Although it may be hard to see the silver lining through all those clouds, there are certain advantages to the Great Recession. One of them is the ability to travel on the fly (no pun intended). I decided to opt for a non-itinerary trip this summer, and it brought back memories of my youth, when I wouldn’t worry about where I was going or how I would spend my time. I just went, whether it was Europe or New York City (now my home). Somewhere along the way, travel preparation became an integral part to actual travel itself. This was due to marriage, kids, the “flush” 90s where you had to book months, or even years, out.
I couldn’t have done it in 2007. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, August is the high season for travel. In years past, travel without reservations or a concrete itinerary would have meant living out of a car, at best, showering at public facilities. That was if local law enforcement didn’t chase you off for sleeping in a rest stop.
Recession travel is not for everyone. First off, this is not a cheat sheet for “budget” travel: You will need money, although there are deals to be had, and you will certainly have more and varied opportunities during a recession that you wouldn’t necessarily find in better times.
What you’ll need:
- One killer recession
- A smart phone with a dataplan (or a laptop with wireless)
- A good rental car with GPS
- A guidebook
- An adventurous (and flexible) spirit
I first became aware that the times they were a changin’ during the summer of 2006. We had made a bi-annual journey to Long Lake in the Adirondacks for many years. Our favorite haunt was generally sold out for July and August by February. In fact, one year we had to stay off property because the area was completely booked.
In 2006, however, our property had a vacancy. By midweek of our stay, the owner was happy to accept a one-night-only guest (during high season, the cabins rented for one-week minimum). By 2007, vacancy neon was more visible than the ubiquitous “no’s” of summers past.
Thus it was in August 2010 that I headed west with only a vague agenda and no reservations. The point of this recession travel journal is not to repeat my itinerary; there is no recipe for “fly by the seat of your pants” travels. So long as you stay safe, it’s all good.
As noted above, this isn’t about youth travel, although I certainly embraced the ambiguity of this trip. However, when you’re 21 with a pack on your back, you don’t need an itinerary; you can sit in an airport for hours, waiting to fly standby via heaven knows what route; you just go. I am a grown up now, with grown up responsibilities. My trip is indicative of this status.