The trip cancellation email came on March 10. In the pre-pandemic world, I would be in Tyrol, Austria, right now, exploring the steeps of the Austrian Alps and being (likely) embarrassed at my inability to keep up with their legendary apres-ski scene. The canceled trip was due to fly out of Grand Junction and into Zurich on March 24.
Instead, I spent that dark Tuesday on laptop and phone, part of a (remote) editorial team-wide effort to push out an entirely redeveloped content calendar. A travel magazine, telling people to stay home and hit the stationary bike rather than head to Moab for legendary spring conditions.
As an outdoors writer who often reports from far-flung locales, encouraging people to stay inside and close to home comes about as naturally as skiing on a splitboard. But at the same time, it’s forced me, and our entire staff, to take a deeper look at why we do what we do. As a result, I’ve found once again that it’s at home, not on the road, that one can find sufficient succor to deal with crises.
At work, we have shifted our publication schedule to prioritize such topics as at-home exercise, localized outdoors content, and ways to feng shui the home for ultimate mindfulness. While still publishing some travel work, we’re focusing on the stories behind places more so than the places themselves. The normal trip planning pieces and other content that promotes travel have been pushed back. That said, we work remotely full-time and my day-to-day work schedule has not yet changed.
Contrast this with that of my wife, the Executive Director at a local food bank. Hers has been quite taxing – “high risk” volunteers are staying home, food deliveries have been harder to guarantee, despite an increase in need. She’s calling the shots as she sees them, normalcy thrown to the wind.
A generally high level of stress permeates the situation.
To pass the time at home, my wife and I have followed the lead of nearly all lifestyle editorial over the past three weeks. We’ve started seeds indoors and bought chicks from the local Murdoch’s. Our lawn, soon to be baked by the Western Slope’s summer sun, looks as good as ever (not that that’s saying much).
Despite canceled travel plans, homelife has served as a gratifying, if slightly dystopic, routine for this travel editor. Such is the case of privilege in the face of chaos.
A continuous stream of docu-series provides moments of inspiration for post-pandemic days. The series “Descending” has me determined to finally try SCUBA Diving. “Turn of Mind” has me scrutinizing, once again, the impact of snowboarding expeditions on the planet and a larger desire to skin my way into local hills.
In an ongoing quest to find the best route up Mount Lincoln, I’ve explored local trails around The Bookcliffs and came across a hidden trailhead I didn’t know existed.
I finally played the local disc golf course at Riverbend Park, which turns out to be both among the state’s best and within walking distance of my house.
At the encouragement of every publication on the internet, I’ve stepped up home workouts since the local gym has closed. If 100 sit-ups can make me feel “not so bad” about the pound of noodles I ate in front of the television last night, so be it.
It’s easy to be pessimistic. The world as we know it is undoubtedly going to shift as a result of COVID-19. How, we’ll have to wait and see. In the interim, we can be thankful for family, for friends we haven’t talked to in years, and for Zoom, the suddenly smash hit video conferencing software and ultimate winner of the pandemic.
As isolating as isolation seems right now, there’s a unique piece of mindfulness to be found on the neighborhood trail, in the backyard garden. I believe, and always will, that travel has the ability to break down borders and bring the world closer together. Separation might be what we need right now, but ultimately our common humanity — highlighted by the medical workers, first responders, grocery and food bank staff, and others on the front lines (HEROES) — will bring us closer and get us through this crisis.
Having this time to reflect reminds me that the days that put the biggest smile on my face aren’t ones backpacking in Thailand, but those spent joining friends for powder days and summit quests. We’re all something in this world, but I’ve never identified as anything more than as being a Coloradan. For all the wonder of the world, we here in Colorado have the solace of knowing true adventure is never far away.
Tim Wenger is travel editor at Matador Network and the owner/operator of Wenger Media Services in Palisade.