To stay or to go? That is the wintertime travel question in this COVID year. With health concerns, job precarity, and financial strains, many of us are wondering how to take a break from it all. Should we or could we travel this year? And if so, where?
After this intense, oftentimes surreal year, it’s no wonder many of us are longing to get away from the reality of it all. Linda Graham, MFT, author of Bouncing Back and Resilience (New World Library, 2013 and 2018), says we all need to experience the refuge and restoration of a break or pause.
And Marika Chandler, Ontario director of Outward Bound Canada, notes that “getting away” is a time of making new memories, immersing in a different kind of present than our usual day-to-day, and deepening connections with each other and the natural world.
The pleasure of planning
But it’s not just getting away that feels so good; it begins in the very planning of a trip—the delight in the hope, envisioning, and anticipation of getaways. “There is emerging research,” says Chandler, “about the mental health benefits of investing time into researching and visualizing where you’re going.”
How can people minimize their risk of COVID infection when deciding on an outdoor getaway? “From the beginning,” says Chandler, “spending time outdoors was identified as a lower risk activity.” But, to avoid unanticipated surprises, she recommends taking time to review the details before heading out.
Avoid the 3 Cs
The three Cs we need to avoid or minimize during COVID:
- confined spaces with poor ventilation
- close contact
- crowded spaces
Take time to consider the small but important details—before heading out—that are less easy to control:
- shared surfaces
- food prep
- disinfecting shared equipment
- sleeping arrangements
Start small and near, suggests Chandler, for weekend excursions. For Chandler, that means visiting the small lakes that dot the Muskoka landscape, relishing the rocky outcrops and rivers. Weekend getaways for Chandler mean the opportunity to savour the magic of winter: “sun bouncing off ice crystals, or moody clouds.” Wherever is near enough for you to access, Chandler encourages staying active all winter, from cross-country skiing to snow biking or skating across a frozen pond.
From borrowing or renting a winter tent to booking a hut at a provincial park, there’s a wide range of ways to experience the beauty of winter for beginner and seasoned campers. “Winter camping can seem daunting for the uninitiated,” admits Chandler. Though crawling out of a warm sleeping bag into a frosty morning can be a challenge, winter expeditions are particularly rewarding and poignant, given their unique obstacles.
Some provincial parks offer winter camping workshops that cover the basics such as trip planning, equipment details, and safety.
For lengthier outdoor stays, Chandler recommends checking out yurts, including those in Algonquin Park, Arrowhead, and Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve for those living in Ontario. Be sure to check with provincial parks departments to find out which areas are open for winter activities and for reservat