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

On the Road Again: RV Travel the Hot Post-Coronavirus Travel Trend

America is slowly but surely reopening for business

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak winds down, everyone is thinking about their next adventure. However, many are wary of crowded spaces. Many travelers will be replacing journeys to big cities with trips to smaller towns closer to home. But what if there was a way to see the country without stepping foot inside an airport or hotel? Welcome to the world of RV travel!

Utah Scenic Byway 279 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campers and RVs have been around for a long time. Covered wagons pulled by horses were technically the first campers ever. While the history of the RV is somewhat up for debate, the Smithsonian states that the first RV was unveiled in 1910 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Called the Touring Landau, it was quite luxurious for the time and even included a sink with running water. It was for sale at $8,250 dollars.

New River Gorge National River, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From there, the industry was off and running. As America developed its roadways and as national and state parks were established the drive for adventure had people hitting the road in record numbers. From Dutchmen and Shasta to Airstream and Winnebago, recreational vehicles were suddenly everywhere.

Botany Bay Plantation Road, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVs are now more popular than ever. Whether it’s buying your own or renting RVs through sites like Cruise America the old notion that RVing is only for snowbird retirees has gone out the window.

Geauga County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And why shouldn’t RVs be popular with people of all ages? If you include the price of your plane ticket, plus nightly hotel charges, RV travel is cheaper, plus, you get to sleep in the great outdoors. Camping in a national or state park and hearing the sounds of nature is a great way to add a whole new dimension of adventure to your road trip. Another benefit that many travelers love is that most campgrounds are pet-friendly so nobody in the family gets left behind.

Brasstown Bald Scenic Byway, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s nothing better than having your own space to come back to after a day of hiking or biking, lounging on the beach, or exploring a recreation area. Shower up, cook your own meal, relax with your favorite book or show, and settle down in your own bed. An RV is your self-contained home on wheels and gives you plenty of choices about how your travel experience looks and feels.

Historic Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great road trip is more than getting from point A to point B. It functions as a restart button; a cruise control for the mind. But it’s also a chance to gain inspiration, connect with a corner of the world different than your own, and make lasting memories.

Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here we provide suggestions for four road trips that wind through backroads, small towns, natural wonders, historical markers, quirky sites, and unforgettable views. Whether you’re searching for rural charm or a history refresher, these trips encourage you to stop along the way and take your time. Or maybe you don’t want anything out of a road trip other than an empty path, a warm breeze, and the sweet taste of freedom.

Either way—let’s hit the road.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known as one of the nation’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.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Creole Nature Trail, one of only 43 All-American Roads in the U.S., runs 180 miles through three National Wildlife Refuges. The main route is U-shaped with spur roads along the Gulf shoreline and angling into other reserves like Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge and the Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary. This is the Louisiana Outback.

Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway, Washington

Smokian RV Resort on Soap Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a drive on the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway, an amazing 150-mile road trip revealing the story of the Ice Age floods when vast reservoirs of water flooded and receded from this valley hundreds of times. Between three state parks, a national wildlife refuge, visits to the Grand Coulee Dam and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, you’ll find something for the whole family.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most beautiful stretches of road in the US, Scenic Byway 12 spans 124 miles in Utah’s red-rock country. The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other. Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from U.S. Highway 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch, not far from Bryce Canyon National Park. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Safe Summer Vacation Ideas: Find the Place Where Everyone Isn’t Going

Where can you safely go this summer?

Is it safe to go on a vacation this summer? Families across the country are grappling with this question as summer nears and COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to alter our daily lives, six weeks after the country began implementing stay-at-home orders. So what should you do about taking a real summer vacation?

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider taking a road trip or going camping, suggests Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician for Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He says minimal-contact options like those will be the safest options this summer and ideal for people who want to keep their risk factors low.

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

And even though state health departments may give the go-ahead to reopen facilities like amusement parks, he says people with underlying conditions should avoid them because they involve more contact with a larger number of people and thus a higher chance of being infected. 

Along Covered Bridges Scenic Byway, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is without risk and it’s all going to depend on how much risk you want to tolerate. Some don’t want to leave home until there is a vaccine while others are eager to take a family road trip. It’s really about being smart about where you choose. You’re probably best to avoid the bucket-list places that are crowded.

So where can you safely go this summer? The key is to find the place that everyone isn’t going to.

Folly Beach, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The longing to get out of the house is perhaps stronger than ever. The coronavirus has forced us to cancel everything from spring break travel to weekend getaways. For now, the only way we’re traveling is virtually. If you haven’t already taken advantage of it you can tour a national park online. Many zoos, aquariums, even amusement parks are offering similar live-look experiences. But it’s not long before the virtual trend gives way to a revival of the good-old-fashioned road trip.

Palmetto State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We are ready to hit the road and get back to feeling like we have that freedom to travel how we want and when we want. The immediate desire is to keep those trips short, to keep them regional, to keep them easy, and to keep them affordable.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People are going to be more inclined to road trip than fly. In fact, a recent study shows nearly 50 percent of people are second-guessing flights and looking at road trips instead.

Fall could be “the new summer” and small towns in many states can expect to see a boom.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are national and state parks and local recreation area and miles and miles of scenic highways and byways. These are the spaces travelers will gravitate toward right out of the gate where there will be a little more elbow room between ourselves and the traveler next to us. In other words, places that offer open space and physical distance will be very popular in our new social distancing era.

Borrego Springs, California

Borrego Springs sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A big part of any road trip is stumbling upon bizarre roadside attractions—and there are plenty to experience in the California desert. Just outside Borrego Springs and near the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, sculptor Ricardo Breceda assembled roughly 130 gigantic scrap-metal sculptures of animals, including dinosaurs and a saber-toothed cat. These fanciful creatures seem to march across the scruffy flats. It’s quite a remarkable menagerie with everything from desert bighorn rams in battle to a gigantic, 350-foot-long sea serpent that appears to be slithering through the desert sands.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations. Come discover the land of fire and ice!

The Pinal Pioneer Parkway, Arizona

Springtime along Pinal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Pinal Pioneer Parkway connected Tucson and Phoenix in the years before Interstate 10 was built. Now a little-traveled back road, it’s a much more picturesque route than the main highway. The parkway itself is a 42 mile-long stretch of Arizona State Highway 79, beginning in the desert uplands on the north slope of the Santa Catalina Mountains at about 3,500 feet and wending northward to just above 1,500 feet outside the little town of Florence.

Along Pinal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The parkway is marked with signs pointing out some of the characteristic desert vegetation—saguaro, for instance, and mesquite. Pack a picnic lunch and stop at one of the many roadside tables. Stop at the Tom Mix Memorial, 23.5 miles north of Oracle Junction, at mile post 116, to pay your respects to the late movie cowboy.

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.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Might Soon-ish likely be Sort of Over: Virtual Travel and the Revival of the RV Road Trip

If grocery stores are permitted to remain open while employing physical distancing guidelines surely spacious national and state parks and recreation areas can easily accommodate those who wish to treat their physical and mental health in the great outdoors

America is slowly but surely reopening for business. The start of May saw more than a dozen states relaxing lockdown measures that were imposed as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic began. While Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee began relaxing rules earlier in the week these states followed suit as of Friday to varying degrees: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coronavirus crisis is creating health and economic concerns for just about everyone. A bit further down the priority list, it’s also impacting travel plans for a lot of people.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Francisco-based Destination Analysts is tracking American travel sentiment as the travel industry continues to grapple with COVID-19 fallout and to look for clues to normalcy’s return. During a web event hosted by Visit Santa Barbara, results from their 4th week of analysis based on a survey of 1216 travelers fielded April 3 through 5 were released. Even amidst the daily tally of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths, 41 percent have tentative plans to travel in July and/or August. Sixty-nine percent of US travelers say they miss traveling and are anxious to hit the road again, a number that continues to rise.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For major sectors of the travel industry, the new numbers show that safety and health concerns have made hesitation soar. For example, more than 86 percent of travelers feel unsafe about cruising, 85 percent feel unsafe about international travel, 81 percent are concerned about flying, between 75 percent and 77 percent are second-guessing going to amusements parks and restaurants, and close to 70 percent are not sure about the safety of staying at a hotel.

Davis Mountains, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People are feeling more comfortable with road trips and outdoors activities like hiking and biking which suggests to me that when travel begins to return, local and regional travel will rebound first. When will “normal” travel activity return? I’m thinking June as a likely marker for a gradual turnaround with summer offering a travel deals bonanza and fall becoming the “new summer” for many travelers.

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

More people will visit national and state parks and be in the outdoors away from crowds in the wake of the coronavirus. The types of vacations they take will likely change too. Road trips are poised to make a resurgence and more people are expected to gravitate to the great outdoors and similar social distancing-friendly destinations. Low fuel prices and the peace of mind and flexibility that come with being in your own vehicle will make RV road trips an especially appealing vacation option.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the highly lethal and infectious Spanish flu swept through the country a century ago, U.S. national park visitation numbers which had been growing substantially took a dip in 1918 as the pandemic started. What happened next could be a sign of how travelers will respond to the coronavirus. The 1918 flu pandemic, thought to be the deadliest in human history, killed at least 50 million people worldwide (the equivalent of 200 million today) with half a million of those in the United States.

Raccoon State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number in 1918 went down to 436,000 (most analysts concur that Spanish flu, not World War I, drove the bulk of the decrease). People were either too sick or too scared to travel. Then, in 1919, it jumped to 781,000. In 1920, when the pandemic was basically over it jumped again, another 250,000 to over 1 million. From there on, it was fairly stable.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This suggests to me that we’ll go through a period when travel is very slow and as people start to feel comfortable again we’ll see an explosion of travel in general.

Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With social distancing the new normal, more travelers will seek out more remote, off-the-beaten path destinations to provide a little more elbow room between them and other travelers. Once this thing is over we’ll see RV travel go through the roof. People will have such a lust of going out there to see the country.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”