Just before starting this note, I was doing some pretty intense travel planning. Actually, I was working on a personal trip to Whole Foods.
As I am on voluntary lockdown, except for those times when we run out of wild caught salmon or the large bottles of Starbucks Almondmilk Caffe Latte, I need to try to figure out how I can run from the parking lot, dodging folks by 10 or so feet; grab a shopping cart, which I quickly decontaminate; and enter the store at the time of day when it will be least crowded.
I know that many of you are also following guidelines and remaining at home. Let me explain what "lockdown" really means to me.
I wake up at 6:30 a.m., shower and make sure that the family is awake and my daughter is in a kind of general mood to sit at her bedroom desk to begin virtual classes.
I enjoy a two-minute, stand-up breakfast (always imagining I am standing at the bar in Cafe Sport in my beloved Florence) and sit down at my desk by 8. Unfortunately, I am on Eastern time and my staff in Illinois won't be starting work for another two hours.
I scan my news feeds and then start on email. After a few hours of this, I go for a walk with my family and the office dogs, passing strangers I once have known decked out in ski masks, a look a bank robber in Monte Carlo might wear. The really neat thing about lockdown is that you can walk outside as long as you aren't encountering other walkers. No "stop and chats," as Larry David calls them.
I am finding that my life as a voluntarily incarcerated home-based travel consultant is not at all different than what I had been doing before Covid-19. No change, really.
But that should not minimize this temporary, science fiction netherworld we are currently inhabiting.
It really is different out there. There is no pretending otherwise. I began realizing about two decades ago that we had stumbled on a truly unique and successful business model. But now, we're getting pounded because you can't have a more vulnerable business model than ours. We sell no domestic travel, believing that Americans need to see and experience much more outside their immediate comfort zone. We do no meeting planning or business travel, and all of our staff is paid salary plus benefits. No one works on commission. So our fixed costs remain the same, and our clients, much like yours, have stopped traveling internationally.
But, despite all of that, I'm still optimistic, and I hope you are, as well. I remember sitting in our office on 9/11 watching our world explode on TV. Would anyone get on a plane again?
The phone rang twice that afternoon. Two calls from New York. Both were, amazingly, from clients wanting to book new trips overseas. I will never forget the words of one of these clients when I asked him why he was booking on a day like this, and he replied:
"Richard, I'm from Brooklyn. No one tells me that I can't travel where I want to and when I want to. No one."
I think that is when I first realized that our industry would survive and thrive again. Travelers will not remain in isolation forever, and when they break free, be prepared to have everyone working overtime.
Be safe, my friends.