Escapes: Do we dare dream about travel?

A jetliner making an approach to LAX is silhouetted as it flies in front of the moon.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Should we dare to start dreaming again about a return to that special place, a first-time visit to a new one, a world not shackled to the vagaries of a virus?

The answer from us is yes, not because we know something secret about when life will begin to feel less like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and all its sequels, but because our job is to scope out the future with one eye on the present.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m still the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. How can you be an editor, you ask, when no one is traveling? It helps if you have a forward-thinking staff that can tackle the questions. Thanks to Mary Forgione, Christopher Reynolds, Chris Erskine, Anne Harnagel and business staff writer Hugo Martín for their help in trying to explain a world turned on its head.

Questions? Here are some answers

If I hear the word “unprecedented” one more time, I’m going to throw my thesaurus across the room. And yet, it is the right word as we struggle to deal with the questions. Among them:


When can we travel again?

Should we start thinking about summer vacation?

Can I keep my elite status as a flier if I can’t go anywhere?

When will cruises resume? And who is booking them?

What’s it like to be a flight attendant right now?

And if I can’t go anywhere, what is open and what is closed in our area?


The biggest question, however, may be this: Is there any hope? To find the answer, to go the End paper, found at the end, which is not a surprise — and isn’t that refreshing in a time when almost everything else is?

The downtown view from Griffith Observatory (closed since late March) in Griffith Park (closed on Easter Sunday).
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

What we are watching and reading

Rick Steves, travel guru and all-around nice guy, reveals another talent besides knowing (and sharing) what travelers need so they can see the world like pros. In a Facebook video, Steves reveals that the only other job he’s ever had besides the one he has now was teaching piano. He suggests that this pandemic has let us “dust off old passions” and notes that there is “more to life than being productive.” Turn up the volume and listen to this unexpected pleasure.

You may always have wanted to see the northern lights (on my bucket list), but maybe not this year. Writing for Travel & Leisure, Stacey Leasca tells you how to see them in Churchill, Canada, from the comfort of your home, even if your home isn’t in Churchill.

You’re tired of washing your hands, decontaminating your groceries and your shoes after that rare foray out and keeping the germs at bay with disinfectants to which you never used to give a second thought. As the captain of finding silver linings, I will say this: I’m awfully glad I’m not having to sanitize the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Winnie Lee, writing for Atlas Obscura, shows the hard and dangerous work of those tasked with ridding some of our favorite places from germs.

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End paper

These were the saddest words I’ve heard in a long time: “I feel hopeless.”

The speaker who uttered those words is usually an optimist, but not on this day. She is not in the news business, where we are mired in the depressing news of the world and of our industry. But that doesn’t make her immune to the constant thrum of the terrible.

I’m not Pollyanna — legions of people will tell you that. I think a world without travel is undeniably grim. A world that lets you see only the inside of your dwelling is less than optimal, especially if you, like me, happen to see lots of wildlife, such as dust bunnies. A world without outside pursuits, whether theater or long walks in your favorite park, is like life without music.

Why bother?

There are lots of bromides I could write here about looking to the future, but I look to the past for inspiration. I am still in awe, almost a year after a visit to the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene, Kan., of the future president’s leadership during World War II. Not unlike our war against coronavirus, Eisenhower faced life hanging in the balance in war-ravaged Europe.

As he sent his troops to France’s Normandy, a giant gamble to defeat the Nazis, he spoke of the enemy: “Our task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely….

“I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.”

We know how that turned out; we don’t yet know how coronavirus will be beaten into submission, except that we must believe it will be. Our doctors, scientists and researchers are resilient, committed people; they will find a vaccine and until then will try to keep us safe or make us well.

It is up to us to continue to shelter in place, keep our hands clean, practice social distancing and hang tight to a belief in the future, a belief in our future. When it comes right down to it, that kind of optimism, which is uniquely American, serves us well. It is the time to look beyond ourselves and think of us as a determined whole in the fight of our lives.

We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Wherever you are, be well and stay safe, and believe that sometime in the not-so-distant future, we will be here to welcome you home from a wonderful adventure.

Statue of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower on the campus of his presidential library and museum in Abilene, Kan.
(Catharine Hamm / Los Angeles Times)