshein is a Brooklyn-based writer. If you need advice about a best-laid travel plan that went awry, send an email to email@example.com.