Of the many moments I’ll remember from my ﬁrst post-lockdown trip away – the ﬁrst sight of the sea, the sand in my shoes, the yellow and black hazard tape reminding me that you can travel but never quite escape – there’s one memory that will stay with me forever. It was the almost-pleading comment, “Please come back soon”, that greeted me as I checked out one morning.
All too often, travel is deemed a luxury. But, right there, in that moment, I was reminded of not just how much I need travel in my life, but also how much those who build their livelihoods around travel need me.
If the global pandemic has taught me anything, it is that travel is a gift that we must both cherish and pay forward. Yes, travel is about being kind to ourselves, taking time out, seeing the world with a beginner’s eyes and pressing that important reset button. And, yes, it is about getting a healthy dose of perspective, as we see ourselves once more as a tiny fragment of a bigger picture and a wider world.
More than that, however, travel is a wonderful opportunity to spread kindness all across the globe, wherever it is needed most. Right now (or as soon as the world opens up in a more reliable way), we have a choice. We can either base our travel plans on searching for clear seas and unrivalled views and on ticking oﬀ those once-in-a-lifetime destinations. Or we can consciously choose to travel with kindness, actively seeking out those destinations that need tourism to survive and rebuild.
We’ve all watched the world heal from our homes. But, at the same time, we’re all too aware of the damage a continued lack of visitors will do to the lives of everyone, from the Inca Trail porters in Peru to hilltribe villages in Thailand. And you don’t even have to travel far from home to see the joy that comes with taking an interest in someone else’s world. If ever the travel industry needed a rallying cry, it’s now.
Whatever your decision-making criteria, I urge you all, as you head out into the world once more, to be a kind stranger. There’s happiness for all of us to be found in a well-timed smile, a socially distanced hello, a meaningful thank you, and a thoughtful gesture, particularly when those who make travel possible are trying so hard to keep us safe and help us relax.
Kindness is the best of travel companions. When we go out of our way, we can change the course of someone’s day. Which brings me right back to my post-lockdown trip. It was originally booked for March and the comment above came from the manager, who I’d emailed a few times to suggest paying for the room in the hope that I’d be able to visit one day. I was astonished to learn that I was the only guest to oﬀer support and that my messages of hope had given him hope during a difficult time.
His words and that trip make me more determined than ever to travel with kindness. I hope you, too, choose to raise a smile as you move through this beautiful world of ours.
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