We spoke to travel blogger Lee Abbamonte, the youngest person to visit every country in the world, plus both poles; Samantha Brown, host of the Emmy Award-winning series, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” on PBS; Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer’s guidebooks and Frommers.com; Tom Hall, vice president of experience at Lonely Planet and travel writer; Brian Kelly, founder and chief executive of the Points Guy; Sean Keener, chairman of AirTreks and BootsnAll Travel Network; Phil Keoghan, host of “The Amazing Race” on CBS; Darley Newman, creator and host of the award-winning series, “Travels With Darley,” on PBS; Rolf Potts, travel writer, podcaster and author of “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term World Travel”; Rick Steves, European travel expert with a guidebook series, public television and radio shows, and travel program; and Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet.
The virus can disrupt our travel plans but, as you’ll see from the answers below, it is also taking our wanderlust to even greater heights.
Question & Answer
Q: What plans did you have to cancel?
Abbamonte: Aside from canceling several parts of my Europe trip to the loss of thousands of dollars, I’ve also had to or will have to cancel countless trips over the next few months. I was supposed to attend a soccer game in Milan and Turin and go to a birthday weekend in Prague, and I’m going to miss several work golf trips to Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Georgia; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and likely Branson, Mo.
Brown: We had to postpone shooting episodes 2 and 3 of Season 4. The locations we postponed visiting are the Tyrol region of Austria and London.
Frommer: So many. My younger daughter is a high school junior and we were going to take an extended road trip during spring beak to visit two dozen colleges in the Midwest and South. I had to cancel flights to and from New York (that involved waiting on hold for three hours with Delta) as well as cancel hotel rooms and Airbnbs (that was easy). Plus, I had to release the rental car and call friends and family we were planning to see along the way.
Hall: Family holidays at Easter to longed-for journeys in England have been postponed, and my plans to bag a last-minute trip to Paris or Venice while crowds were low have also been put on ice.
Keener: I canceled a trip to the Redwoods [in California] with my children, a trip to Kauai and I may have to cancel a few more.
Kelly: I was headed to London at the end of April for our first anniversary of the Points Guy U.K. office.
Keoghan: I have typically traveled more than 250,000 miles a year for the last few decades. Staying put is not something I am used to, but I am embracing being at home and savoring all of the things that really matter in life.
Newman: We canceled trips to Austin for South by Southwest and the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, two important industry events. We were not set to have any major filming trips until June and, at this point, we are looking at alternative dates for those film shoots. They are in the U.S., but we are still planning for the worst . . . and hoping for the best.
Potts: Short-window trips to California and Louisiana have been scrapped for coming months. I teach a creative-writing class in Paris each July, and this year I was going to spend June with my nephew in Italy and Switzerland as a travel gift to celebrate his high school graduation. All of those Europe summer travels now look unlikely.
Steves: For the first time I can remember, my calendar is empty until June. I’ve canceled my April 13 flight to Istanbul and the entire 40-day guidebook research trip that was to follow. My tour business, which took more than 30,000 customers to Europe in 2019, has already canceled all departures through the end of April (so far).
Wheeler: I got back to Australia today — Wednesday Australia time — and can’t even go home because of the 14-day self-isolation ruling. Wow.
Q: How are you scratching your travel itch while grounded?
Abbamonte: I’m trying to stay positive and continue to post travel content on my social feeds like Instagram, so I can feel normal and others can take their mind off the virus if even for a few seconds. I also plan to use the time wisely and productively and start writing my book.
Brown: We are brainstorming ways we can use the three years of travel content we have from “Places to Love” to keep people hopeful not just about travel but human kindness and connection, which is, of course, at the core of all travel experiences.
Frommer: I’m writing and editing a lot for Frommers.com. We’re working on articles that we hope will help a lot of people scratch that travel itch, with gorgeous photos, history- and culture-rich text and much more, so that people can dream about future trips and the wonders the world holds, even if they’re not traveling right now.
Hall: My family and I are virtually touring the world’s museums and cities, and taking our time over booking travel for later in the year. There’s also a TV show — “Race Across the World” — airing in the United Kingdom showing teams racing from Mexico City to Ushuaia, Argentina, that is bringing a whole continent into view.
Keener: I am getting into nature while maintaining social distancing. So going into the garden, slowing down and enjoying the slower pace of life when in Portland, Ore.
Kelly: I have been reading some great books. I started reading Daniel Silva’s novels and am hooked. Reading his books has made me appreciative that I traveled to Israel twice in 2019.
Keoghan: I’m immersing myself with post-production on a new reality series I am show-running for CBS called “Tough as Nails.” It’s about real people in real life who are real tough, something that feels really timely right now. We want to honor the hardworking men and women who keep our country running, the people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
Newman: Traveling around Central Park and, most recently, going back and forth to Maine to see my father and help him out. Over the last few days, I have come to realize that my idea of travel coming up may mean covering a few blocks in my home area of New York City or sharing photos and memories with friends on social media. I’m also going back to video content we’ve filmed and will look for outtakes and footage that didn’t make it into previous episodes, knowing that people who can’t travel may have that itch and also cabin fever.
Potts: I am re-familiarizing myself with the 30 acres of Kansas prairie I consider my home base. It’s actually a nice place, all things considered, for a quarantine: very pretty and isolated (and inexpensive). An interesting irony here is that I canceled my winter travels this year so that I could keep an eye on my aging parents, who live next door. It’s the first time I’ve wintered here in five years, having been to Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, southern Africa and Uruguay/Argentina in previous winters. So in some alternate present, I’m off trapped in quarantine flight restrictions in some place like Namibia or Fiji.
Steves: I’m dreaming about Europe now more than ever, and I’m getting the sense that other travelers are, too. So while we’re all grounded, I’m making it my mission to stoke Americans’ travel dreams with vicarious travels. On my Facebook page, I’m sharing a “daily dose of Europe,” featuring my favorite memories from a lifetime of travel. My entire public television series — more than 100 half-hour episodes on every corner of Europe — is available free to view at my website. And my Rick Steves Classroom Europe tool, which curates all that travel television into more than 400 teachable three- to five-minute clips, is a godsend for families suddenly home-schooling and teachers trying to come up with creative ways to keep their students engaged. My goal is to remind everyone what’s waiting for them when this is all over and we can head back to Europe.
Wheeler: I’ll be processing that trip — London, Cairo and Socotra Island — and sorting out the photographs, putting up a blog on my website and so on for a few days. And definitely doing some research on the places I’ve learned about.
Q: Once we can travel again, where will you go to celebrate your liberation from self-quarantine?
Abbamonte: I’m going to go play golf somewhere really nice at a top course to try to recoup the clear forthcoming drop to my handicap!
Brown: Road trip to Maine to see my mom. I turn 50 in March, and my mom has been making me pork chops with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes for my birthday for 35 years. We can’t see her right now because she’s a part of the community we all really need to protect.
Frommer: Ooh, such a hard question. I’m hoping that a trip I have planned to the Traverse City area of northern Michigan will happen in May. I’m supposed to do a broadcast of our radio show from there. It’s a part of the country I’ve loved forever, ever since I went to Interlochen Arts Camp as a kid. The area is beautiful, with the Great Lakes, cherry tree farms, wineries and so much more. There’s also a surprisingly good culinary and cultural scene. Fingers crossed that I get there this year.
Hall: Living in London, I’ve long savored — and come to take for granted — how easy it is to get to Europe’s great centers of culture. Rome, which I love most of all, feels like the right place to go back to first for all kinds of reasons. The day when I can have a lazy coffee — or gelato for the kids — in the Campo de’ Fiori will be the day all of this is behind us. Then I’ll hop on a few trains north to Bern, Switzerland, and float down the fast-flowing water of the Aare River.
Keener: I do love air travel and am still amazed that humans built planes that can rapidly get us around the globe. On liberation, I look forward to going to South America and experiencing all of the beautiful cultures and expansive natural spaces.
Kelly: One of my favorite things to do is scuba diving. I plan to book a trip to go scuba diving in the South Pacific. Hello, Palau! I also want to take the world’s longest flight from EWR [Newark Liberty International Airport] to SIN [Singapore Changi Airport] and explore Singapore’s incredible food scene.
Keoghan: I was on the phone with my parents last night and talking about how important it is to plan our next adventure together. With them being so far away in New Zealand, it is something I always do. I want to go on another hike with my dad in the mountains of the South Island. As I always say at the start of “The Amazing Race,” “The world is waiting for you.” That said, it might have to wait a bit until we get rid of our unwanted house guest!
Newman: I’m dreaming of a long vacation, perhaps in the Caribbean or Western Europe. I would relish sipping a cool cocktail by the beach or wine in a French cafe and soaking in some of the normalcy we have recently lost. I’ll likely and hopefully end up filming those experiences, but for now, like so many people stressed by the current uncertainty, I long to go back or move forward to a “normal” state of things.
Potts: Odds are I’ll celebrate by finally taking my nephew to Italy and Switzerland. Our original plan was to take a European train trip through that region, a journey of the sort I never got to take as a teenager during the heyday of the Eurail Pass. In general, the pandemic has reminded me of what a blessing and privilege travel has always been, and how it has gotten even easier and more accessible over the course of the past quarter-century (up until about 10 days ago, that is). When I’m able to travel again, I’m sure I will have a sharpened sense of this privilege, and I hope I enjoy the journey even more as a result.
Steves: What’s next? Before coronavirus hit, I’d already make plans to take my extended family (and my daughter’s new in-laws) on our flagship 21-day Best of Europe bus tour in mid-June. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see this crisis last longer, I’m hoping we can go ahead with that tour. Someday soon we’ll all look back on this crisis as a time that made us smarter and more compassionate as a society, and more aware that the only way to make our country truly first is to put the entire world first as well.
Wheeler: I was hoping to go to South America in a few weeks, but right now who knows.
Kate Silver and Melanie Kaplan contributed to this report.