Booking a holiday without the fear of your plans suddenly being cancelled now seems a distant privilege in the turbulent year of 2020. In turn, we have sadly lost the opportunity to relish in the excitement that accompanies travelling abroad and discovering new places.
I have always been a meticulous planner – travel is no exception, as I found out last summer when organising an Interrail trip with my boyfriend. Scouring endless articles about attractions in each city, booking walking tours and restaurants almost became my daily routine in the weeks leading up to our trip. Still recovering from the stress that A Levels had brought me, I attempted to forget about the dreaded Results Day by devoting myself entirely to the anticipation of my holiday. The distraction had quite clearly worked, as during the trip my mental health had never been better.
This summer, like many people around the world, I was unable to enjoy the therapeutic effects of planning a holiday abroad, opting for a staycation with my family. Although I enjoyed discovering interesting parts of the UK, my desire to explore lands that were completely foreign to me had not been completely satiated.
Browsing potential holiday ideas has now become a way for me to relax throughout this long summer, as perusing Airbnb for Parisian apartments or houses along an Amsterdam canal allows me to forget about current worries, even if I am still reluctant to actually book a trip.
Interestingly, the link between happiness and anticipation for travel can be backed up by academic research. According to a study conducted by Cornell University, looking forward to a holiday can increase someone’s overall happiness, providing a satisfaction greater than the purchase of a material object.
Why does planning for a trip fill us with such excitement?
The anticipation of an experience that we know is going to be temporary, with a clear end in sight, further increases our enthusiasm and determination to appreciate it. Evidently, we all need some sort of optimism at the moment, and looking forward to a trip in the (hopefully not too) distant future seems to offer an escape from the monotony of 2020.
Therefore, is our weariness of staying indoors leading us towards accepting a more spontaneous form of travel despite the uncertainty of the Coronavirus crisis? Although the thought of leaving plans until the last minute personally fills me with terror, I’ve come to realise that this might be the only way to genuinely travel, with quarantine measures being constantly lifted or imposed at the eleventh hour. Perhaps this grants us a new way to see holidays, ridding ourselves of our self-imposed plans, the necessity of visiting the ‘must-see’ places and the inevitable disappointment as a result of having too high expectations.
When we are finally granted more freedom and flexibility we might learn to seize new travel opportunities without a second thought, appreciating these experiences while they are still available to us. Or maybe there will always be a part of us that longs for the comfort of planning travel. Only time will tell.