On March 19, Marty Pollak and Monica Palenzuela journeyed from New York City to Patagonia, where they hiked the Perito Moreno Glacier, explored Torres del Paine and hung out with a herd of guanacos. Santiago and Buenos Aires were next.
Although stay-at-home mandates, travel restrictions and social distancing had become a new reality for billions of people all over the world, Pollak and Palenzuela’s five-month trip was very much alive — on Instagram.
Guided by their canceled itinerary, the couple has been posting meticulously staged (and often Photoshopped) images and videos of themselves enjoying what would have been their adventure: say, gazing at a snow-capped peak, getting lost while hiking and taking a bus ride to Puerto Natales, Chile.
“You plan and God laughs,” said Palenzuela, 35, who is studying to be a winemaker. “But we’ve found joy in looking at what would have been. Seeing the itinerary day by day has helped us realize two things: One, this would have been an epic trip, and two, we can do it another year.”
With little choice but to stay grounded for the time being — and with plenty of time at home — avid travelers like Pollak and Palenzuela have devised creative and meaningful ways to celebrate the vacations they have had to cancel because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We travel to escape — to unwind — but also to feel the thrill of doing something entirely new. So why not fake a vacation, if only to laugh and smile and feel something good for a minute? I’d plan a ‘fauxcation’ every day,” said Laura Dannen Redman, the digital content director at Afar, a travel media company.
As technology becomes an increasingly critical tool for everyone and everything, celebrations of “fauxcations” on social media are increasing. A video of a septuagenarian Australian couple — feet up, wearing robes, holding wineglasses and watching a YouTube video of the ocean on a flat-screen TV — went viral when their daughter tweeted: “Cruise cancelled? No problem.”
One post in Afar’s #TravelAtHomeChallenge, which started on Instagram in March, shows Dannen Redman wearing an all-white outfit with a red belt, being chased down a driveway by her 2-year-old daughter: a riff on running with the bulls in Spain.
Danielle Sapienza, a New York-based family and lifestyle photographer, has rallied her Instagram followers to post similarly fun-spirited photos using the hashtag #viralvacation2020. One clever response shows a bathing-suit-clad woman on a Peloton bike, drinking a Corona beer with a Lysol spray bottle tucked into a tasseled beach bag.
Others, like Nina Irizarry, take a more intimate approach.
Irizarry, 35, nervously monitored the news in early March until it became clear that her Jordan trip with EscapingNY, a small-group tour operator, was a no-go for April.
“I was definitely disappointed, but I also felt a sense of peace because I knew this was the right decision. This is a time for me to protect myself and do what’s best for other people, including my family. Jordan’s not going anywhere,” said Irizarry, the founder of Du Coeur Magazine, an arts and culture publication.
Then, much to her delight, she received a care package with Jordanian tea and spices, plus a recipe for maqluba, a rice-based dish served throughout the Levant, from the EscapingNY founder, Cassandra Brooklyn.
“I know how disappointed everyone is, and I’m hoping the care packages provide them with something to look forward to and enjoy right now, since so many of us are stuck waiting around until things get better,” Brooklyn said.
Irizarry, who loves to cook, spent the last Sunday in March putting the recipe to use in her Astoria, New York, kitchen.
“‘Maqluba’ literally means ‘upside down’ in Arabic. So creating this dish was a testament to the discipline, memory and anticipation of a trip to Jordan with EscapingNY. Perhaps, in today’s times, it was also a testament to a world turned upside down,” she said.
Ad-libbing also has its merits. After canceling their stay at Twin Farms, an adults-only Relais & Châteaux retreat in Vermont, Ross and Jordi McGraw reenacted parts of their romantic getaway at McGraw’s parents’ house in Pennsylvania, where they had decamped to self-quarantine.
After putting their toddler son to bed, the McGraws cracked open some nice wine (carted, with other essentials, from their Manhattan apartment). The bucolic setting and mountain views rang faintly of Vermont. A Jacuzzi added a dash of five-star-ish luxury. And the movie “My Friend Dahmer,” about serial killer and sex offender Jeffrey Dahmer, stood in for Twim Farms’ annual Murder Mystery Weekend — Jordi McGraw, a freelance writer, loves murder mysteries.
“It was quite the opposite of the weekend we had planned,” McGraw, 33, said. “But you can only stress about things so much; we were lucky that we had a place to go, that we were all healthy and safe, and that we had a sleeping baby.”
McGraw knows she’ll eventually make it to Twin Farms, which ranks high on her travel bucket list. EscapingNY has rescheduled Irizarry’s Jordan tour for later this year. And Pollak and Palenzuela remain hopeful that at least some part of their nearly half-year sabbatical — which would have taken them from Europe and the Middle East to Hawaii, and eventually to Vietnam — will materialize.
“In our mind, we’re not thinking of it as canceled. As delusional as that sounds, I think that’s what’s helping us stay sane. Everything seems bleak right now, so we figure we’d do our part and stay inside, lay low and see what happens,” Palenzuela said.
That attitude tracks with new data from TripScout, a travel app that builds personalized itineraries. In an online survey administered between March 13 and March 22, 77% of the nearly 3,000 respondents said they had to cancel or reschedule existing travel plans because of the coronavirus. Yet 90% of the respondents said they still plan to travel in 2020.
To fill that limbo, ongoing coronavirus-related efforts from travel companies and cultural institutions have made it easier than ever to transform real trips into virtual ones.
TripSavvy, a travel website, has emboldened readers to spice up their Zoom meetings with original destination photography, from Tijuana’s colorful Santa Cecilia Plaza to the jagged coast of Big Sur in California. Road Scholar, an education-focused travel nonprofit, is tapping its global network of instructors to develop a series of online lectures geared toward older adults. Bulldog Tours, in Charleston, South Carolina, is hosting daily guided tours of the city’s best sites on Facebook Live; the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, is also running daily tours on Facebook Live. And Discover Puerto Rico, the territory’s destination marketing organization, is broadcasting an ongoing slate of virtual events, from salsa-dancing lessons on Zoom to cocktail classes on Instagram Live.
If there was ever a couple committed to bringing a vacation to life at home, though, it’s Christina Vidal and Kenny Haisfield.
The couple splits their time between Bali, where Haisfield runs Kenny Flowers, his Hawaiian-shirt company, and San Diego. Vidal, also known as JetsetChristina, is a travel influencer; their wedding invitations were designed as a boarding pass for “Jetset Airlines.” Although they’ve rescheduled their April nuptials at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea for late November, they have vowed not to let April 18 — already engraved on Haisfield’s wedding band — go by without fanfare.
“We’re going to make mai tais, put on our Kenny Flowers Hawaiian shirts, play some Hawaiian music and do a virtual happy hour with our bridal party,” Vidal said.
For food, a Hawaiian pizza is being considered. Although Vidal wants to save her gown for the (real) big day, the couple may ask their officiant, a friend, to perform an informal version of the ceremony over Zoom. And with the unexpected gift of time, the couple plans to work on perfecting their first dance.
For Irizarry, the postponement of her Jordan trip comes with another benefit.
“It gives me more time to prepare. It’ll allow me to save a little more financially, so I can maybe have a fuller experience and maybe even extend the trip beyond Jordan,” Irizarry said. “It’s like a friend you don’t see that much — when you finally do see her, it’s like, ‘Wow, I appreciate you so much more.’”
Sarah Firshein @ c.2020 The New York Times Company