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How Bringing Travel Home Helped One Writer Survive Difficult Times

How Bringing Travel Home Helped One Writer Survive Difficult Times

While waiting for the world to reopen, memories and mementos from past travels provided hope and inspiration.

We lost so many things to the pandemic and resulting global economic slowdown — countless lives to start — as well as jobs, small businesses, the ability to hug our friends. We lost the capability to properly celebrate weddings or memorialize loved ones who passed. For many of us, we lost travel, too, which seems almost too “first world” of a thing to complain about, especially when stacked against things like people’s livelihoods. But for those of us who regularly travel for pleasure and for a living, it wasn’t a negligible loss. LGBTQ people have always been wanderers, explorers, and we’ve long yearned to find community and new experiences just over the horizon.

My own travel ground to a halt in March 2020, cutting short a work trip in Las Vegas as the pandemic loomed and exhibitors pulled out of the show I was attending. It was the third week of back-to-back trips for me — and going from that to a standstill was somewhat of a shock to the system. My fiancé and I were narrowing down honeymoon destinations for the end of the year, and as the weeks wore on, it became more and more apparent that our Fall wedding and Winter honeymoon might end up being 2021 events and not 2020 ones.

Some people buy trinkets during their travels. I’ve known people who have collected shot glasses, magnets, postcards, coffee mugs, or just plain junk (often made in China and not even in the place they’re visiting) from nearly every place they venture to. I long ago decided to rid my household of clutter, trying to limit myself to collecting significant pieces from special trips: the painting of the Andes I bought at a street fair in Santiago in 1997, the carved wooden giraffe we bought on safari in South Africa in 2018, the huge abstract oil canvas we found at Rio’s Hippie Market in Ipanema in 2014. 

That said, when we take summer vacations with our kids, we generally try to find a unique ornament or two along the way. I’ve found that’s always a nice memory to elicit when decorating our Christmas tree as a family. Sometimes that leads us all into reminiscing about past trips, and that’s really the point of mementos, I suppose. 

During these recent difficult times, I’ve found myself splurging on some favorite things I’ve found on past trips. We spent a glorious week in Maui in January, and because of it being our last big trip, I’ve found myself obsessing about it on occasion, wishing we could go back. While we were there, I was delighted by the vanilla-infused root beer from Maui Brewing Company and the intoxicating Mango Nectar shampoo at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, made by Malie Organics. I’d rationed what I brought home over the months, but once I ran out, I decided a small splurge was in order and ordered more of both of them.

Something about opening a can of that root beer (which I save for rare occasions) transports me back to those sand- and surf-filled days and helps me plow through one more hour of work when my spirits are low. I’ve found other fun additions, too. Northwoods Soda & Syrup Company’s Black Cherry Cream Soda brings me back to the clear clean waters of Traverse City, Michigan, in an instant. Before turning off the light at night, Los Pablanos’ Lavender Lotion takes me to my beloved New Mexico; we drove across its magical expanses a few summers ago. And playing the Sara Hickman CD that I bought at Austin’s Waterloo Records last year brings me right back to sitting under the lights at a restaurant patio on Rainey Street. If I still can’t quite travel the way I used to, it feels good to be able to bring the sounds, the tastes and the smells into my house, to stir the memories — and fantasize about future adventures.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Paul J. Heney