by Albert Faraj
My 82-year old father and my 73-year old mother wouldn’t have it any other way. After the slight easing of draconian lock-down measures in Honduras, my parents booked the first flight they could to the USA. Don’t get me wrong, they love Honduras. But it was time – high time – for them to experience freedom. And, the freedom they seek is not freedom FROM these draconian measures, but freedom FOR living! Are they concerned about contracting COVID? Certainly. While they are careful and mask up everywhere they go, they simply needed to connect with others. They experience great joy in being with others, with going to Church, with going out to eat.
Like so many people intuitively know, the burnout of the “new normal” is wearing people down. Certainly, the health effects of the pandemic are real. But so are the effects of the social restrictions in response to the pandemic. As humans, we have a fundamental need to connect with others, to interact with them, to be really present. While technology and social media have attempted to bridge the gap, they are increasingly failing, and in some cases worsening people’s lives. Many of us have experienced first-hand how social media can generate more divisions, anger and misunderstanding between friends, families and acquaintances.
Technology has enabled us to be present to those who are absent. In our family, we instituted weekly Zoom meetings to help connect with people living throughout North and Central America. However, audio and video are simply not the same as actual presence. It’s akin to replacing all food and drink with calorically-free alternatives: after a while, you starve! Technology may hit the spot for near-term needs, but it simply cannot replace our fundamental need to be physically present.
What’s the antidote?
First, a disclaimer: I’m not going to recommend policy or politics. The medical community must continue to pursue improved therapeutics, and pharmaceuticals need to continue to invest in immunity boosters. Where absolutely necessary, safeguards need to remain in place to help minimize the transmission of this virus.
Fundamentally, I’m a human who wants everyone living enriching lives. Our goal shouldn’t be to live as long as possible: we should seek to live as well – or as humanly - as possible.
The antidote to the social impact of the pandemic is to find ways for people to truly come together. It’s the reason my parents, who are certainly in the most vulnerable demographic, decided to travel. You may feel that it is not wise for them to do so. In their place, you may not choose to do the same.
During these difficult restrictions we are enduring, we are called to creatively find ways for people to travel, to connect, to enrich lives. As a travel company, we are responsible for ensuring it is done as safely as possible! And we are finding WONDERFUL ways for doing so.
One of my colleagues reflected on our newest private group travel concept: the Family Field Trip which “Takes Virtual on the Road!” (read about it here). The idea enables families to travel in their “pod” to safely experience fun, hassle-free learning opportunities to places like Washington DC and Mackinac Island. The response from our clients indicates how beautifully this resonates with their pent-up desires.
Another colleague shared how we are ensuring successful, safe group tours. “A Favorable Reaction on the American People” (read about it here) reflects on just how important it is for each of us to seek these opportunities to be together. The phenomenal response to our Pilgrimage to Wisconsin serves to underscore the best way to battle the social effects of this pandemic is through travel. The following are just a few of the overwhelmingly positive comments we received:
I traveled alone. It was amazing! I met so many wonderful people with which I was honored to share this journey. I was positively impacted by this experience. I had no idea what to expect, but God showed up in a BIG way. I am going through some real struggles at the present time (in addition to COVID) and can honestly say I was truly blessed.
I don't have a favorite as the whole trip was peaceful. Loved every person on the trip.
You all took such good care of us - which helped us focus on what’s important - growing more holy every day.
CTS did a wonderful job keeping us safe, very organized.CTS takes care of their travelers.
As we move forward in these challenging times, our team will continue to seek creative, life enriching ways to bring people together. We hope to be a positive force in building and promoting culture throughout our country.