Community members travel internationally, some learn the value of staying local

Elisabeth Siegel

Climbs in the Rhone-Alps. Espresso in Copenhagen. Parties in Istanbul. It was the first day of AP French class, and senior Marguerite Davis, junior Dalyan Prieto-Akmansoy and junior Will Grogan were enthusiastic to bounce their summer travel stories off of each other.

After a Covid-19-ridden 2021, people weren’t hesitant to immerse themselves in foreign destinations. According to a March survey by “The Vacationer,” more than 42 percent of American adults said they will travel more this summer than 2021. According to a Sept. 19 poll of 149 students, 11 percent traveled to a foreign country this summer. Many are more comfortable taking international trips, especially having had to delay them the past few years. At the same time, traveling restrictions taught many people to appreciate the environment just a road-trip away. The pandemic has reminded many people of the importance of traveling both to foreign destinations and close to home.

“I got to see my friends [in Copenhagen] for the first time in three years,” Prieto-Akmansoy said. “I couldn’t see them before because of Covid-19. I also really missed traveling, it’s my favorite thing. Especially in places I don’t know, I love trying new foods and learning about new cultures and languages.”

But some students got to make new friends during their travels. Davis experienced a Moondance Adventure, a trip for teens organized by an adventure travel company, in Chamonix, France. On the trip, she hiked the Pyrenees Mountains and the Tour Du Mount Blanc, a 106-mile trail.

“My favorite part about traveling is the views I get to see and meeting new people,” Davis said. “I did not travel outside the country in 2021. Covid-19 didn’t really affect where I went in 2022, but we did have to take a Covid-19 test before going out of the country.”

Faculty had the opportunity to travel as well, among them was English teacher and senior class dean Heather Cernoch. At the top of a mountain on an uninhabited island, English teacher Heather Cernoch stood in the rain and 40-mile-per-hour wind. After being dropped off by a tiny boat, it was just her, her family, a marine biologist and a puffin colony on Staffa Island.

They waited two years to do the trip, Cernoch was finally able to witness the beauty of Scotland.

“Traveling during the pandemic was really interesting,” Cernoch said. “It was strange and unusual. The UK trip was the first trip we went on over the last couple of years that actually felt normal.”

During the pandemic, most people either did not travel or exclusively traveled domestically. National Parks became more crowded, especially since they offered outdoor activities and visitors felt safer. According to Sept. 19 poll of 149 students, 4 percent traveled to a National Park in 2022.

“A lot of people can drive to their local national parks or whatever national parks are close to you,” Cernoch said. “I think that national parks were really one of those underrated activities before the pandemic, and now because so many people traveled to national parks during the pandemic, it’s on everyone’s radar. I hope that the national parks continue to be utilized because I think national parks are one of the greatest things about America.”

Former Fine Arts Director Dusty Davidson is now the owner and manager of Showtime Travel Agency–Dream Vacations. The full service travel agency books flights, hotels, cruises, resorts and everything in between.

“A lot of what we were seeing last summer was domestic travel, car trips and camping trips,” Davidson said. “National parks were a huge thing last year. Flights were and still are a little bit sketchy to deal with but particularly with the pandemic and mask wearing.”

History teacher Marc Salz had a traveling burst this summer, venturing to Colorado, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Spain. And even though there were less restrictions, he couldn’t escape the pandemic.

“When I flew home from Spain, I had Covid,” Salz said. “The tickle in my throat happened [for about] an hour [during] the eight hour flight. And then the next day I felt pretty crummy and so I got tested. Fingers crossed I didn’t infect anybody, but I didn’t know [at the time] because I had no symptoms at all.”

The pandemic was still slightly lingering this summer, so Covid-19 restrictions and requirements were constantly changing. When Cernoch left for her trip, the United States had a requirement to get Covid-19 tested before returning to the country. She had to buy special tests that she took with her overseas, which took up half of her luggage.

“We were totally anticipating that we were going to have to do this just to go home,” Cernoch said. “While we were in the UK, the Biden administration made the announcement that those tests would no longer be required. So we were overseas with all these tests that had taken up our luggage this whole time, and we didn’t even have to do it. We just got back on the airplane and flew home.”

Hotels, airlines and tourism in general are understaffed right now. Davidson receives daily emails from several of the ocean cruise and river cruise lines still looking to hire employees for the season.

“Anyone who’s interested in those types of tourism and hospitality jobs, they are really available right now,” Davidson said. “Overall everyone is really understaffed, and I think it is mostly evident with the cruise lines and with airlines right now because they are such a newsworthy thing; they’re always on the news and they’re a lot more vocal. So I think that is certainly showing with them and cancellations.”

For many, traveling is relieving the stress of the past years of pandemic chaos. No matter if it is domestic or international, traveling is still an important part of many peoples lives.

“I really cherish experiences more than tangible things,” Cernoch said. “I would prefer to spend money on an adventure or a trip where I can experience another culture, try new foods and see things I’ve never seen before. For me, travel accomplishes all of those things. It’s what I live for; a lot of people work to live, but I work to travel.”

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