Venice, Italy. View from gondola during the ride through the canals.

The kids are still out of school, the weather is decent, and you’ve got paid time off you need to use. Sounds like the perfect time for travel plans! Except, 2020 doesn’t care about your plans. 2020 only cares about itself.

Maybe we’re going about this whole thing wrong. Maybe it’s time for the parents of Eastern Oregon to rise up and reject 2020’s grasp on our freedom. That’s right, rip off your mask and spit in the face of the enemy! Just kidding, please don’t do that. My suggestion is that you get creative about your traveling.

No, I don’t mean scour Pinterest for travel-themed toilet paper tube crafts to do with your kids. You’re sick of them, they are sick of them, and it creates a false sense of importance in toilet paper tubes.

Instead, try armchair traveling. It sounds boring but, just like real traveling, if you plan it well you can craft a memorable experience.

So what do you usually put on your travel to-do list? These are the same things that should be on your armchair travel list. I’ll share mine:

Pick a location.

Research food in that area and pick restaurants and meals to try.

Determine historically or culturally significant activities to participate in.

Document the journey.

Everything on my list can be done from home. In fact, doing it from home actually broadens some of the options. For example, consider pick a location. Normally, your budget would limit where you choose to go, but since you won’t actually be booking any international flights you can pretty much choose to go anywhere that interests you.

Let’s say you choose Italy. You can’t sit down at a classy Italian bistro from your home, but you can check out an Italian cookbook and try your hand at dishes you’ve never made before. I would recommend a book like “La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy,” where the author shares recipes from all 20 unique regions of Italy. On an actual tour of Italy you’re not going to have time to visit all 20 regions, but on a cookbook tour? Heck, some of the boring food choices can be flipped right past. Looking at you, antipastas — are you a salad or cheese tray? Make up your mind!

Now that you’ve eaten (the most important part of traveling), you’ll be wanting to see something fancy that will make your social media friends say oooh and ah, and I wish my family went on vacations like that, too.

The good news about this whole global pandemic thing is that we are all in it together. Our museums are closed and have resorted to creating digital tours, and so have Italy’s! So, while you can’t walk through Vatican City on your poor tired travel legs, you can scroll through the Vatican Museum’s Virtual Tours. Your kids will like it because it feels like walking through a video game. In fact, maybe lie to them and tell them that it is a video game and they need to find the hidden treasure box in one of the rooms. Won’t that be a fun way to keep them busy?

And finally, document the journey, especially if you messed up one of the recipes and made something truly horrible. There is nothing more fun to do online then revel in the failures of our friends. So, when your pasta ends up looking like well-used shoelaces, share it with the world! When your kid cries out, “But why can’t we just have normal spaghetti!” – share that with the world. And if you are lucky enough to hear the words worst family vacation ever, please, please share! Because hopefully when this is over and our kids are all grown up, we can look back and laugh at ourselves taking armchair traveling seriously in the big, fat selfish year of 2020.


Jennifer Costley is director of the Pendleton Public Library and mother of two.

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