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We are blessed.
Of course, it might not feel that way as we deal with the impact that COVID-19 has had on our professional and personal lives. Some have experienced it worse than others, but we’ve all been affected. If you’re a travel advisor, work for a cruise line or rely on international travelers to earn a living, I don’t need to tell you about the challenges of being in this industry right now. But we’re blessed nonetheless, because we still work in the greatest profession in the world, with the power to alleviate much of what ails people — especially today.
As we start to reimagine what our businesses will look like in response to what will surely be a new world of travel, I want to take a moment to encourage everyone not to forget about the incredible power travel has to help people heal. Whether you have lost a loved one, lost a job, missed a family member’s graduation/bar mitzvah/wedding, or have just been locked inside the house for weeks on end, you have experienced some form of trauma since the pandemic started. People may not realize it, but traveling — particularly to unite with family members, reconnect with the natural world and just plain escape from what has consumed us for most of 2020 — could be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, if I were a physician, I would prescribe travel to all my patients. Here’s why.
In March of last year, I was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma, a chronic form of brain cancer, that landed me in the emergency room. I was told I needed surgery ASAP. My mind was instantly swirling. What did this mean? Would I live? Would I be “normal” again? Was this the end of my travels? I had no idea what lay ahead. I felt like I had lost all control. To say I had a major onset of anxiety is putting it way too mildly.
As I was being rolled into the operating room, I asked the surgeon for two favors: “First, please get this tumor out of my head, and second, I need to get to California (2,800 miles away) in eight days for my son’s college graduation.” (We also had flights to Hawaii for the entire family two days after the ceremony, but I decided not to push it!)
Laughing, he said he would take care of the first request, but the second one would be up to me. Secretly, he and the other doctors probably never really thought it was a possibility. After all, most people need well over eight days to recover from major surgery, and this request also involved dealing with busy airports, cross-country flights, all the logistics of the ceremony, the hotel, dining out and more.
Thankfully, the surgery was a success. Afterward, I worried incessantly about whether I could actually make the trip — even though I had done it dozens of times before without even thinking about it. Well, I mustered up everything I had, and I made the trip.
Ultimately, I decided I needed to assure myself and my family that “Dad was going to be OK.”
Not only did I weep openly as we touched down at LAX, I would say unequivocally that it was the most meaningful and important trip of my entire life — and I’ve taken lots of them. I managed to overcome my fears and realized sometime later that this trip played a very big role in my overall healing process.
More than a year has passed, and I am happy to report I handled all my treatments with flying colors. I’m pretty much living the same way I did before that fateful day — which, of course, includes traveling.
I have since read a lot about how the mind/body connection can help people recover and heal from disease, trauma and stress. I have learned that changing your mental outlook by visiting with family or getting outside into nature, for example, can actually positively impact your physical biology. Put simply: Traveling could be one of the best cures for what’s ailing all of us right now.
As travel advisors, this might actually be the best time to talk to your clients about how they are feeling, and how important it is that they plan a trip for when the all-clear is given. You don’t have to become a doctor or research the mind/body connection to make the point — they will probably agree with you, anyway — but it never hurts to equip your medical kit with anecdotes to emphasize the benefits.
I share my story now because I sincerely believe it’s a powerful example for how traveling can help people recover — in fact, sometimes save people — from the events and circumstances that cause them the most anxiety. So, trust me when I say that you are doing your clients an important service by getting out a pad and writing a prescription for travel.
The DetailsFamily Travel Associationwww.familytravel.org