Skip to site content
group travel leader select traveler small market meetings

A Year of Self Discovery

I can’t believe it’s been a year.

At this time 12 months ago, we were all grappling with the implications of the novel coronavirus, wondering what it was, where it came from and how long it would impact our lives. We worried about contracting COVID-19, certainly. But those of us who worked in travel also worried that this pandemic could destroy the industry we love.

A year later, many of those questions are still unanswered, and there are plenty of worries still swirling around. But over the past 12 months, we have learned quite a bit. Here are five things I’ve learned about myself — some silly, some serious.

1) I need refills.

I’m a sucker for a cold soda, and when I go out to a restaurant, I enjoy a refill — or two or three. During the early months of the pandemic, when restaurants were limited to carry-out service, I found myself craving the unlimited refills that had become an essential part of my dine-in habit. When restaurants finally reopened their dining rooms, I was more excited about the drinks than the food. I’ll never take refills for granted again.

2) I need chocolate graham crackers.

My birthday is in July, and for years my family celebrated it with chocolate eclair cake. The “cake” is made from vanilla pudding, whipped cream and chocolate graham crackers. But by early July, there were no graham crackers to be found anywhere, one of many surprising food shortages caused by COVID. When it seemed that my birthday would come and go without my favorite dessert, I nearly gave in to despair. Thankfully, a family friend found one lone box of chocolate grahams, and the celebration was saved.

3) I need community.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how much we need one another. While some people may thrive working at home, none of us were made to be alone for long, and we understand that now more than ever. My wife and I did our best to keep in touch with friends and family over Zoom or Facetime, and we streamed our church service each Sunday morning. But those experiences made us crave face-to-face connection even more.

4) I need travel.

In my 18-year career in tourism, I’ve rarely spent more than a month without traveling somewhere. My 2020 travel calendar was absolutely packed. But after a trip in early March, those plans came crashing down. I did my best to make the most of extended time at home with the family. But during that time, I couldn’t help but dream of being back on the road. Now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I can hardly wait to start traveling again.

5) I need hope.

I’ll be honest: During the early weeks of the pandemic, when COVID seemed especially scary and toilet paper seemed especially scarce, I felt hopeless. The bad news came in waves, each revelation more intimidating than the one before it, and I wasn’t sure how my family or my industry would make it through. Thankfully, rays of sunshine occasionally cut through the darkness, and even small bits of good news gave me the hope I needed to press on through the challenges. Today, there is more good news than we’ve had in a year. And I’m hopeful that we’re turning the corner into a brighter future.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.