With vaccines rolling out across the globe, we’re seeing light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
For many, the light looks like bluebird skies at Mt. Bachelor or a sun-soaked hiking trail by the Deschutes River.
While we’ve got a ways to go before Visit Bend urges folks to travel again, here are 10 lessons to take with you on a Bend vacation once COVID-19 is behind us.
Be grateful for every day
I’ll avoid getting grim, but if there’s one thing a pandemic taught us, it’s that life’s pretty fragile. Loved ones who were here a year ago aren’t anymore, and others face lifelong health complications from the virus. If you’re alive and healthy, take a moment to be grateful for that. Then hold tight to that feeling and bring it with you when it’s time to visit Bend.
Pack some patience in your suitcase
Whether you’re homeschooling kids while balancing a work-from-home job, or feeling frustrated by cancelled plans, we’ve all had to practice an extra-heaping helping of patience through the pandemic. When you’re ready to travel again, extend that same grace to your family, your fellow travelers, or that reeeeally slow driver who can’t figure out how roundabouts work.
Be creative and flexible
That’s not a suggestion to do more yoga (though if it’ll help you achieve the zen required for my previous suggestion, rock on with your bendy self). We’re all adapting to the new normal, which means a different process for scheduling ski days at Mt. Bachelor or visiting the High Desert Museum. Trailheads and Sno-Parks have been mobbed by folks craving fresh air, which means it’s crucial to prepare plan B, plan C, and maybe plan Z in case your desired destination doesn’t work out. Even once the pandemic is done, odds are good we’ll see residual changes in visitor volumes and the way things run for your favorite attractions. Plan ahead when you can, but accept that those plans might change. Be ready to pivot and find new forms of fun. There’s plenty to be found in Bend!
Tuck compassion in your knapsack
Guys, we’ve been through a lot. Economic meltdowns, health crises, the election cycle from hell, and a business sector that looks nothing like it did a year ago. When things open up and you sit down at your favorite Bend brewery, can you do me a favor? Be extra-super-gentle with your server, even if she seems tense. Smile at strangers on the trail, and resist yelling at the guy who snagged the last parking spot at the trailhead. Remind yourself those folks might be struggling with pandemic debt or a parent lost to COVID. Everyone you meet may be in the middle of the worst week of their life, and it’s your choice to respond with compassion or an obscene gesture. Personally, I’ll save my middle finger for lifting a pint glass.
Remember your love of the great outdoors
There’s nothing like lockdown to make you appreciate opportunities to get outside and gulp fresh air. Credit the COVID era with teaching millions of us how much we take that for granted. Every sunshiny hike or crisp snowshoe adventure has been a balm on my soul, and I know I’m not alone. When you’re ready for fresh adventure, don’t forget the role Mother Nature played in getting you through the pandemic.
Make it your most sustainable trip ever
Part of playing outside is recognizing we’re responsible for preserving and protecting our wild places. Trail systems have seen heavier use this past year, and wouldn’t it be great to give back? Your contribution to Pledge for the Wild helps maintain the trails and outdoor spaces you’ve come to love. Besides kicking a small donation to that program, look for little ways to practice sustainable travel. Pack water in reusable bottles and pick up trash on the trail. Take The Bend Pledge to vow your commitment to eco-friendly adventure on your next Bend trip.
Support small businesses
You know how we’ve all rallied to order takeout and buy gift cards and basically turn cartwheels in the street if we think it’ll save our favorite small business during the pandemic? Remember that commitment to mom-and-pop shops when we’re free to travel again, and funnel your funds to businesses hit hardest by shutdowns. Look for locally-owned restaurants and small shops that lost buttloads of business due to COVID. They’ll need you more than ever once this is behind us.
Don’t forget family time
Being locked down with loved ones adds a weird dimension to relationships. I’ve seen a lot more of my 19-year-old than I ever expected after sending him to college, and the 15-year-old has morphed from social butterfly to homebody caterpillar. None of that’s ideal, but we’ve found joy in game nights, family meals, and delightful jam sessions when my man-child taught himself to play drums and accompany his guitar-strumming dad. Since our family’s not the only one bonding in pandemic times, consider how fun it’ll be to carry those connections on future trips.
Er, unless you’re ready to kill each other. In that case, can you say grownups-only vacay?
Bring Fido for the ride
Quarantine and work-from-home arrangements spurred lots of folks to adopt animals, and critters who already had homes enjoyed extra time with pet parents. Once this is over, consider bringing Rover on your next Bend vacation. The city’s status as one of the nation’s dog-friendliest towns is a bonus, plus it’ll ease his separation anxiety as your post-pandemic schedule evolves to have you home a lot less.
Appreciate the human connection
My Visit Bend teammates tease me for not loving hugs. That’s before the pandemic hit. Once it’s over, I plan to tackle-hug every one of them at the door our first day back in the office. I might lick their faces while I’m at it.
We’ve all missed human connection in the era of social distancing, and I hereby pledge not to complain about crowds or grumble at the guy crowding the armrest at my first Tower Theatre show. I’ll dance with strangers at every Les Schwab Amphitheater concert and feel grateful I no longer have to stay six feet away from that sweaty, smelly guy in the tie-dyed T-shirt.