During my 30-plus years as a travel writer, I’ve met an eclectic cast of characters. One memorable adventurer filled me in on the keys to happiness, something it pays to remember in these crazy, lazy days of staying at home.

Life Without Travel is a series of first-person accounts from the Getting On Travel team. Each post offers a personal glimpse into the lives of our travel writers and bloggers apropos of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

 To be happy, my fellow traveler said, you need three things: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.

Number one is easy. I have a wonderful husband, John, and delightful long-time friends.

Before social distancing, it was up close and personal

Before social distancing, it was up close and personal

Moving along to number two. Here’s where COVID-19 shattered my world big time. As a writer who specializes in cruises, the virus hit hard and fast. A March getaway cruise along the California coast was the first of three 2020 cruises to be scrapped. I saw the writing on the wall when it was announced that our ship had harbored sick passengers during at least two prior trips. The ship was quarantined for weeks thereafter, and has yet to welcome new passengers.

In Mill Valley, Remembering 2019, when we took cruises to Alaska for granted

Remembering 2019, when we took cruises to Alaska for granted

Next, a Mississippi River cruise was cancelled along with much anticipated pre and post bookings to visit Graceland (finally) and let the good times roll in New Orleans. This proved especially discouraging as multiple assignments simply vanished, several already outlined during many hours of preliminary research. The final cruise (with a print magazine feature assignment) was to be aboard a small luxury ship bound for Alaska. Those plans were erased from the calendar when the shipyard doing a major refurbishment shut down. No remodel. No Alaska season for the ship this year.

There went my somethings to do. No cruises. No assignments. No checks in the mail. I admit, I didn’t fully realize how much time I devoted to putting together our trips. Add dreaming up article angles and contacting editors. Time flies!

As to the number three key to happiness, the three cancelled cruises and pulled (not put off) assignments meant my something to look forward to also disappeared down the hatch.

Life in Mill Valley: What to do?

Here at home in Mill Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s week nine of our sheltering regime. My new something-to-do began with sorting through boxes filled with media kits collected from dozens of trips and press events. With warmer weather, I’ve moved on to a bit of yard work. Before long, you’ll probably find me painting an interior wall or two. I may even start reading my old articles, written back in the days of thick newspaper travel sections and glossy print magazines keen on publishing colorful stories.

My something to look forward to, rather than a specific cruise or trip, is currently quite vague. The time element is even more unclear. When will we be able to fly somewhere and not have to self-quarantine before heading out to explore? When will we again feel at home in a neighborhood café? How long before I can relax with friends in a steamy hot tub?

My travel life has never been such a mystery. Yet, I do see a glimmer of light on the horizon. Meanwhile, take-out dinners at my local Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are as exotic as life gets.

And, I’ve added a fourth key to happiness. It’s really the number one element. As you can guess, it is: stay healthy.

Ginger Dingus

Bitten by the travel bug in the 1970s when she snagged a college teaching gig with a semester at sea, Ginger Dingus of Mill Valley, California rates ships as her travel mode of choice. During her 30-plus years as a travel writer, she has cruised to the Arctic, Antarctic and up the Amazon. When not cruising the high seas, you’ll find Ginger cruising the rails aboard luxury trains. Her articles have appeared in Porthole, Cruise Travel, World of Cruising, CruiseCritic, TravelAge West and dozens of other publications.