I’d heard several stories of friends who, like us, had to cancel long-planned, long-anticipated travel plans. On May first, I asked a question on Facebook: Have you canceled a trip already?
The answer was a resounding yes, and this just from the fifty or so people who happened to see my post. From short weekend trips to destination weddings, lots of travel is not happening, which is a microcosm of the economy in collapse. Because it’s not just flights—it’s hotels and restaurants and tourist shops and museums and other destinations. It’s profoundly affected the life of a friend of mine who has fallen on hard times, but who avoids homelessness by housesitting for people who prefer not to board their pets when they travel. Up to last month, she has stayed booked up. But people aren’t leaving home now. My friend wrote: “My trip up north to sit with my friends Alice (a golden retriever) and Flinder (a black cat at the end of her life) was canceled.” This breaks my heart on so many levels.
Friends whose son is a rising-star singer-songwriter in Nashville were planning to go to London to see him perform this month, but now they’re not. He’s not going either—the show’s been canceled. Other friends have canceled trips to Italy (Milan, Bellagio, Florence and Lerici), to London/Edinburgh (this friend thinks a trip to Greece in October will be canceled too), Sweden (to see grandchildren; maybe at Christmas, she hopes now), a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Portugal (with sisters), and others to Germany, England/Wales, and Paris with a teenaged daughter who is mightily disappointed. I feel her pain. Oh, Paris …
Another has pushed the date of a trip from Rome to Lisbon, Portugal, from this October to next year; still another was planning to go to Rouen, France, in November, but assumes it is out of the question. A friend of mine who lives in the English countryside was expecting friends from Australia—and now isn’t. A British friend who lives here in Tennessee was planning to go home for a visit, but that’s not happening either. Another friend wrote he is still hoping his vacation to St Maarten in June is still a go, while another assumes her trip to Newfoundland this summer is not. Our friends who live in Germany travel to various spots in Europe at least once a month, but all that’s off for now; they’ve canceled trips to Athens, Berlin, England, and Italy’s Amalfi Coast—and that’s just through May, they say.
Grandparents are canceling visits to see their grandchildren. A friend in Seattle says his daughter didn’t bring her son up from California in March, even though the flight wasn’t canceled: “We all thought it was too risky flying into Seattle,” he said. A friend in Colorado routinely hops down to Arizona to see her grandchildren, but not now. An Italian married to an Irishman living in the London area was expecting her mum to fly over from Rome to spend three weeks during the Easter season, but that didn’t happen. And I’ve just canceled our trip to Rhode Island for Sybil’s birthday (and mine!) at the end of May. For one thing, the state requires a fourteen-day quarantine for outsiders—and, well, that’s no fun.
Canceled excursions stateside included a Jersey Shore vacation in September; Montana in August; Boston, New York City (twice!), Tucson, Sarasota, Indianapolis; Napa Valley. A scuba-diving friend was going to Treasure Island (Florida). Another family was planning on Florida during spring break; Easter weekend backpacking in New Mexico went bye-bye for another, as well as a mid-March trip to see the sandhill crane migration in Salida, Colorado. These friends also had a Memorial Day trip to Paonia, Colorado, for a music festival and hiking … gone with the wind now.
Another friend canceled a June trip to Michigan to visit her sick grandma. Someone else skipped a family/baby shower in LA in March. Another friend reports her sister, who’d planned a three-week trip to Hawaii, has to take the vacation at home, due to stringent work scheduling. Bummer. One California-based friend was in Seattle when the state shut down, and has been there for a couple months now. Lucky he’s retired.
A Nashville-area friend tells me she and her husband had tickets to four concerts, now all canceled. My London-based friend says she had tickets for a music festival in Stockholm to see her fave band (the National) due to play there the 31st May—but a couple weeks ago the airlines canceled their flights. The festival seems to be still on—but now they can’t get there. Another friend tells me he and his wife were due to go from their home in Texas to Massachussetts to see Rage Against the Machine’s reunion concert in Boston. Someone else—a Louisiana native living far from home—is missing JazzFest in New Orleans this year.
Speaking of annual events, a good friend of mine goes home to Louisville (Kentucky) every year on “the first Saturday in May” to celebrate her birthday at the Kentucky Derby—but the race has been postponed to September (for now).
Author friends have canceled trips to writer’s conferences in California, Arizona, and elsewhere. One canceled a research trip to Canada this summer, which was just as well, as anyone entering Canada has to quarantine for fourteen days. Others mentioned foregoing professional conferences or trade shows in San Diego, Chicago, Nashville, and Georgia.
Weddings, of course, are being canceled right and left. Friends say they had a wedding in June postponed, and another wedding in Denver in August they will not attend. Another is disappointed that a September wedding on Vancouver Island has been postponed. A St. Louis wedding in June is still happening, but without guests; the couple have pushed the celebration to their first wedding anniversary next year. (I bet that will be a blast!) A friend’s grandson called off a May wedding in Nashville, another’s son was supposed to wed in Roatan, Honduras, this very weekend. There was a Fourth of July Florida beach destination wedding for a nephew’s wedding, and another had a wedding postponed from late June this year to the same weekend in 2021. Most dramatically, a friend from my California youth had a son set to marry a German woman on the beach at Anna Maria Island, Florida, last month. Thirty of the bride’s family and friends were flying in from Germany, as well as the brother of the groom, who resides in Madrid, Spain. That’s a lot of travel plans canceled there, folks. (They’re doing it next year, now.)
We are all a bit shocked at how quickly this happened to us. A friend who routinely combines business travel with visits to family and friends remarked: “I had been surprised at how empty my travel plans were for 2020; now it seems prescient.” Another notes, “It’s just going to be a stay-home kind of year. We’re trying to decide if we feel safe to do short-range trips to sightsee, hike, and camp, no more than a couple hours from home.” But this said it all for me: “We had a big cruise with Viking for twenty-two days in August. Gone.”
And there’s more—the once-in-a-lifetime events, some of which cannot be re-created. For example, on the day I posted my question, an author friend replied that she was supposed to fly to London that very night to accept a prize for her first published novel. One family has a daughter graduating from med school this month and going straight to the COVID fight; they are proud and worried—and disappointed that there will not be a graduation ceremony. Another proud papa I know was on his way to Chicago for his daughter’s college graduation; it won’t be redone, it’s just … past. And finally, the extended family—children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren—of an adored matriarch who died last year rented “the perfect house in Maine” during their beloved’s birthday week, to remember and celebrate her life. My friend says, “I know there are much worse things in life but we are hugely disappointed.” Of course they are, and my heart aches for them.