Travel in the Time of COVID-19 & Microadventures

Author: Jasmine Goodnow, Director of Research, Transformational Travel Council

Microadventures do not require the three necessary conditions of travel (mobility, time, and financial resources) so they are attainable to most everyone during this time of Covid-19. Furthermore, microadventures are easily tailored to fit the needs of individuals and current state of affairs.

In shock and sadness I watch along with the rest of the world as borders close, flights are canceled, cruises banned, and tourism sites including museums, ski resorts, concerts, restaurants, and bars shut their doors for the foreseeable future. In the time of Covid-19, the world holds its breath as everything spins madly out-of-control while also, seemingly, to be at a standstill. Here in Washington State, one of the epicenters, there is a shelter-in-place so all social gatherings are banned, schools are closed, and workers are urged to telecommute. Many in the service and manufacturing industries are involuntarily unemployed or underemployed as telework is not an option and parents and guardians scramble to sort out childcare and homeschooling. At this time of change, many of us feel isolated and alone as social distancing means our everyday places of connection like the gym, school, work, and coffeehouse are off-limits. Even personal gatherings at one’s house might put our loved ones and community at risk.

What do we do now? How can we infuse meaning and joy back into our lives especially as we are concerned and worried about those around us? In the past many of you, like me, planned vacations and travel experiences so we could take a break from stress and work burnout, and more importantly to reconnect with ourselves and sometimes loved ones. We travelled to meet people, to learn new ways of living life. We travelled to revel in novelty, sublime environments, and to challenge ourselves physically and cognitively. Is there a way for us to reap the benefits of travel without actually traveling?

As a tourism researcher, I have been working on this question for a couple of decades now. Travel requires three conditions: mobility, discretionary time, and financial resources. To have all three at the same time is a truly privileged state. Most people throughout the world lack at least one, if not two or three of these conditions. I have always sought to find ways for people who are unable to travel to experience transformational travel – the type of travel experience that changes you to your core. Transformative travel helps you figure out who you are, what you believe in, and what is meaningful to you. My research (references below) suggests that we often experience transformational travel when we feel away, in a liminal sense. Liminality comes from the Latin word, limen meaning something that is between and betwixt, neither here nor there, a space or time of transition. There are two major ways that we feel away. The first is by entering a new or novel environment. Travel makes this really easy. If I live in a dense urban city, stepping into nature or a wilderness environment is novel. If I descend underwater while SCUBA diving, I am very aware of the water surrounding my body and focusing on my breath to ensure that I continuously breathe in and out, noisy bubbles drifting upwards as I find the right buoyancy to glide above coral and darting fish. My eyesight is limited; what am I not seeing just beyond my periphery in the mysterious deep?

The second way that we experience liminality is a feeling of being cognitively and emotionally away from the stresses, expectations, and norms of home and work. It is hard to disconnect from the problems, crises, and people back home so this state is a little harder to achieve. Sometimes the chronic stress and the mundanity of life sneaks its way into our suitcases or carry-on. So even when we travel we might not always experience liminality or feeling away. Not every travel experience is transformative.

So in this time of Covid-19, I wanted to share my research of microadventures, short-term adventure travel experiences that are close to home that seem to yield similar levels of liminality and transformation as traditional travel experiences. Microadventures do not require the three necessary conditions of travel (mobility, time, and financial resources) so they are attainable to most everyone during this time of Covid-19. Furthermore, microadventures are easily tailored to fit the needs of individuals and current state of affairs.

So what is a microadventure? Microadventures are adventures that are close to home, short, and sometimes inexpensive. Allister Humphries coined the term when he completed around-the-world adventures spanning several years and then decided to enter a new phase of life as a husband and father. He didn’t want to leave his family for extended periods of time, yet he needed to retain his identity as a traveller so he focused on infusing his life with adventure and family after work and weekends. Microadventures can be as simple as climbing a new hill and sleeping outside in a tent to booking fancy accommodations and playing the out-of-town tourist. I sampled both micro and traditional travellers in the USA, Iceland, Norway, and Croatia, and the data suggested that travellers, both micro and traditional, experienced similar levels of liminality and transformation. What really mattered was a mindset and the level of novelty or the degree to which they allowed themselves to be cognitively or emotionally away.

For those of us sheltering in place, microadventures out to local tourist attractions or even the wilderness a few hours’ ride away is out of reach. So how can we microadventure at home? Is that possible? As a course requirement, my tourism students each design and engage in a microadventure. Some lack the time, money, or transportation to microadventure in a traditional sense. Some instead design their microadventure as an adventure at their own homes by pitching a tent in a corner of a yard or apartment complex or even in their dorm room. Others walk or bike to a favourite place instead of driving a car or taking the bus. Some merely hide their phone away, pack a fancy lunch, put on their travel clothes and backpack, equip themselves with an adventure mindset, and set off on a spontaneous exploration to find the secrets in their neighborhood or yard.

When this is over and we are able to venture further than our homes but not yet across borders and seas, contact your favourite travel designer to help plan your next microadventure. Travel planners/designers are local destination experts as well as foreign/overseas experts. They can use the same skills and expertise in creating a transformative travel experience close to home as they do when designing your overseas travel. Many are also offering discounts and incentives for future bookings.

Note: This article was originally posted on Transformational Travel Council ‘s blog.

References

Bloom, K. & Goodnow, J. (2013). Insight and the travel experience: An exploration into the contributions of liminality. Journal of Travel and Tourism Research (Online), 13: ½, 143.
Goodnow, J. & Bloom, K. (2017). When is journey sacred? Exploring twelve properties of the sacred. International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage, 5(2), 9-16.
Goodnow, J. & Bordoloi, S. (2017). Travel and insight on the limen: A content analysis of adventure travel narratives. Tourism Review International, 21(3).
Goodnow, J. (2018). Redefining Adventure Travel: Promoting Microadventure as a Beneficial, Sustainable, and Accessible Travel Alternative. International Adventure Conference, Spain, 2018
Goodnow, J. (2017).Microadventures: Questing for Spirituality Close to Home. Sacred Journeys: Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage 4th Global Conference. Beijing, China. October 26, 2017.
Goodnow, J. & Bloom, K. (2016). An Autoethnography of Sacred Travel: Microadventures as the Post-modern Pilgrimage. International Adventure Conference. Tralee, Ireland. October 19-21, 2016.
Goodnow, J., Howland, S., & Quinn, D. Vacation Matters (panel). Time Matters: The National Take Back Your Time Conference. Seattle, WA, USA. August, 26, 2016.
De Graaf, J., Agate, S., DeGroot, A., & Goodnow, J. Our No Vacation Nation and How to Change It (panel). Work and Family Research Network Conference. Washington, DC, USA. June 23, 2016.
Goodnow, J. & Ruddell, E. (2009). An illustration of the quest genre as spiritual metaphor in adventure travel narratives. Leisure/Loisir: The Journal of the Canadian Association of Leisure Studies. Special Issue on “Leisure and Spirituality” (33)1, 241-267, doi 10.1080/14927713.2009.9651438

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