After I returned from my second backpacking tour, friends asked me if I thought I would ever regret spending the money on a vacation rather than on something more useful like a car. My answer? I told them I had a deep sense that I had to take those trips before the busy adult world began to interfere with my life. It turns out I was on to something back then. Sure, I have taken plenty of vacations and short trips since, but I have never engaged in anything like those backpacking tours again. Turns out I was a prescient teenager. Life did get in the way after I turned eighteen. There was always some responsibility requiring my attention, some schedule to keep, or some priority to uphold.
Another notion I had as a teenager is how I might change with age. Back then I thought I would always remain a romantic traveler forever inspired by the prospect of an faraway destination or an exotic land, but when I looked around at the adults in my life, I knew this was likely a misguided. After my second European tour, I was still inspired go on other backpacking adventures. I wanted to see Asia, Russia, South America, and Africa, but I never got around to any of them. However, as the years passed, my enthusiasm for seeing the world waned. By the time I turned thirty, the mere thought of backpacking through a foreign continent left me cold. Now that I am nearly fifty, the mere thought of going to an airport gives me a rash. All in all, I am glad I took those trips when I did. Though I was a fairly mediocre teenager, I was wise to the whole travel thing. My intuition had been spot on. If I hadn't taken those trips then, I probably would not have taken them at all.
Nevertheless, let's pretend I hadn't taken those trips, and that I was just as infected with the travel bug now as I had been back then. Well, the birdemic has made backpacking tours impossible. I couldn't go anywhere now, no matter how much I wanted to. I guess I would patiently wait for the world to open up again and for things to get 'back to normal', but the whole time I was waiting I would know 'normal' was a thing of the past.
Luckily, I have no inclination to travel anywhere at the moment, so the birdemic has not encroached upon my dreams in any way. But I can't help but think of others. Maybe a teenager out there somewhere who had been saving up for a backpacking tour of Europe this summer because he knew he would probably not get the chance to engage in anything like that later in life. For all intents and purposes, that teenager may never be able to embark on such a trip in his life. Well, that may be a bit much, but I hope you get my point.
I don't want to seem like a Debbie Downer here, but think about it. It could be a long, long time before anyone is able to travel the world freely again. And even if people are allowed to travel freely again, what will those journeys and experiences be like? I don't know the answer myself, but I can't help but think that anyone who believes our jet-set pre-birdemic world is going to kick back into high gear after the lockdown ends is probably in store for a set of rather unpleasant, mind-numbing surprises. This doesn't mean travel is necessarily over, but it will certainly be different.
Though I never could have imagined anything like the birdemic when I was a teenager, my intuitive drive to see the world while I still could has proven to be a surprisingly wise one - which is good because I was an utter mess back then otherwise.
Note added: I use the wisdom of youth in a tongue in cheek manner here. When I was young, I thought all the answers to life were out there. Now that I am older, I realize this isn't the case. Perhaps the prolonged curtailment of travel and other former 'luxuries' will get people focused on more important matters - on journeys that really count. One can only hope.