Two empty seats near an ocean shore

My pre-pandemic life was much more airborne than it is now. Traveling often for work or pleasure, my main goal was to visit as many countries as I could.

I’m writing this from my bedroom in Toronto where, while the vaccine rollout is progressing steadily, we are still in a version of a lockdown. As I sit here writing, I can’t help but scroll through my Instagram feed and through the images on my phone that remind me of how full of exploration my life used to be.

I wonder: when it is safe to travel abroad again, will it feel different than it did before?

Before the pandemic, my focus was checking off new places, visiting new countries and seeing as much of the world as possible. With more than 44 countries stamps on my passport and counting, I was always seeking a new adventure. Yet, after more than a year at home, the places and ways I want to travel to are changing. I still have far-off destinations on my list, but right now, more than where I am going, what really matters is who I am traveling with.

More than where I am going, what really matters is who I am traveling with.

2020 and the first part of 2021 have meant more time at home alone and away from friends and family. As the world slowly opens back up, I’m bookmarking day trips closer to home to explore with friends who I haven’t seen. I’m also thinking of ways I can bring my parents and family along for adventures. This last year has highlighted the fragility and impermanence of life. My new travel outlook is focused less on where I have been and more on who I am spending my time with.

Throughout the last decade, I have worn my solo travel adventures around the world as a badge of honor. With just a carry-on suitcase and my camera, I explored the far north of Canada and spent a few days hoping to see the Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. I backpacked extensively throughout Europe on my own. Yet, after spending the entirety of the pandemic living alone, there is nothing I’d rather do than spend time with the people in my life who matter most.

When I travel again, I want to take my time. The idea of slow travel—for health, safety and interests—is on the rise with travelers looking at how they can spend more time in one place instead of cramming as much as they can into a weeklong trip.

I want to get to know a destination. I want to spend days wandering around a city until the streets feel familiar. I want to dine at restaurants with locals but also have the chance to visit markets and to cook with flavors native to the destination. When I am finally ready to go back home, I want to leave feeling like I know the culture, language and life of that place.

There is nothing I’d rather do than spend time with the people in my life who matter most.

High on my post-pandemic travel list is returning to Barbados. My father was born there, and we still have family on the island. Even though it is a spot where I have visited often, not being able to return during the last year has been challenging. I long to retrace my roots when it is safe to explore there again. I long for the sounds of the steelpan drums, soca music and the waves crashing on the beach.

Throughout the pandemic, my family and I have spent our weekends hiking on trails within the city and in the surrounding countryside. This has ignited my admiration for nature and my desire to explore more of the wilderness of my own country.

With the pandemic still very much affecting my day-to-day life in Canada, I’m not sure when my next adventure will be. However, I do know that wherever I go, I will be traveling with a new outlook on how I see the world and with more appreciation for who I see it with.

How has the last year affected your perspective on travel? How have good travel buddies made a trip worthwhile in the past?

Image via Coco Tran, Darling Issue No. 19

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