Escapes: If travel’s off the table, what’s left? Plenty

Illustration by Kim Salt for the Travel Cover running March 21, 2020.
(Kim Salt / For The Times)

Good day from my world communications center in Greater L.A.

My name is Catharine Hamm, the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times and a fan of Vicenzo de Luca, the president of Italy’s Campania region. Here’s what he told would-be partiers about banned gatherings: “We will send the police over,” the Independent quoted him as warning. “We will send flamethrowers.”

If you saw “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” you know you don’t want that.


But we hope we can stoke the fire of your passion, which is travel. Not for today but for the future.

Things you need to know

In our abbreviated newsletter format, we have stories about where you can go in the time of coronavirus within Southern California and whether it is safe to walk and bike and how to do so. We explain the quarantine in Hawaii and what’s going on with the national parks.

If you’ve been caught in the fallout of flights you won’t be taking, we advise you how (maybe) to get a refund from the airline.

Things you’ll want to know

We offer you some ideas on sites that let you travel the world, let you see adorable animal webcams and do a Napa wine tasting from home.


Because there is hope, that thing we are all hanging onto. Is it a vain hope? I think that depends on your mindset. We’ll talk about that in the End paper, which I hope you’ll get to. It’s at the end.

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What we’re reading

The story of Bessie Coleman, the first black woman aviator, makes my heart take wing, as told by Syreeta McFadden in Afar. McFadden tells the story of Carole Cary-Hopson, now a pilot for United after years of wanting to do just that, with equal passion. But the number of black women pilots in the U.S. is tiny. Make sure you read the anecdote about the parent who encounters Cary-Hopson, and the reason for those tiny numbers becomes less understandable and more outrageous.

Guess who I ran into the other day at the Smithsonian? Anna Wintour, Jeff Bezos, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others. Not in person, because the Smithsonian museums are closed. These people are entrants into the National Portrait Gallery’s annual “Recent Acquisitions” exhibition of its new portraits of notable people, and you can see them on the website. Beautiful work and fascinating choices. Just looking at the collection of Smithsonian museums is also impressive. Clicking through (I recommend the zoo’s big cats exhibit) promises entertainment for hours.


More enlightenment from Smithsonian, this time the magazine, with an article by Theresa Machemer: A count of Western monarch butterflies shows that their numbers have dropped 99% in four decades. Now you’re being asked for your help by photographing the Western monarch “outside of their winter range” during their breeding time in March and April. Photos do not have to be perfect, and you get entered in a raffle (for what we’re not sure). The article notes that because monarchs are everywhere, you may spot them in your own backyard, shelter-in-place orders being what they are.

Monarch butterflies travel from the United States and Canada to Mexico, but where are they stopping along their journey? Smithsonian is asking for your help to find out.
(Deborah Bonello / For The Times)

What you’re reading

Besides this newsletter? We hope you’re reading other L.A. Times newsletters as well, including the coronavirus compendium. You’ll find a list at our membership center; they’re free and delivered to your inbox.

The L.A. Times isn’t free, although parts of it are during this time of the coronavirus. I’m not unbiased when I say it’s worth reading, but I can say that its focus on Southern California means it has your interests at heart. Please subscribe.


Finally, let us know how you are doing. Write to us at, if only to say hello. We appreciate you.

End paper

We’ve asked readers to tell us about acts of kindness they’ve witnessed during this time of turmoil and upset, and we’d like to hear yours. You can email or go to the story and fill out the form at the end. We want to use them in an upcoming edition.

Why bother? Because something about ordinary people doing extraordinary things reminds us which side of the moon we want to embrace.

If you’re a fan of Elliott Hester, who writes our Fly Guy column, I’d like to ask you to read this week’s to get you started. Hester, who is a flight attendant with more than 30 years of experience, is so off-handed about his sacrifice that it hit me like a wallop when I read it.


And some of the submissions I’ve seen from readers who have responded to our above request have touched me in the same way. It’s big gestures and little that remind us of what hope looks like.

It is the person who rises to the occasion not because they have to but because they want to.

It is the Meals on Wheels driver (yes, you know who you are) who still delivers because she wants to make sure her “people” are OK. (She practices social distancing.) It’s my Texas friend who sends me a text every couple of days asking me whether I’m OK. It’s my new BFF at my corner store who tells me that if I need something, he can get it for me, no problem. (Last week, I needed cabbage because how do you celebrate St. Patrick’s without it? And he had it.)

Kindness, at its center, is hope, and the heart of hope is love. At this time of trouble, we need all that we can get.


Travel (in your mind for now) safely and well. We’ll always be here to welcome you home and now, more than ever, to say thank you for what you do to lift others’ spirits.