As the winter holidays come to a close and I soak up the last few moments of free time before delving back into an academic mindset, I find myself reflecting on how I spent my copious amounts of empty time. Every day I would wake up and stand in the middle of my room deciding whether I was going to do nothing or something somewhat productive. I could apply to more summer jobs that may never happen, or I could look out my window for three hours. I could clean out my closet and vacuum my carpet, or I could send TikToks to everyone I know for the afternoon. Needless to say, this internal dialogue, which morphed into a daily ritual during my time off, would eat up a good portion of the day on its own.
The best part, subjectively speaking, of staring into space and letting yourself have time in your own mind, is the tendency for thoughts to wander to more entertaining things. I didn’t need to choose between doing nothing and doing something when I could stay in this undecided state. In these moments I would always find myself returning to my hypothetical travel plans. Assuming that money was no object and if COVID-19 magically disappeared, where would I go?
After five long weeks of thinking about this for about 15 minutes each day, I have finally settled on my top three post-COVID travel destinations. Here they are:
- Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Although it has attracted some controversial attention from some members of the provincial Parliament, I am craving a BEACH VACATION. I imagine a group of friends and I shipping ourselves off to an all-inclusive resort to tan, eat, drink, dance, sleep, swim, meet new people and everything else that’s amazing about a beach vacation.
Why Isla Mujeres? I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting this small island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico for March break with my family and two other families in 2018 and 2019. It is the type of destination you dream of returning to the minute you first arrive. Not to mention the island is home to a wide variety of restaurants, bars and clubs, shops, activities such as snorkelling and hiking, and breathtaking scenery. Check out some images here.
- Edinburgh, Scotland
Like the majority of people in our current world, some of my own large life plans abruptly evaporated with the spread of COVID-19. I was supposed to go on an exchange this semester, winter 2021, to Edinburgh, Scotland. As a student who has lived at home during their undergrad, this was going to be my opportunity to test my independence and adaptability. Until my next opportunity, I guess I’ll have to stay as an adult-child where I have my own credit card but my dad still makes me breakfast when I ask. Strange.
Because of this lost opportunity, I feel a pull towards Edinburgh. I want to take a day to walk around the whole city and see it from foot, visit Edinburgh Castle, try Scottish food (yes, I am talking about Haggis), experience the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and hang out at a Scottish pub.
First of all, have you seen Iceland?! Even through pictures online, the breathtaking beauty of this place jumps through the screen. From mountains to valleys, greenery, glaciers, northern lights, ice caves, wildlife, waterfalls, I yearn to see it all! Click here to experience some of these gorgeous views.
More personally, the dream to travel to Iceland has been somewhat of a trend in my family. My maternal grandfather, Zaida, lived his life with a great passion for travel and learning and had the opportunity to travel with my grandmother, Bubba, multiple times a year for most of their adult lives. Now he sits in his long term care facility with dementia quickly tightening its hold on his brain. The dream remains a dream, slipping away from his consciousness as well. My mother, his daughter, holds the same longing to see Iceland and we talk about it often. For us, the opportunity to travel to this country and experience its beautiful offerings would mean uncovering the source of my grandfather’s fascination and understanding his inspirations.
Unfortunately, these travel aspirations are definitely hypothetical. I may gush to whoever will listen about where I want to go in the world once COVID-19 is done and over with, but through that conversation, I tip between entitlement, delusion and hopefulness.
Will these plans ever come to fruition? I hope so. But we then deal with bigger questions: Will the pandemic ever really be over? When will life return to some version of normal? Will I have enough money? Through these ten months, I’ve learned that those are dangerous questions that push a person into a tunnel of countless more impossible queries. Rather than sending myself down that path, I choose to treat this mental exercise as a way to manifest.
By being forced into indoor stagnancy, I’ve discovered an internal ache for adventure, experience, and a deeper learning into the exquisite makeup of our world. So I will continue to make these grand plans if not for entertainment, then to continue to prepare myself, both mentally and financially, for when we can all, finally, leave our homes with ease and excitement.
What has empty free time taught you about yourself?
In a post-COVID world, where do you want to go?
What do you want to do?