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Firefighter putting out fire in dumpster

If you viewed the itinerary page on this site anytime in the last month, you’d see that I had every single day and night planned through April 3, 2021.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh, how optimistic and naïve I was.

Cartoon character setting fire to 2020 planner

The troubles started when I arrived in Chicago in mid-March, only to find my three-week cat-sit was cancelled when the pet owners wisely decided not to travel in a time of pandemic. I moved to my next stop of Madison, Wisconsin, three weeks early.

Then, like dominoes, my next several months started to disappear. Visit a friend in Gordon, Wisconsin? Too dangerous. Fly back to Boston to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Party’s cancelled. Visit my podcast co-host in Fargo? Too risky. Hike the Theodore Roosevelt National Park? It’s closed.

Even annual traditions evaporated: my company’s “grand meetup”, the one time of year our distributed workforce gets together, moved from Philadelphia to Zoom. KansasFest, the Apple II convention I’ve been attending in Kansas City every July since 1998, went virtual.

Who needs Philadelphia when we have Zoom?

When I left Boston, I abandoned the familiarity of the state I’d known all my life in favor of seeing the friends and chosen family who mean so much to me. Now I had nothing familiar — neither people nor places.

Some well-meaning friends suggested I go home — but I have no home. Instead, with so much of my summer cancelled, I have a blank slate with which to create a new adventure. And with no competition for hotels and Airbnbs, I have my pick of destinations. For everyone’s protection, I just need some new, pandemic-friendly ground rules:

  1. Smaller cities. Forget Chicago and its 2.7 million inhabitants; areas of fewer than 100,000 residents will be wiser.
  2. No flights. It doesn’t feel safe to be in an airport or an airplane right now. If I can’t drive there, I won’t go there (yet).
  3. Places, with or without people. I chose my original destinations based on the people I want to see. That is still my priority — but if those friends are self-isolating, I need to not be disappointed to be where I am. There needs to be more there for me than just people I won’t be able see.
  4. Fewer moves; longer stays. I spent the first quarter of this year moving every 1–3 weeks. Now, with few exceptions, I won’t book an Airbnb that I can’t stay at for at least a month — preferably several.

So here’s the plan: I’m taking off the entire first week of May to go hiking in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest, which is open; 450 miles of hiking trails should keep me busy. (Some Airbnbs are rejecting out-of-state guests, but I found one that will accommodate me.) I usually take one week off a year for KansasFest, so this hiking expedition will be my annual vacation instead.

Then I’ll shoot up to Havre, Montana, to visit my friend Karen. This was always part of the plan, except now I’m arriving a month early; instead of 21 days, I’ll be there for 51 — all the better with which to quarantine myself for two weeks upon arrival.

Then it’s a month in Missoula, Montana, to visit Pam, with whom I used to work at NEADS, a Massachusetts non-profit that raises dogs to be assisted living animals for the mobility-disabled. I’m so looking forward to meeting her dog Cali!

And, speaking of dogs… my next stop is the most significant alteration to my itinerary. I was going to spend two months in Hawaii, which would’ve been my 49th state! Instead, in mid-July, I’ll be driving from Missoula to Fredonia, Arizona. Just seven miles north of there is Kanab, Utah, home of the Best Friends Animal Society, an organization I know well: the day I spent two years ago walking dogs at Best Friends was one of the most memorable days of my life. This time, I’ll be looking to deepen that engagement by fostering a dog… if one becomes available! Since it was my love of dogs that originally set me on this nomadic journey, I’m hopeful that Best Friends will help me fulfill that goal. I’ve found a local, affordable, pet-friendly Airbnb with a fenced-in backyard that’s available all summer and into the fall — the perfect place to hunker down to ride out the worst of the pandemic.

Best Friends’ Milagro!

Kanab is also within a two-hour drive of some of our country’s most beautiful national parks: Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Staircase-Escalante. All four parks are currently closed, with no scheduled date to reopen. I’m optimistic that they’ll be available for me and my foster dog(s) to go hiking by the time I leave in mid-October.

I don’t know when I’ll get to Hawaii or Alaska; I don’t know if the world will be repaired enough for me to pick up my original itinerary in January 2021 with a trip to Australia and New Zealand. Until then, I will follow an itinerary that’s safe and responsible.

I may not have the adventure I’d expected, but I’m committed to having an adventure nonetheless!

(Image by TFoxFoto on Shutterstock)

If you had all summer to go somewhere during a pandemic, where would you go? Where could you go? Leave a comment with your itinerary ideas!

Ken Gagne

Digital nomad, Apple II geek, vegetarian, teacher, cyclist, feminist, Automattician.

8 Replies to “Pandemic planning for summer 2020”

  1. While you’re in Missoula, make sure to head just a bit north to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, and have breakfast at Paul’s Pancake Parlour (if things are open again!).

  2. Ken, life is what happens when we have other plans. I’m impressed by your flexibility, resilience, and sense of adventure when so many of us are hunkered down in our homes! I look forward to continuing to follow your adventures. Safe travels!

  3. A dog! How wonderful! I doubt it would be legal on some of the trails in the big parks but a dog for a walking companion is most salubrious.

  4. I hope the National parks are able to open when you’re in that area. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d be doing if I went nomading! 🙂 Safe Travels!

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Ken's Itinerary

Havre, MT

May 9, 2020 - Jun 26, 2020

Missoula, MT

Jun 27, 2020 - Jul 25, 2020

Logan, UT

Jul 26, 2020

Fredonia, AZ

Jul 27, 2020 - Oct 17, 2020