The Healing Power of Travel

As we settle into the new realities of social distancing, Indagare's Bridget McElroy reflects on the power of travel to broaden our hearts and minds and, above all, to heal.

“I need to write this down. This way that I’m feeling. This uninhibited, childish jubilee, this lightness, this joy in the purest sense of the word. Wow. Africa is beautiful.The human body has a funny way of dulling even the most intense of sensations over time.  Maybe that’s a blessing, a way of surviving in the wake of tragedy. But – I never want to forget this feeling. Right now, I am living out a different kind of blessing. I’d like to be able to summon this emotion always… throughout my life… no matter what comes my way.”I wrote the above in my journal on January 6, 2020.  It was only my second day in Tanzania, just over two months ago. I was sitting in my tent at Chem Chem Lodge after visiting the local primary school, watching the Wildebeest graze just a few hundred feet from me as I furiously tried to pin my feelings to the lines in my notebook.Though it’s hard to imagine right now as our global community wades its way through the uncharted territory that is the Covid-19 pandemic, the feeling that I desperately attempted to bottle up only further blossomed as my trip progressed over the next eight days. I fear that I’ll never be able to adequately capture in words the way that my first safari experience so fully impacted my being. But, at this point in time, I am so glad that I tried because as I sit at my father’s desk in his home office, quarantined with my family back in my hometown, it’s the sentiment, no matter how hastily transcribed, that allows me to vividly recall my unbridled bliss–to ‘summon the emotion’ I was feeling on that day. 
My heart breaks for all of the people across the world who are losing their lives and their livelihoods as well as those losing their semesters abroad and on campus, their athletic seasons and careers and their big debuts, those having to cancel weddings and reunions and postpone honeymoons. Each loss is a devastating blow to its victim in its own right, some indubitably more so than others, naturally. These days I wake to face what has been catastrophic for the travel industry, and I strive to heal the wound dealt the entire travel community in whatever way that I can.I am invigorated by my quest, encouraged to keep fighting because even when my faith teeters, my words remind me how much I believe in the utterly transformative power of travel.What the world needs right now is not more travel, and while that painfully hurts me as a wanderlust-stricken human, as a never-graduating student of the global classroom, as a dear friend to so many Indagare members, colleagues, partners and operators, and as an individual working in travel, I can accept it as true, because I know that it is temporary.
The world needs time to heal, and I only hope that we are each doing our part to expedite the restorative process. All of that said, I am confident that when we do–and we will­–emerge from this crisis, the same big beautiful world that is suffering so immensely right now will be there, waiting with open arms to embrace its people. Once the dust settles, travel will further heal us by teaching us, by broadening our horizons and introducing us to people, cultures, cuisines, landscapes and creatures that will change our lives and bring us that joy that I was so fortunate to experience not so long ago.And as much as we will rely on our global community to do all of the above as we rush to escape our eerily quiet hometowns and shockingly abandoned cities, the global community will, too rely on each of us to pick up where we left off, to discover, seek and explore, to breathe life and love back into a wilting enterprise. At the end of the day, if this virus has taught me anything, it’s that we truly are all in it together.In response to the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry, Indagare has launched Indagare Global Classroom, a series of group and private programs that connect Indagare members with our partners around the world. Learn more here.

Published onMarch 24, 2020

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