7 Simple Tips to Live Longer and Healthier

Turns out extending your lifespan is pretty damn easy. Just follow these definitive, scientific, time-tested methods.

Over the past few years there has been an ever-increasing obsession with biohacking and life extension. Biohacking is the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and feel your best. It doesn’t have to involve being a mad scientist and running crazy experiments with your body—but for some people it does.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A biohacking movement is growing in popularity in Silicon Valley where tech execs track what they eat, ketone levels, and body composition on a daily basis. They also fast for days at a time increasing their risk of missing out on critical minerals.

James Island County Park, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many medical professionals and scientists are skeptical of these practices due to their mistaken idea that medicines and medical therapies have a greater impact on your body than following nutrition principles.

Lady Bird Wildlife Center, ustin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer at the SENS Research Foundation, a Silicon Valley–based longevity institute, recently told the New Yorker that by doing things like optimizing his mitochondrial mutation, “I can drink as much as I like, and it has no effect. I don’t even need to exercise, I’m so well optimized.” Perhaps? And then again, perhaps not?

These biohackers seem to have forgotten that there already exists a proven method to extend both the quantity and quality of your life: adopting a few healthy, lifestyle habits.

Utah Lake State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’ve known since the mid-1960s that lifestyle behaviors have an outsize influence on health and longevity,” says Michael Joyner, a researcher and expert on health and human performance at the Mayo Clinic. Since then, evidence to support the positive impact of healthy living has mounted, he says, even as more people try to find the elixir of youth.

Woodfield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider research published in 2011 in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrating that adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors—regular exercise, a wholesome diet, no smoking—can increase lifespan by 11 years. Or a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal that found a healthy lifestyle reduces one’s chance of all-cause mortality by a whopping 61 percent.

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Exercise

If exercise could be bottled up and sold as a drug, it would be a billion-dollar business. Decades of studies show that just 30 minutes of moderate to intense daily physical activity lowers your risk for physiological diseases (like heart disease and cancer) as well as psychological ones (like anxiety and Alzheimer’s).

Truth BBQ, Brennan, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Eat Real Foods

Avoid stuff that comes pre-packaged. People who eat lots of ultra-processed foods are more likely to develop heart disease and die sooner than those who stick to foods in their original form, two studies published in the BMJ conclude. Consuming lots of these foods has long been linked to an increased risk of a wide variety of health problems that can lead to heart disease or an early grave, such as obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and cancer.

Billy’s Boudin, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eating healthy has little to do with your ability to resist buying junk food or ordering a pizza—it has everything to do with how much you educate yourself about your body. That’s an important reason why eating healthy is difficult: We lack the self-control to learn about nutrition, longevity, and how our bodies function. 

La Posta, Mesilla, New Mexico

3. Avoid Supplements

Americans spend more than $30 billion every year on dietary supplements. A 2016 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited more than 20 years of research and concluded that “studies evaluating dietary supplements have yielded predominantly disappointing results about the potential health benefits, whereas evidence of harm has continued to accumulate.”

2019 Dutch Star motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Sleep 8 Hours at Night

If you’re not getting enough zzzs each night (usually between 7–9 hours) and suffering from sleep deprivation, you’re putting yourself at risk for a host of health problems including a higher risk for chronic disease, a weakened immune system, trouble concentrating, irritability, and out-of-whack hormones. Regardless of what the biohackers may tell you, you simply cannot nap your way to optimal health and functioning. It’s only after you’ve been sleeping for at least an hour that anabolic hormones are released.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Enjoy Coffee

Coffee is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and phenylindane, a recently identified compound that researchers think may help fend off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drinking coffee has also been linked to reduced risks for several cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Drink your coffee without sugar or processed syrups.

Lucero Olive, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Use Olive Oil

Think of olive oil as “liquid gold”, such are its benefits with improved heart health topping the list. A four-and-a-half year clinical trial involving 7,000 older adults at risk of heart disease found that those eating an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet had 30 percent fewer instances of heart attacks and strokes as well as improved lipid and cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Olive oil consumption has also been linked to a slowing of the progression of breast cancer, reduced bone mass loss, and better blood glucose control. Use it to cook or dress multi-colored vegetables.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Enjoy Nature

In Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, Wild, her mom tells her that the cure for much of what ails her is to “put [herself] in the way of beauty.” Turns out she was right, at least according to the latest science. Time in nature is an antidote to the ill effects of stress and in some cases even helps cure anxiety and depression and enhances creativity. Though the exact causal mechanisms are not yet known, researchers speculate there is something unique about nature—perhaps related to the fact that we evolved to be in it—that puts both our bodies and minds at ease, promoting physical and psychological restoration and subsequent functioning.

New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Each day I will rise and greet the morning sun, for it is a good day.

—L.M. Montgomery

What Will Travel Be Like This Summer?

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb and travel again

Will this be a normal summer? Definitely not! The #stayhome brigades are shaming travelers but summer travel may be what the country needs. With the traditional start of the summer travel season—Memorial Day weekend—behind us, what can we expect from the travel industry?

La Connor, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you choose to travel by air, expect higher fares and new procedures at the airport before you even board your flight. More than 6,100 planes are currently parked on runways from coast to coast. Many of those planes will not be returning.

Montpelier, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers should be prepared for something new at the airport: Temperature checks for every departing passenger in hopes of preventing those with COVID-19 from boarding. What’s still being decided is whether the TSA or individual airlines will conduct the checks. Either way, expect to be charged an extra fee to pay for them.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also a logistical problem that will need to be addressed. If you’re going to practice social distancing, and everybody has to get their temperature taken, there are some airports that are worried that the lines might stretch more than a mile.

Upper Colorado Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The warm greeting you’re used to receiving when you arrive at a hotel will likely be out the window. The idea of having contact with a bellman, or room service, or any other human being is getting withdrawn. Expect the check-in process to be done online. Some hotels already allow you to unlock your door with your phone.

Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the hotels to create an image in which you feel safe and secure, they’ve put the word hospital back in hospitality. For instance, Hilton Hotels have partnered with the Mayo Clinic to create a branded cleaning process for its rooms. When it comes to housekeeping, staff will not enter your room unless you make a request. Hotels still offering room service will leave your meal outside your door for you to bring inside.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many things you’re used to finding in a hotel room will likely disappear. Pens, paper, magazines, that extra pillow that used to be in the closet, coat hangers—kiss them goodbye. Necessary items such as the TV remote, the telephone handset, and water glasses will likely be enclosed in some kind of wrapping with a seal.

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard to forget the awful stories of cruises wrecked by the coronavirus earlier this year including that of the Diamond Princess which was quarantined for two weeks in a harbor in Japan. The cruise lines have a very steep hill to climb based just on optics and public perception. They have a problem because a lot of folks think of a cruise ship as nothing more than a floating petri dish.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of June but cruise lines are required to submit a detailed anti-coronavirus plan to the CDC for approval to sail again. Few cruises—if any—will likely happen during the remainder of this year but expect a turnaround next year as people who love cruises are very loyal.

Woodstock, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise ships which emphasize loads of shared experiences need to make major changes. Expect to see them change with limits of people in the pools and the Jacuzzis and a buffet in which you will never go near the food. You will point to what you want, and a uniformed staff member will plate it for you. Prices may not increase initially because the focus will be on getting passengers to return. But eventually, prices will likely rise.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, demand for recreational vehicles, whether to buy or rent, will go through the roof. Families will want to travel together and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many families will stock up on groceries ahead of their RV trips so they don’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Camping will be big at the national and state park level. State parks will be rediscovered because the national parks will be full. You can count on that.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever you live you have many options. Take a look at the map and consider a 3- or 400-mile radius from where you live. You will be surprised at what’s available that’s not crowded and will offer a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aim for a small town that doesn’t have big high-rise hotels, theme parks, or a crowded beach. Social distancing is almost the definition of a small town anyway. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing permanent except change.

—Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher 

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

Rio Grande Bend Golf and RV Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc

After the Coronavirus: Your Next Vacation May Look Like This

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred quite a bit of interest in connecting with nature via RV travel

One thing is true with a large, extended, epic vacation: There is no flexibility. The dates are set. The hotel nights are purchased. The flights have been arranged. The pets have been boarded. Relatives or neighbors have been asked to collect the mail. These are the necessary evils that go hand in hand with planning a big trip.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For RVers the trip is easier to plan. No scheduling of flights. No searching for available hotels that meet your requirements. And you can even take your pets with you.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry, the demand for travel is slowly—very slowly—creeping back up again. But many remain wary of getting on a plane, a train, a bus, or a cruise ship and being packed tightly in with strangers and not knowing if somebody is carrying the virus.

Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV. Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After an indeterminate period of isolation families will be more enthusiastic than ever to get outside and see new places, even within their own local areas. RV travel allows people to sleep in their own bed, cook gourmet meals, and control where they go. As restrictions are lifted, you’ll be able to experience the endless range of outdoor wonders throughout the country and the freedom of independent travel that RVs offer.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas

RVs provide travelers control: they allow people to travel where they want, when they want, and offer a unique travel experience that allows people to pursue their favorite activities and experience places they may have only seen in a coffee-table book or on Instagram. They can do this all with the ability to stay connected to family and friends.

Quail Gate State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are all positive features but particularly attractive during this most unprecedented time. RVs provide a wonderful opportunity for people to continue to enjoy vacations with their families while still adhering to social distancing, which will likely stay in place in some form for the foreseeable future.

Bartlett Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s something about road trips that creates a nostalgic feeling. Beautiful scenery, regional cuisine, and good company are just some of the many things that make road tripping so awesome and there’s something profound about literally just driving away from it all to seek an adventure.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And with the U.S. packed with so many incredible road trips, there really is something for everyone! Whether you’re looking for a day trip or wanting to be out on the open road for a prolonged period of time, there are beautiful places both in your backyard and beyond proving you don’t have to get on a plane to have an epic vacation. So pack up the RV and keep reading to discover your next road trip.

Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon is famous for its undeniable beauty, and I strongly believe everyone should see it in person at least once in their lifetime. Phoenix is a great place to start this journey and as you make your way north toward the Canyon be sure to stop and stretch your legs in Sedona and Red Rock Country.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of America’s best and most beautiful drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles across Virginia and North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountains—the Blue Ridge chain, specifically—from Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south. Because the Blue Ridge Parkway connects two national parks, it’s easy to visit both during your drive.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Well-known among rock climbers and hikers, this road trip through Southern California’s desert is filled with opportunities to experience nature. With almost 100 miles of paved roads and an almost equal amount of unpaved roads, this road trip has much to offer.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A social distancing-friendly destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the colorful North Dakota badlands is a great place for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Bison roam throughout the North and South units of the park and most visitors can see them as they drive along the park roads. Deer, elk, feral horses, longhorns, pronghorns, coyotes, and even bobcats can also be seen in various parts of the park.

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie

How to Travel Safely As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Interest in RV travel has grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic

The travel industry has been profoundly impacted by the uncertainty and anxiety currently enveloping the country. Airlines, resorts, and hotels are now offering discounted prices in order to rejuvenate their bottom lines but thus far the public’s appetite for travel seems to be stuck in neutral. However, there is an alternative to traditional vacations that could ease your concerns about mingling with the masses.

Welcome to the world of RV travel.

RVs at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since early April, RVShare.com, a company that arranges RV rentals between RV owners and the general public, has seen a 650 percent rise in bookings as “long periods of isolation and social distancing have halted most forms of travel” and left people anxious to be on the move again but with personal safety always in mind.

Fishing at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a trip in the next three months, the overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) want to avoid crowds, according to RVShare. This wasn’t always the case. The importance of avoiding crowded places when traveling has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic started. Additionally, 84 percent plan to travel with their partner or immediate family instead of friends or extended family.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“RV travel has been a trend steadily on the rise for years due to RV rentals being more accessible than ever thanks to sites like RVshare,” said CEO Jon Gray. “We expect RVs to continue to gain traction as a preferred method of travel while consumers are seeking flexible options and a unique way to experience the outdoors.”

According to the company’s data, national parks are the preferred destination of 65 percent of their customers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TurnKey Vacation Rentals reports that although summer bookings are down from 2019, they’ve seen spikes in bookings over the past two weeks as well as travelers booking beach and mountain retreats for trips. As destinations start to open, there’s increased interest in the Alabama and Texas Gulf Coast and in mountain areas like Asheville, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is worth noting that these locations are drive-to destinations as travelers now prefer to avoid air travel and stay closer to home.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects families, solo travelers, and travelers of all kinds with trusted RV owners so they can rent an RV to power their road adventures. Their selection spans easy-to-navigate campervans to vintage Airstreams to luxury Class A motorhomes.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers can personalize their trip, customize their itinerary, and choose the price point that fits their budget. In addition to RV rentals being a controlled environment where renters can choose how much or how little they are exposed to others, where they travel, and more. Outdoorsy owners are held to high cleanliness standards and provide clean, sanitized, and germ-free RVs to those new to the RV lifestyle and veteran road travelers alike.

North Beach at Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey commissioned during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that camping rates very high when Americans and Canadians are asked what they’re looking forward to once life regains some normalcy. Very strong majorities said it would be “reasonable” to have social distancing measures employed at campgrounds and on trails.

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Performed on behalf of KOA, the “North American Camping and the Effects of Covid-19” survey reached out to 4,000 American and 500 Canadian households for their opinions on how the pandemic affects their plans for camping in the months ahead. The survey is bullish in saying “camping is well positioned to rebound earlier compared to other types of travel once travelers themselves deem it safe to travel again.”

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly half (46 percent) of the campers surveyed said they view camping as the safest form of leisure travel in the post COVID-19 world. That percentage jumps to 72 percent when the question is posed to Baby Boomers. They also ranked camping as the safest type of trip, the survey found.

Camping in an Airstream at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the same time, 90 percent of leisure travelers and 95 percent of experienced campers said there should be some measures in place to enforce social distancing. Forty-seven percent of campers and half of leisure travelers “agree that limiting the number of people on a trail is reasonable.” Nearly half (48 percent) of prospective campers thought limiting group sizes would be reasonable.

Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-one percent of the campers surveyed said they thought it was safe to camp right now while 54 percent said they thought another month or two should pass before it would be safe.

Bernheim Forest, Krntucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. Sometimes it is better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

Will It Be Safe to Travel This Summer? Consider Your Options

People are turning to RVs to save their summer travel plans from coronavirus

Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now and between coronavirus anxiety and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But should you really book a summer vacation now? Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are itching to take a vacation as soon as possible, this post will answer your questions when it comes to traveling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to creative alternatives.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will we be able to travel? Because the situation changes every day, it’s hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it’s best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they’re not, you should consider pushing back your travel dates or changing your destination.

Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a No Sail Order on cruise ships until the end of July but could be extended even later. Given the nature of cruises—living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities, it’s safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for the foreseeable future.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This summer will be the summer of ground transportation. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are still operating and requiring employees and passengers to wear masks, providing extra sanitation methods, using a digital ticketing process, and waiving all change fees. To ensure social distancing on board, Amtrak has reduced its sales to 50 percent of its normal capacity and Greyhound is said to be operating at just 35 percent of capacity. However, workers and passengers on both train and bus companies have contracted coronavirus despite these efforts.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip will be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer. But questions abound about this American institution including whether it’s safe—at least safer than airline travel.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Data from MMGY Travel Intelligence in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association seems to bear this out. In a survey taken April 17-22, 47 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to travel by car, an increase from 35 percent in data collected April 4-11.

El Moro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For all travelers, safety is a priority and many are asking whether driving is safer than flying these days. In terms of the coronavirus, probably, said Dr. Robert Winters, a Southern California infectious disease specialist.

“Car travel has to be safer than airline travel when you factor in controlled boarding/exiting processes, number of people on the airplane, unknown health status of people on the flight, uncooperative children sitting near you, etc.”

Champlain Canal, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine, said that “being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel.” Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. It’s also an inexpensive option, as gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years. The national average has stayed under $2 per gallon during the pandemic (in some states, under 99 cents a gallon!) and is predicted to stay cheap over summer.

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV.

Ohio River at Marieta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With experts predicting that any return to travel will likely start with short, domestic trips, the RV could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer. Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As so many try to keep their distance and avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental company RVshare said last week bookings had increased 650 percent. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Other recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Mount St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket-list trip after all.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real

Instead of an all-or-nothing approach to risk prevention, we need a manual on how to have a life in a pandemic

#StayHome had its moment. We urgently needed to flatten the curve and buy time to scale up health-care capacity and testing. But quarantine fatigue is real. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing.

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their mental health.

Colorado River from the Arizona side © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, most public health experts agree that a premature return to the old version of normalcy would be disastrous. States continue to lack the capacity for widespread coronavirus testing. A vaccine is months or even years away.

Amador Flower Farm, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual may be a false one. An all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of virus transmission—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If for you these last few months stuck in coronavirus quarantine have felt a little weird, you’re not alone. For me, April seemed to take forever. Now, in May, I can’t remember what day it is half the time. I’m starting to feel like I’m enduring a perpetual time loop, reliving the same day over and over.

Lake Wawasee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But I’m not alone! Helen Rosner, a writer for The New Yorker, tweeted that her therapist described this weird time in our lives as “an infinite present” which feels pretty accurate. With no future plans, no anticipation of travel, or sports or summer festivals or celebrations, it’s an endless today, never tomorrow.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a name for this phenomenon: temporal disintegration, according to E. Alison Holman, PhD, a psychologist and an associate professor with the University California Irvine Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. And, she says, they’re a direct result of trauma.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“People lose track of time when the future is in question,” Dr. Holman told the University of California. “The continuity from the past to the future is gone. That’s what they are experiencing right now.”

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a different interview with USA Today, Dr. Holman elaborated, “For people who are staying in all the time, the days meld in all together. There’s no distinction between the work week and weekend and you lose sense of time and what time it is.”

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coronavirus pandemic has been thoroughly disrupting. Beyond creating a fear for our lives and livelihoods and the loss of our freedom to travel, it has obliterated any sense of schedule and structure we once had. What’s more, there’s no end in sight.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All this destabilization and stress can create a sensation of “time dragging by,” Ruth Ogden, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher at the school of psychology at Liverpool John Moores University in England, also told USA Today.

Edisto Island, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform,” Dr. Ogden said. In normal life practically every hour has some sort of marker—now is when I run for the train, now is when I buy my afternoon coffee. Post-coronavirus, that’s all gone. It’s no wonder our sense of time has gone all wonky.

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For now, my sense of time remains shaken. But I’m slowly building a new schedule which is supposed to help: getting up at the same time each morning, getting dressed (I know), working in the yard every day. Slowly, I’ll build boundaries around my days that will allow me to stop asking myself terrifying questions like, “Is time real?” Yes, it’s real (?). Today is Friday. I think.

Columbia River near Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The place to live is in the here and now.

Why Do You Travel?

Is our urge to travel—to put some distance between ourselves and everything we know—still a worthwhile compulsion?

Why do you travel? Perhaps that’s not the easiest question to answer. Some people would say they travel to relax or to experience something new. But these things can be done from the comfort of our own homes. So why do we really feel the urge to travel?

Being grounded during the current COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to evaluate why we really want to leave home in the first place. 

Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If we stop to think about it, we travel because something we need is not available where we currently are. Historically that meant traveling to find fresh pastures, food supplies, hunting grounds, or goods to trade. Today, don’t need to travel across the seas to taste the spices of the Orient. But we might travel to find something within our subconscious mind that is not available in familiar surroundings. Our internal exotic spices if you will. 

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But are we traveling because it’s a habit that we don’t really think about. Travel is often marketed as the ‘obvious solution’. Whether that’s Spring Break or a school assignment on ‘where I went this summer’ we are programmed to believe that a year without a vacation is an oddity to be avoided. We travel out of habit, we travel without asking ‘why?’ It’s time to think more carefully. Thought in travel? Now there’s a thought. 

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My theory about our impulse to travel is that we have an inner drive towards growth and self-development. When this is blocked, we get unhappy. Self-development means the rounding out and development of our natures, the exploration of our potential. The desire to travel is a part of this inner drive to develop and improve ourselves.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This gets disguised when we are drawn towards specific experiences for seemingly benign reasons. But by digging deeper, we can realize that we idealize relaxing on a beach because we are stressed. We yearn to hike a mountain trail because we are tired of taking the street through the same city every day. We dream of joining a Mardi Gras parade because we want connection with vibrancy and community.

Crystal River, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, in this time of reflection, how can we make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels? 

The first question should be why, rather than where. Because travel is so freely available at a moment’s notice, we tend to skip through our reason for travel. The end result is we’re NOT focused on our motives and desired outcomes and often end up feeling rather blah and disappointed. We haven’t learned anything tangible or made any lasting changes to make us a better person.

Historic River Street, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’ follows a predictable blueprint, a blueprint that hasn’t much changed since the days of the Grand Tour. In the 17th and 18th centuries, aristocratic young men were sent with their tutors to travel around Europe and further their education by studying the work of the greats including Greek sculpture and Roman architecture. 

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We continue to travel in this vein without thinking about it because travel guides still follow the same structure and pattern. These are the places we are supposed to go and things we need to see in order to be a good and worthy traveler. We visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do when visiting Paris, Rome, and London.

Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But how do any of these things make us a better person? And if we wouldn’t visit an art gallery or museum in our hometown, why would we suddenly enjoy doing it on our travels? Why is it better to see London from far above when you could be walking the streets, tasting the street food, and looking in awe at the historical buildings?

Bluegrass Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Similarly, just because your friend or neighbor found a specific location wonderful doesn’t mean that it will bring you the same pleasure. You may have similar tastes, but you have very different needs, wants, and desires.

St. Martinville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you’ve pinpointed the reason you need to travel, you may realize that the need to travel across the ocean has dissipated. If you are traveling to fix an issue, ensure that it’s a lasting fix, rather than slapping a band-aid on a bigger issue. 

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we travel again, having had time to think about how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind? Perhaps the pleasure we derive from travel depends more on our outlook, rather than the destination itself, and the best way to make the most of our adventures is learning how to re-appreciate our everyday lives.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

To travel is to live.

—Hans Christian Andersen

Uncertain Times?

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world, but of all the ways we travel, the road trip may be least affected—at least, from a regulatory standpoint

Travel is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. The adventure of exploring a new location—or returning to a familiar spot to unplug and relax—is a healthy way to recharge. With so many digital ways to divert ourselves these days, many are looking for meaningful ways to unplug. They’re rediscovering the necessity of just being. 

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as we all work to “flatten the curve” and halt the spread of the coronavirus getting away and finding solace in the freedom of the open road has become difficult.

And now we’re all hopeful the day will come soon when regional and cross-country travel will become normal again. As we head into the summer months of 2020, the aftermath of the stay-at-home orders are affecting the way we think about travel plans and how we spend time outside our homes as safely as possible. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What will we all do after this pandemic fades and the need to social distance recedes? As we emerge from The Great Indoors once again to The Greater Outdoors, I know I will approach life with an increased urgency and sense of wonder.

“We’ll get through these uncertain times together.” That’s what every single ad says these days. Have you noticed this as well?

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, life has always been uncertain. What are these people talking about? Life is nothing but change. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life.

You see, life was uncertain last year as well…and the year before. So in a way, nothing has changed. We can always count on change. In 2020, things are simply changing faster.

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world inches towards recovery, I’ve started thinking about when I will feel good about traveling again. I’m fairly certain that it will be difficult to know with any certainty what’s completely right in the moment. Risk gives decisions consequences. That’s what makes them matter. 

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look forward to the moment when I can travel once again and take in the beauty of mountains and deserts, the forests and lakes. Like many people, my life lately has been one of increasing government regulation, a search for normalcy, settling in, neighborhood adventures, and wondering how and when it will all end—all rolled into one.

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From experience where we are now feels a bit like climbing Picacho Peak’s steep and twisting trail with steel cables anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. It’s an uncomfortably temporary place to be. It’s a shaky limbo that lacks the excitement of moving forward and the comfort of being back on solid ground. I’m itching to start moving and doing, not to go back, but to move forward on our way to a new normal. 

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many decisions to be made in the coming months about when we can travel and where and how far. These decisions will require our utmost level of critical thinking and risk assessment. But, not today!

Pinnacles National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today I’m here just sitting with it all. Shouting words of hope into the abyss and finding new forms of connection across canyons, across countries, and across the street in my own neighborhood. Will we get through these uncertain times? Yes, yes we can.​

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sooner than later, the campgrounds and national and state parks around the country will be bustling with like-minded folks eager to embrace the sweet relief of fresh air and colorful sights not available on the flat screen in their living room. Social distancing might be a priority for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore open spaces safely. At the end of the day, you can confidently return to the safety and comfort of your home on wheels.

Snake River, Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Do you know why a vehicle’s WINDSHIELD is so large and the rear view mirror is so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE! So, look ahead and move on.