Revised Bucket Lists in the Time of Coronavirus


The dream of many is to quit, or cut back on, work and rev up travel plans. However, this is the age of Covid. While active older adults are more likely to have the freedom and disposable income for greater getaways, they are also in the higher health risk categories than the younger crowd. 

For many seasoned mature trekkers, destination bucket lists have changed. The Coronavirus has kept people apart for nine months, and the ties of families and friends are stronger than the desire to ride the bulls, climb a mountain, or bask in the sun. As a result, the top priorities for getting back on the road or in a plane may not be to exotic destinations, but to wherever loved ones reside.

Maria, Michele, and Nancy live in different states and have unique travel profiles. But what the three women, each in their 60s, share in common is their love of exploration and visiting new places. Plus, they enjoy creating travel wish lists and plotting out details well in advance. 

These well-traveled women agree it’s far too early to schedule any getaways, but when they do, visiting with loved ones will be at the top of their lists.

Cleveland Outshines China

Maria lives in Buffalo, New York. She always has a list of dream vacations. In 2019, her wish list included China, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Australia, Lebanon, India, and Stonehenge. Today, it’s a far different map, and all accessible via I-90. After nine months of social distancing, getting together with loved ones trumps all other destinations. Move over Stonehenge and Lebanon. Make space for Ohio and Illinois.

Maria and her husband are “just hoping to be able to see family again.” Their youngest attends grad school at Case Western in Cleveland, while another daughter, son, four grandkids, and siblings live in places like Batavia, Aurora, DeKalb, and Crystal Lake — locales far outside of Chicago for which there are no Fodor’s or Frommer’s guidebooks. 

Until she feels ready to travel, which won’t be for quite some time, Zoom takes the place of a jet. Most recently, Maria’s family coordinated weekly game nights connecting up to 11 people from five households spread across three states.

“We’ve had a first birthday (party), a 90-year-old birthday (celebration), and holidays over zoom. Not ideal, but better than nothing. It’s important that we see each other,” Maria says.

Dallas versus il Duomo

Michele is a retired San Antonio school teacher. As with most active older adults, she expected to globe-trot more once she said goodbye to her classroom commitments.

When she was teaching middle schoolers full time, she traveled, on average, just two weeks a year. Upon retirement, she upped her touring to six weeks a year. Among her favorite places were Greece and Italy.

Today, her bucket list is reconfigured to head to facilitate sharing time with friends and family. 

The thought of another European escape is more like a wild dream now. The very vibrant and healthy retiree says, “Back in early Covid days, I thought of exotic places. Now I want to see my people.” 

The timeframe is still too iffy to start planning, but the people and places are secure on her bucket list. The first trip she will make is a jaunt to nearby Dallas to visit relatives. When she feels more comfortable with air travel, she will enjoy quality time with loved ones in Chicago, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans. 

“I’m not sure if it will ever be safe enough to return (to Europe) since I’m not as young as I used to be.” Her primary concerns are people not getting vaccinated and another pandemic. “I will likely always be masked when I travel by air from now on. I’m pretty freaked out about traveling. Period. That’s so sad since I loved it so much in my past life.”

Heaven is Where Your Loved Ones Are — and Boulder Junction, Wisconsin

Nancy and her sweetheart are passionate travelers from the Midwest who share many of Michele’s and Maria’s thoughts about future travel. Too many questions are unanswered for Nancy to feel safe traveling now, or even to make reservations. Things that we took for granted, like using a public restroom are stopping Nancy from getting beyond her dream list for now.

Once the kids became adults, Nancy checked off all 14 of the presidential libraries in the United States and logged long-distance bike travel in the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Vietnam, Italy, Spain, France, Canada, Costa Rica, and many U.S. locales. An art historian and aficionado of aesthetics, she has a collection of thousands of images of flowers from her travels around the globe.

“Typically, we don’t let our suitcases cool off between travels. Now they are just gathering dust,” Nancy says. “Travel is our greatest fantasy, these days. We play ‘where do you want to go?’ constantly. In between, we reminisce on favorite places, meals, sights, lodgings, and experiences. ‘Remember the Flamenco dance concert in Seville? Ah, the sculptures in the garden at the Rodin Museum, in Paris. The production of Shakespeare’s, Corolanus, in Stratford, Ontario, was incomparable,’” she muses.

Similar to Maria and Michele’s re-molded travel priorities, domestic trips, and visiting family is at the top of the bucket list these days. Nancy’s family is scattered so she has plenty of places on her list from spending time with her son in San Francisco to siblings and cousins in Omaha, Georgetown, Texas, Denver, and Kansas City.

Nancy is a lucky one as her designated heaven on earth is just a five-hour drive from her sweetheart’s house.

“My absolute favorite place on earth is Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. I always say, ‘Why go to heaven when you can go to Boulder Junction?’ It is the heart of the North Woods, where tall pines, silver birch, endless pristine lakes, hiking trails, loon calls, and pine-scented air fill my tanks. We’ve been going there every year since 1997 to recreate the memories of attending camp in the late ’60s and early ’70s.  2020, the rabid year, broke that golden thread. So, the top of the list is returning to Boulder Junction.”

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