Long before the borders shut down due to the pandemic, I had mixed feelings about the explosion of travel in the last two decades. A casual scroll through Instagram would have me shaking my head saying, “Is this sustainable?” Yes, I’ve also proudly posted my share of travel photos on social media. Yet, it doesn’t take a genius to see that all these millions of people flying half way across the world at the drop of a hat is damaging the planet. Furthermore, whatever we’ve gained in a global outlook and democratization was also counterbalanced by the loss of a certain innocence, mystique, and hopefulness of travel. It’s a kind of Tinderization of travel: the ease, the laziness, the unrealness. All done by, of, and for beautiful photos.
Having said all that, I miss traveling so much that it feels like a hard peach pit in my stomach. My trips to Alaska (to see the Northern Lights), the U.K. (for work), and Arizona (again for work) in January and February this year feel like a lifetime away. I’ve been going camping and hiking locally around Oregon, but I’m still longing to really get away from it all, because we all know 2020 was kind of stressful. My partner is also based 3,000 miles away, so we have been discussing going away together for the month of January instead of just flying back and forth to our respective cities. I’m not totally sure if we’ll be able to make it work logistically (can we go back to planning things again?), but quick research tells me that there are options.
If you do plan on going through one of these travel ideas, I highly recommend you taking every precaution to self-isolate before, during, and after your trip to minimize your chances of contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Also, might I suggest doing a sustainability challenge to offset your travel privilege/carbon footprint? (I stopped drinking coffee, coconut water, and other “fun” drinks before my trip to Italy over 3 years ago, and that habit has stuck with me. Now I drink filtered tap water almost exclusively. My Africa trip was the reason I reduced my shower time and stopped buying packaged tofu and vegan cheese for about a year—I’m back at it now, but it felt good to lower my plastic consumption.) Without further ado, here it goes!
Countries that are open to U.S. travelers
Open to American travelers with a negative COVID test before arrival. It also is a vegan and nature traveler’s paradise with unbelievable coffee, interesting and plant-based cuisine, wildlife everywhere, beautiful beaches, and hiking.
Zambia and Zimbabwe
Both open to American travelers with no restrictions. These southern African countries boast iconic savannahs and wildlife, safari lodgings straight out of your imagination, sundowners, and romance. Neighboring Botswana will soon open to Americans.
Open to Americans with no restrictions. It’s also a country that Irina Vishnevskaya, founder of Alle Travel, recommends whole-heartedly, especially the Yucatan Peninsula with its Maya ruins, cenotes, and lagoons. You might also consider Mexico City, the 2019 National Geographic #1 destination. (It’s also a vegan heaven—check out our vegan Mexico City guide.) Here’s how to do trendy Tulum in an eco-friendly and not cheesy way. (Oh and a Tulum vegan guide, too!) We’ve also had fun in vegan-friendly Sayulita on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Oh, my!!
Open to Americans with a negative COVID test before arrival. I’ve always wanted to visit the Galapagos—the blue-footed boobies are like, some of the world’s cutest animals! it’s not cheap, but why not ease the end-of-the-world feelings at a place that feels like the end of the world?
Open to Americans with a negative COVID test before arrival. Many people have sung Croatia’s praises to me, and since I love the cliffy look of the Italian coast across the Adriatic, I probably would love the scenery here too. Croatia also boasts beautiful sunsets, crumbling gardens, Old World villages, and vegan eats.
Open to Americans with no restrictions. Istanbul has played a superlative role in world history since its days as the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Whether you’re into architecture, cuisine, people, or history, you’ll find plenty to stimulate your senses. Here’s our guide to Istanbul. If you have time, check out the picturesque villages out in the country—cobblestones, blue-painted doors, flowering vines all look very Mediterranean more than Levantine. Makes sense if you consider that the Bronze Age city of Troy is in Turkey—it’s a must-visit destination for ancient history buffs.
Domestic ideas for U.S. Travel
Most U.S. states have no restrictions for domestic travelers, including these listed below.
Arizona gets props for flipping blue during Election 2020. Also, it has a beautiful and varied landscape to satisfy the hearts of anyone, from the desert in Tucson to forested mountains in Flagstaff to, of course, the Grand Canyon.
California needs our love this year after a truly horrific fire season. The Golden State has dreamy beaches, Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, deserts, and nature galore. For some of the best (and most directional) vegan food in the world, check out LA, Northern California, and San Diego.
Colorado….also needs love after a terrible fire season that’s still on-going. If you’re into skiing, the slopes of Aspen can’t be beat. Denver also serves up delicious vegan food and is perfect for a weekend getaway.
Unbelievable but Washington State also took a battering this year due to unprecedented fires. Let’s show them some love. The Pacific Coast of Washington is famously beautiful, while more in-land you’ll find hiking galore on Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier, and more. Check out delicious vegan food, microbrews, and hipster goings-on in Seattle.
Home to one of the most magnificent national parks in the country, Grand Teton, Wyoming boasts herds of bison, pristine snowscapes, world-class skiing, and backcountry atmosphere. If you want to get away from it all, you’ve come to the right place.
Which one of these is calling your name?
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Photo: Jakob Owens via Unsplash; Morgan via Unsplash; Alan Carillo via Unsplash