Thompson | Photo provided

Feeling claustrophobic? After a year of social distancing and, for many, relative isolation, you could be excused for feeling the walls are closing in.

Though the progress of distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccinations has been spotty, those receiving them finally have a chance to take a deep breath and have a glimpse of what life may be like not too far down the road. But no matter how well-appointed our homes or numerous our diversions, the avid travelers among us are bound to be getting itchy.

Count me among them. It’s been a long, if sometimes productive, wait. 

I have traveled and written about travel for 40 years. And while I daily count my blessings and good fortune, it does not diminish my eagerness to be on the road or in the skies again, to set foot on another land, in another city, or hike the wilderness.

You, too, I’d wager.

Our impulse to see and experience a larger world is the subject of my new book, Why Travel? A Way of Being, A Way of Seeing (Sojourner Books, Feb. 28). And while this moment of the pandemic may seem a rather odd time to be publishing it, this collection of essays and travel articles arrives with a glimmer of hope that soon we can start planning our travels again. 

The time to start thinking about it is now.


Whether your travel wish list is modest or ambitious, domestic or far-flung (or both), think of this as a dose of encouragement.

There is nothing wrong with armchair travel. We’ve all engaged in it these past 12 months. And it’s useful. The best books on travel – I list more than 50 in my book’s appendix – do more than showcase the fashion of the moment or the hip way to spend excessive amounts of money. And they don’t become obsolete in six months’ time. How-to and where-to books certainly have their place in the planning process and in helping us navigate once we’ve arrived. But they don’t always give us insight into why we’re travelling in the first place, or into the customs, language, history or foodways of a place.

Good travel books can stoke the fire in the belly of the experienced and encourage those just beginning to take that first step, which I hope mine does. After all, travel is more than seeing sights. It is a school for living. And while safety is a concern, especially now, an excess of caution will not serve you well.

To paraphrase a famous aphorism about ships, a plane in the hanger, a train in the station or a car in the garage is safe, but that’s not why they build them. Cultivate an adventurous spirit. It can be the opening of a door; it needn’t be a leap off a cliff (though a bit of daring can be exhilarating). 

The rewards are immeasurable. 

Physician, poet and humorist Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that a mind enlarged by new experience never retreats to the confines of its old dimensions. That’s what we’re after. An expanded, and expansive, view. You don’t get that from sitting in place.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford to travel. I get that. But if you possess the time and the wherewithal, go for it. Embrace the change it brings in you and your perceptions. Inhabit the moment. 

And let the journey be your home.

Former Post and Courier reporter Bill Thompson says he’ll be “out the door in a flash” once the pandemic’s rage subsides. His first stop may be England, where he’d like to hike in the Lake District and enjoy London. You can preview Why Travel? in the Book Excerpts section of

This column was originally published on Charleston Currents.

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