When Can We Travel Again?
In last week’s letter, I wrote that one of the unexpected gifts of sheltering in place is that it has imparted a new urgency to my travel dreams and has inspired me to create an ASAP List: the places I’m going to explore as soon as we’re able to wander the world again. I said that Antarctica, Bhutan, and Iceland are on that shortlist, and that viewing gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, or the Congo is at the top of the list.
Many readers responded with their ASAP Lists. Gorilla-trekking was a prime dream for a number of travelers, as was journeying to Antarctica and Iceland. Others shared my desire to go to Bhutan. Many other readers wrote enthusiastically to say that they have already been to one or more of these places and that they would urge me to go there ASAP! Other destinations that featured high on readers’ ASAP Lists were the Galápagos, South Africa, Japan, Vietnam, Patagonia, and Botswana.
Sheltering-in-Place and Planning a Grand Opus
One note especially inspired me. Doc Robinson wrote, “I have been taking advantage of my new-found free moments to create my own travel itinerary which will begin as the current conditions improve. For several years now I have had the desire to complete an around-the-world journey in one fell swoop. I am creating my Grand Opus which will take the better part of a year to accomplish.”
Mr. Robinson offered more details about his Grand Opus:
“I have found from my own experience that my most memorable moments have been from the connections made with local people as well as with other travelers along the way. My journey will be in general from east to west. My timetable is to include the following items:
“1. A stopover in the capital of each country I pass through, spending three to four days in each to get the lay of the land.
“2. Once outside of the capital, visit various historical locations, which contributed to the development and growth of the national character.
“3. Seek out sacred sites from temples to megaliths that have shaped the pulse and soul of the cultural psyche.
“4. Find places to pause, rest, and recharge my mind and body. This I anticipate being my personal favorite.
“At this juncture my route, although not cut in stone, includes 32 countries outside the United States. I will begin in Iceland and finish in Japan. As a student of life, my underlying mission is to work on becoming a true Citizen of the World.”
Thank you, Doc Robinson! I applaud your mission—and I’d like to take this tour too!
In the media world last week, one question that seemed to gain momentum was “When are we going to be able to travel again?” Pundits and prognosticators began to weigh in on this, offering analyses and opinions that stretched from “sometime this summer” to “2021.” Of course, the truth is that no one knows right now. The best we can do as travelers is keep as informed as possible and refine our ASAP Lists so that we’re ready to go as soon as we can.
However, as I was talking about this in virtual-office meetings with GeoEx colleagues, one truth emerged that was a great surprise: We may want to book our trips now too, because some parts of the globe are already practically sold out for 2021. Sitting in the quiet isolation of your home, with no prospect of immediate travel anywhere, you may find this difficult to believe, as I did. But my colleagues explained that with so many travelers transferring their plans from spring and summer 2020 to 2021, adding to those travelers who had already booked trips for 2021, some exclusive properties and limited-season destinations are already nearing capacity for next year.
GeoEx Travel Designers’ Findings on 2021 Scarcity
Kate Doty, longtime world traveler and private trip designer extraordinaire, said that Africa, in particular, has already been widely reserved. Many of the exclusive safari lodges and resort properties she regularly books are reporting that they have little or no vacancies for the peak travel times—June through September—and the Festive Season in December–January 2022. Counter-intuitive as this may seem, this means that if Africa is on your dream list for next year, especially a summer or end-of-year trip, you really should book your trip ASAP.
I asked some of GeoEx’s other expert travel designers about 2021, and here’s what they told me:
Natalie Crow, Managing Director of Global Sales, said, “Patagonia is already selling quickly. Timing matters a lot here. With some of the top properties already sold out for the high season—January–February—we’re trying later in 2021, such as October. On the other hand, we do have a few spaces left on our February 2021 group trip, and if someone absolutely wants to go in January, we’ll do everything we can to find room!”
Other areas that are filling up fast are Costa Rica, the Galápagos, and Peru. “You should book now,” Natalie advised, “especially if you want to go to Costa Rica in the spring, or the Galápagos or Peru in the summer. Believe it or not, space is getting scarce.”
Bhutan is another destination where availability may be tight, Natalie noted. “The top properties here are quite small, and this limited supply means that the best places fill up quickly. The good news is that most of GeoEx’s Bhutan group trips for spring 2021—and for fall 2020—still have space.”
Managing Director of Global Sales Linda de la Torre added, “Antarctica also is becoming limited for certain peak dates in 2021. And Cuba should be booked soon, since the season there is very short, only running from December–April.”
Tina Liadis, Director of Global Sales, provided an Asia round-up: “Japan is booking up fast, especially the always popular spring cherry blossom season. Mongolia is challenging for the prime festival season in July, and Borneo is difficult because of the limited availability of the best wilderness lodges. Otherwise, we are keeping in close contact with our in-country partners and so far have been able to make bookings for our most popular destinations, including Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. For our Southern Pakistan trips, the December 2020 departure is full and the January 2021 departure has just 2 spaces left; our other Pakistan departures, including our three Hunza Valley group trips, still have secured space.”
Finally, Sabrina Middleton, GeoEx’s Director of Client Services and expert on the polar regions, broke down the availabilities on our Arctic and Antarctic expeditions: “The Arctic is proving very popular,” she said. “The June North Pole trip is sold out for Premium and Suite categories but does have some availability in standard cabins. The April Svalbard and August Greenland and the Canadian High Arctic trips both still have some cabins available. For Antarctica, there’s space available on January–March and November–December cruises. And the popular fly-over-the-Drake trips have very limited availability in January–February and December.” She paused and then added, with a wistful wonder in her voice, “Late December is when the baby penguin chicks begin to hatch! It’s unforgettable!”
Already Dreaming of Japan
In 2021, I know that I’ll be back in Japan in the spring leading three GeoEx trips to Kyoto and Shikoku. Just thinking about this makes my pulse quicken and my soul soar. The cherry trees will blossom again, the steaming onsens will still warm my bones, and the mountain mists will still transform the Iya Valley into sumi-e ink-and-brush scenes. The vast world in all its wonder awaits! And I think we will explore it with even more reverence, appreciation, attentiveness, and gratitude when we are able to wander widely again.
I love being able to communicate with you this way—but I love even more the prospect of meeting you on the road!
Let’s keep dreaming and planning! GeoEx’s experts are ready to connect with you—and to make your wanderlust dreams come true!
Yours in abiding wanderlust,
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When the time comes, GeoEx is here to tend to your wanderlust. If you have any questions about upcoming trips or booking future travel, we encourage you to call us at 888-570-7108.