On March 19, Marty Pollak and Monica Palenzuela journeyed from New York City to Patagonia, where they hiked the Perito Moreno Glacier, explored Torres del Paine and hung out with a herd of guanacos. Santiago and Buenos Aires were next.
Although stay-at-home mandates, travel restrictions and social distancing had become a new reality for billions of people all over the world, Pollak and Palenzuela's five-month trip was very much alive - on Instagram.
Guided by their cancelled itinerary, the couple has been posting meticulously staged (and often Photoshopped) images and videos of themselves enjoying what would have been their adventure: say, gazing at a snow-capped peak, getting lost while hiking and taking a bus ride to Puerto Natales, Chile.
"You plan and God laughs," said Palenzuela, 35, who is studying to be a winemaker. "But we've found joy in looking at what would have been. Seeing the itinerary day by day has helped us realise two things: One, this would have been an epic trip, and two, we can do it another year."
With little choice but to stay grounded for the time being - and with plenty of time at home
- avid travellers like Pollak and Palenzuela have devised creative and meaningful ways to celebrate the vacations they have had to cancel because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We travel to escape - to unwind - but also to feel the thrill of doing something entirely new. So why not fake a vacation, if only to laugh and smile and feel something good for a minute? I'd plan a 'fauxcation' every day," said Laura Dannen Redman, the digital content director at Afar, a travel media company.
As technology becomes an increasingly critical tool for everyone and everything, celebrations of "fauxcations" on social media are increasing. A video of a septuagenarian Australian couple - feet up, wearing robes, holding wineglasses and watching a YouTube video of the ocean on a flat-screen TV - went viral when their daughter tweeted: "Cruise cancelled? No problem."
One post in Afar's #TravelAtHomeChallenge, which started on Instagram in March, shows Dannen Redman wearing an all-white outfit with a red belt, being chased down a driveway by her 2-year-old daughter: a riff on running with the bulls in Spain.
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@rosalietinelli had the brilliant idea to pose a #travelathomechallenge - to recreate a travel experience at home while we're on #lockdown. We went running with the bulls in Spain and surfing in Hawaii. It was also such a relief to laugh for a while. Feeling inspired? Take the challenge! Remember to @afarmedia and #travelathomechallenge to make an appearance on AFAR's feed. And if you're looking for more ways to soothe your nerves while the world is check the link in bio. #wereallinthistogether
A post shared by Laura Redman (@laura_redman) on
Danielle Sapienza, a New York-based family and lifestyle photographer, has rallied her Instagram followers to post similarly fun-spirited photos using the hashtag #viralvacation2020. One clever response shows a bathing-suit-clad woman on a Peloton bike, drinking a Corona beer with a Lysol spray bottle tucked into a tasselled beach bag.
Others, like Nina Irizarry, take a more intimate approach.
Irizarry, 35, nervously monitored the news in early March until it became clear that her Jordan trip with EscapingNY, a small-group tour operator, was a no-go for April.
"I was definitely disappointed, but I also felt a sense of peace because I knew this was the right decision. This is a time for me to protect myself and do what's best for other people, including my family. Jordan's not going anywhere," said Irizarry, the founder of Du Coeur Magazine, an arts and culture publication.
Then, much to her delight, she received a care package with Jordanian tea and spices, plus a recipe for maqluba, a rice-based dish served throughout the Levant, from the EscapingNY founder, Cassandra Brooklyn.
"I know how disappointed everyone is, and I'm hoping the care packages provide them with something to look forward to and enjoy right now, since so many of us are stuck waiting around until things get better," Brooklyn said.
Irizarry, who loves to cook, spent the last Sunday in March putting the recipe to use in her Astoria, New York, kitchen.
"'Maqluba' literally means 'upside down' in Arabic. So creating this dish was a testament to the discipline, memory and anticipation of a trip to Jordan with EscapingNY. Perhaps, in today's times, it was also a testament to a world turned upside down," she said.
Ad-libbing also has its merits. After cancelling their stay at Twin Farms, an adults-only Relais & Châteaux retreat in Vermont, Ross and Jordi McGraw reenacted parts of their romantic getaway at McGraw's parents' house in Pennsylvania, where they had decamped to self-quarantine.
After putting their toddler son to bed, the McGraws cracked open some nice wine (carted, with other essentials, from their Manhattan apartment). The bucolic setting and mountain views rang faintly of Vermont. A Jacuzzi added a dash of five-star-ish luxury. And the movie "My Friend Dahmer," about serial killer and sex offender Jeffrey Dahmer, stood in for Twim Farms' annual Murder Mystery Weekend — Jordi McGraw, a freelance writer, loves murder mysteries.
"It was quite the opposite of the weekend we had planned," McGraw, 33, said. "But you can only stress about things so much; we were lucky that we had a place to go, that we were all healthy and safe, and that we had a sleeping baby."
McGraw knows she'll eventually make it to Twin Farms, which ranks high on her travel bucket list. EscapingNY has rescheduled Irizarry's Jordan tour for later this year. And Pollak and Palenzuela remain hopeful that at least some part of their nearly half-year sabbatical — which would have taken them from Europe and the Middle East to Hawaii, and eventually to Vietnam - will materialise.
"In our mind, we're not thinking of it as cancelled. As delusional as that sounds, I think that's what's helping us stay sane. Everything seems bleak right now, so we figure we'd do our part and stay inside, lay low and see what happens," Palenzuela said.
That attitude tracks with new data from TripScout, a travel app that builds personalised itineraries. In an online survey administered between March 13 and March 22, 77 per cent of the nearly 3,000 respondents said they had to cancel or reschedule existing travel plans because of the coronavirus. Yet 90 per cent of the respondents said they still plan to travel in 2020.
For Irizarry, the postponement of her Jordan trip comes with another benefit.
"It gives me more time to prepare. It'll allow me to save a little more financially, so I can maybe have a fuller experience and maybe even extend the trip beyond Jordan," Irizarry said. "It's like a friend you don't see that much — when you finally do see her, it's like, 'Wow, I appreciate you so much more.'"
By Sarah Firshein
© 2020 The New York Times Company