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Experience Joy Despite Travel Restrictions During COVID-19

Amidst a crisis or not, appreciating the little things in life is a practice that I adopted early on that has always helped me see the good and experience joy every single day – whether we travel or whether we shelter-in-place.

My husband and I have been traveling full-time in our Leisure Travel Van Unity FX for the past year and a half, and we have been living the nomadic lifestyle for the last three. We chose this life because we absolutely love exploring new places, trying new cuisines (we are major foodies!) and creating memories that will last forever as we go on what we like to call our “Road Trip of a Lifetime!”

At the beginning of this year (2020), we were incredibly gung-ho to tour the East Coast, given that up until this point, we have spent most of our time on the road exploring the West Coast and Midwest in the United States. We were eager to chase the warm weather in the winter, enjoy the charm and hospitality of the South, and relish in the cool, brisk breeze from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as we moved a little further northeast. We had planned on wandering the Blue Ridge Mountains, soaking in nature’s beauty, and then paint the town in the metropolitan East Coast. Once late summer/early fall rolled around, we were looking forward to indulging in fresh seafood at Maine’s Lobster Fest, and then experience the beauty of the East Coast’s fall foliage – we have heard it is remarkable!

As you can see, I had practically every season mapped out in my mind, with at least a general idea of what we wanted to do! I’ll be honest, we are usually pretty spontaneous when it comes to travel, but the East Coast had been on my mind for quite some time. There was just so much to look forward to!

3 months in, we made it to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina! But then…

COVID-19 hit.

As I write this blog article today, and depending on when you read it, we are living amidst a global pandemic due to the novel coronavirus. Major attractions, state parks, and restaurants are closed. Social distancing is in place, and government-issued stay-at-home orders have been put into effect.

We are currently sheltering in place in Arizona due to countless tornado scares in the South and too many unfortunate hotspots in the Northeast.

As I am sure you can imagine or are experiencing if you are a full-time traveler yourself, traveling today is not quite like the “travel” we are used to, and it is not exactly the adventure we had envisioned for ourselves this year.

Am I bummed out about it? Sure.

But… the reality is, this is our current new norm!

Oftentimes, when things do not go our way, it is easy to sulk about everything that is going wrong. However, what I have realized time and time again is that we do not have to feel that way for long. A shift in perspective can go a long way in brightening the circumstances of today!

For me, my perspective shifted from,

“None of our plans are going to happen – how disappointing! We’re basically just living in a van now until… who knows when?! ”

To,

“This period of time is simply another chapter in our story – it’s all part of our adventure! COVID19 is real; staying safe and staying healthy is real; but all of this will eventually pass. There’s so much to look forward to in the future!”

Our memories during this time can either be tainted by negativity or painted with joy. We have chosen joy!

Why? Because there is so much to appreciate and to be grateful for today!

In this article, I am going to share with you 4 things that I do daily that help me stay positive, lively, and grateful during unprecedented times like these. The beauty of these 4 activities is, if practiced regularly, joy will follow naturally, regardless of the season we are in!

Tip 1: Practice Gratitude

Getting into the habit of reflecting on what we are thankful for has endless benefits. It allows us to cherish and focus on the good things we have now, rather than focus on what is lacking. When we make it a point to recognize what we are grateful for, we are exposing ourselves to a mindset of abundance verses a mindset of scarcity. It can also shine light on how good we actually have it! Studies have shown that individuals who practice gratitude daily experience more positive emotions and feel more vibrant, happy, and alive than those who do not.

Personally, the practice of gratitude has taken me a long way, and I always feel good when I take the time to journal about what I appreciate in life and in our travels. I make a point of journaling every single day and identify at least one thing – big or small – that brought me joy that day.

These days, I am most thankful for:

  • My husband
  • Our health and safety, along with our families’
  • Private and public essential workers
  • Our business and its ability to thrive even during a crisis
  • Our home-on-wheels, and a safe place to stay while we wait for the effects of COVID-19 to pass
  • Our pup, Chloe
  • Lasting friendships
  • Truck drivers who are friendly enough to assist us when merging into their lane during busy traffic on travel days
  • Walmart and Cracker Barrel for free overnight stays after a long drive between destinations
  • Podcasts and music to enjoy during road trips
  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning
  • The warmth of the sun
  • Stunning pink and orange sunsets, purple mountains, lakes, and fascinating desert plants
  • The ability to live and work from anywhere and still enjoy the novelty of new locations wherever we end up parking – even if the way we explore today is different than how we did it before

Oftentimes, it is the little, everyday things that we take for granted. But when we take the time to shine light on those things, it can be surprising, revealing treasures we already possess and how fortunate we are, despite the prior limitations we may have felt!

Tip 2: Go Outdoors and Be Extra Observant

Pandemic or not, going outside and getting fresh air is an absolute must! The outdoors has been my escape these last couple of months with the stay-at-home orders in effect. Although outdoor walks have always been part of my daily routine, I have noticed that now, more than ever, I have developed a greater sense of appreciation for nature’s beauty and the simple things I never really noticed before. Whether I am taking a bike ride through the park or simply walking around our RV campground, I like to make it a point to find joy in my surroundings by being extra observant and creating novelty in a place that may no longer be novel.

For example, in a resort where we recently stayed, many of our neighbors had unique little trinkets displayed on their lots that added so much character to each site. These simple displays illustrated so much about our neighbors, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into each of their lives and personalities without even formally meeting most of them!

During my walks, I have also found myself finding beauty in what I may have considered ugly before. Having stayed in the South during the earlier months of this year, for example, we were surrounded by lots of swamps – what seemed to be filthy waters. But when I looked past the murky ponds, I found elegance in the colorful flowers that lined the waters; I created excitement around searching for gators; I enjoyed hearing the sound of frogs singing; I admired the sight of white egrets and other creatures.

Another thing I like to do is simply observe people. I love hearing the sound of laughter – it’s contagious! I also enjoy watching adults and children having a good time, despite everything going on during these times. Whenever I see runners and bikers trailing through the heat or people doing exercise routines outside, it motivates me to stay on track with my health regime and create new routines for myself. And lastly, whenever I pass another person, I always make it a point to smile, say hello, and converse with those who are open to it – even if it is from a distance! Which leads me to my next tip…

Tip 3: Get Social, Even if it Has to be Virtual

While getting to know your RV neighbor, attending campground socials, or meeting fellow campers may not be possible during this time in order to respect social distancing, it does not mean you can no longer be social!

As an extrovert, it has been a little difficult for me not to want to go up to a friendly face and spark up a conversation or say hello to all the dogs and dog lovers like myself. However, I realize that now, more than ever, not everyone is up for that, nor is it the most responsible thing to do. So, aside from making it a point to smile and greet everyone I see at our campground…

I have made it a point to take advantage of this time to catch up with close friends and rekindle connections with people I have met over the years who light me up and have a made a difference in my life in some way or another, both on video calls or over the phone. I have weekly Zoom dinners with my parents and brother, which is always entertaining. I also participate in social sharing of recipes, books, exercise routines hosted live, fun and games, and more!

The need for social connection is a basic human drive. Everyone craves it – some more than others. If social distancing or a self-quarantine has been negatively affecting you, remember that it is only temporary and there are creative ways to connect to fill your social hunger!

Tip 4: Reminisce and Create Excitement for the Future

The last thing that I love to do is simply reminisce, because it inspires and encourages me to look forward to what is yet to come! Whenever I reflect on our previous trips, it always lights me up. Viewing our pictures and reading my travel journal entries allows me to step back into my memories and relive the moments in my mind, which creates happiness and appreciation for all that we have been blessed to do.

While we wait for restrictions to lift and for things to start to normalize, it is the perfect time to dream and plan! During times of uncertainty, out-of-sight should never mean out-of-mind, especially when it comes to doing the things you love. For us, touring the East Coast may not be happening this year, but I have no doubt that we will get there!

Now, I do realize that many of these tips may seem simple or even sound like common sense. The truth is though, what is common sense is not always common practice, and it is the little things in life that can make a BIG difference in how we experience today and every day going forward!

Today, we choose joy. What about you?

Larissa & Jamie Miralles

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