A message from the editor:
I hope you’re doing as well as is possible during these unsettling and unpredictable times triggered at truly alarming speed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As editor of Travel with a Challenge web magazine for the past 20 years, and a travel journalist for even longer, I know that our readers give a very high priority to travel … not now, please, but certainly in the future when it is safe and sensible to do so once again.
Will there be a gradual return to “business as usual” or will there be permanent changes in the way in which travel is perceived and delivered? I believe it will be the latter, and I look forward to highlighting for our readers how this plays out over time. For example, in the blink of an eye, we have gone from serious overtourism in an increasing number of destinations to no tourism at all. While tourism planners and communities dependent on tourism now have plenty of time on their hands, here is an opportunity to re-think and put in place new parameters for a healthier balance of visitors and local inhabitants to the benefit of all.
However, during these harrowing months of April and May 2020, our TravelWatch senior travel newsletter is not the place to ponder the future of tourism around the world. Instead, I have tried to select a mix of stories to lift the spirits of our readers with some virtual tour ideas, and to ponder what they would most like to visit and experience in a post-COVID-19 world.
Dreaming is one of the human characteristics we need to treat with more respect, not something to abandon in times of crisis. It helps keep us healthy and gives us hope.
Stay well, and dream on,
Travel with a Challenge
What’s on the Travel News Menu Today?
April – May 2020
1. In this season of global crisis, we need all the up-lifting tips we can find. Just out, the 8th annual World Happiness Report presents its analysis of countries where happiness of its citizens is an expectation, not a far off wish on a star. Check out the top 10 candidates and consider what it means to travel in a land of contented people!
2. Traveling to National Parks in the United States just got a lot more predictable and encouraging for vacationers with disabilities. Accessible travel expert, Candy Harrington, recently unveiled her latest guide to 52 lodgings within national parks throughout the U.S. mainland.
3. Stuck at home and definitely not pleased about it? Here is a wonderful collection of 21 virtual adventures to enjoy from your couch, including virtual tours of museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums, best-in-the-world concerts and operas, and Google Earth explorations of natural treasures and manmade wonders.
4. What is the difference between Holland and The Netherlands? Here’s a hint … the names are not interchangeable!
5. Besides the very contemporary threat of COVID-19, what do travelers fear most? Some fears are more predictable to guess than others.
We invite you to check out our Feature Link of the Month and our latest Travel Product Reviews.
What are the World’s Happiest Countries?
I won’t keep you in suspense … for the third year in a row, Finland topped the World Happiness Report on countries where their citizens are most content. This is worthy of note to travelers, as happy hosts are more likely to lead to happy travel experiences for all of us visiting from abroad.
Released in March 2020 as the eighth annual report, all but one of the world’s ten happiest countries are European, including each one of the Scandinavian countries. In fact, the only country outside of Europe to make the top 10 in 2020 is New Zealand. The United States rose one spot, coming in at 18 in the rankings this year, while the United Kingdom moved from 15 to 13 since last year. Of course, all polling was done before the COVID-19 outbreak, so we will have to wait until next year to see if there are any significant happiness changes.
Our Travel Article Library collection has many fun and informative feature articles on travel in some of the top 10 to 20 countries in this survey. Check them out “By Country”.
New Accessible Travel Guidebook for U.S. National Parks
Launched in January 2020, Candy Harrington’s newest access guide, Barrier-Free Travel; National Park Lodges for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, offers a wealth of lodging information for disabled travelers wishing to visit any of 52 accommodations within U.S. mainland national parks. This 350-page book also offers essential access information on the other facilities and attractions in the featured parks.
Harrington’s newest release is chocked full of well-researched access information including
• Insider Tips for visiting each national park
• Access details on national park trails and attractions
• Detailed access descriptions — including bed heights — of lodge rooms
• Photos of the accessible rooms, including the bathrooms
• Accessible train, trolley, boat and bus tours in the national parks
• National Park lodging concessionaire information
• The best national park scenic drives and windshield views
• Fees, roadway information and seasonal closures in the national parks
Additionally, since different people have different access needs, the author goes well beyond just saying that a room is wheelchair-accessible. “Most travelers don’t understand access regulations — they only know what works for them,” says Harrington. “That’s why I included essential details such as bed heights and the location of the toilet grab bars in the book,” she adds.
Acknowledged as the go-to expert on accessible U.S. travel, Candy Harrington has covered this niche exclusively for 24 years. She’s the founding editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of a library of accessible travel titles, including the classic, Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com.
In our Travel Article Library, see also a useful tips article by Candy Harrington about booking accessible travel accommodation that suits individual needs, including what questions you need to ask when booking.
Exciting Digital Travel Experiences from the Safety of your Couch
I highly recommend spending some time browsing Smarter Travel magazine’s “21 Sites Offering Virtual Tours and Live Streams for Travelers Stuck at Home” (current as of March 20, 2020). You will find this to be fun and amazing homework in preparation for your next trip to many places and attractions in the world that you might otherwise overlook.
Take a virtual tour of the world’s great art museums and galleries, watch live streams of adorable animals in aquariums and zoos, and even catch a Broadway show or watch a Metropolitan Opera broadcast, all from the comfort of your couch. Take a virtual tour of the British Museum in London, England or of Rome’s Sistine Chapel, or get your fill of dinosaur fossils, minerals, Egyptian artifacts, and more with a virtual tour of a Smithsonian Institution museum in Washington, DC.
Attend a digital concert of the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The Digital Concert Hall is free to enjoy! Take in 360-degree views of the Matterhorn, the Hoover Dam, the Florence Duomo, and more on Google Earth which makes these experiences truly breathtaking with an eagle’s-eye view!
What is the Difference between Holland and The Netherlands?
This country is a great favorite of visitors to Europe, me included. In a short January 22, 2020 article by Lynn Matthews, Afar Magazine, here is an excellent primer on when to say Holland and when to say The Netherlands in your conversation. Hint: they are NOT interchangeable!
Here too are a couple of feature articles from our collection that highlight this unique and charming country: “Holland is One Big Art Museum”, features a 12-day canal boat art appreciation cruise delivered by a Dutch/Canadian artist-guide. She offers painting classes on board as well.
“Welcome to Amsterdam’s Lloyd Hotel: Quirky, Cultural and Utilitarian Chic”, introduces travelers to a unique hotel that was built over 100 years ago as an emigration processing center and hostel for poor Europeans hoping to set sail for a better life in the Americas. Subsequently, it served as a refugee center for Jewish people during WWII, as a prison for Dutch collaborators after WWII, and as a young offender prison. Today it is an amazing hotel which impossibly preserves its complex life story, featuring rooms from one-star to 5-star. No two rooms are the same in design or furnishing … this is an article worth reading and a hotel worth visiting.
What Travelers Fear Most
In a recent Harris poll, outdoor enthusiasts shared their “fear inducers” when they hit the road, trail or skies. You may well identify with some of these yourself. Each one listed is followed by the percentage of respondents who want to keep such close encounters to a minimum in their memorable itineraries:
Snakes 63%, Heights 55%, Being alone in the forest 41%
Spiders/insects 37%, Mice 27%, Thunder and Lightning 23%
Plane travel 35%, Dogs 21%
This list brings to mind a wonderful anonymous quote: “With fear you can go around the world and experience nothing; without fear you can go around the corner and experience the whole world.”