If you’ve checked out almost any travel blog or blogger’s Twitter/Instagram this year, you’d think that this was the worst year in human history. What were we supposed to do without out our grand adventures in globetrotting? How could we be interesting if we had no travel photos to share with our followers?
Like everyone else on Earth, we had to adapt. Some people continued their international pandemic travels and were subsequently travel shamed for doing so (in some cases, those people deserved it).
I have a confession: This year was decent for me. And I didn’t set foot in an airport. But there was still a bit of pandemic travel — it was full of parks, bikes, and beer.
2020 began with unemployment, which was a depressing continuation of 2019, but was soon followed by a job offer that has turned into a great experience thus far. Around the same time, my short story was accepted for publication after 14 years of rejections (COVID-19 delayed publication).
My start date was pushed back a few weeks, but it was alright as I planned a short road trip to Vermont in unseasonably warm January (I should’ve taken an extra day or two). It was, nonetheless, a necessary and relaxing getaway from the city. The following week, I attended the New York Times Travel Show again, which is a fun time to meet other writers, photographers, and various travel-industry folks.
Soon after starting that new job, I took a weekend to visit my friend in Princeton and dine at the always delicious Brick Farm Tavern, which is even better because it’s home to Troon Brewing. A few weeks after that, I headed to Brooklyn for Pastrytown Beer Festival, and it’s a miracle no one in my small group got sick because we went into lockdown the following week.
And then it was almost two months of infrequent trips outside my apartment to buy food or walks around the neighborhood with a mask on. As I could no longer go to the office and have free morning coffee, I began spending more on coffee from TM Ward in Newark (I used to work around the corner of this over 150-year-old roaster).
As New Jersey began to reopen, I headed outside Jersey City — I’m fortunate enough to have a car and folding bike, making it easier to escape. In all, I visited nine different parks in the state (11 if you count Liberty State Park and Lincoln Park, which I visit often on bike rides) and four new breweries.
Some of those NJ park visits were easy hikes — Watchung Reservation, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Tourne County Park, and Eagle Rock Reservation are all easy and mostly flat. Then there were hikes through Norvin Green State Forest that were much more difficult than expected, but well worth the trek. It all made me remember things to love about New Jersey.
To top off those hiking trips, I also took bike rides through Sandy Hook and along the northern extension of the Henry Hudson Trail. Sandy Hook was a beautiful day in late June, and it wasn’t a long ride; the Henry Hudson Trail (that connects to Sandy Hook) turned into a 26-mile ride. As my friend said at the end of the ride, “I kind of hate you for this.” I responded, “I kinda hate me too right now.” My legs sure hated me after that.
It would have been better to visit even more parks, but it wasn’t always easy to find quarantine friends who could go hiking (and hiking alone isn’t the best idea, particularly at less popular parks).
After many of those day hikes, I stopped at New Jersey breweries for a taste outside (I had no interest in setting foot inside for a drink). Early on in the pandemic, I found that 902 Brewing had opened in Jersey City, and it was an easy stop along my bike ride through Liberty State Park — it was also a nice option from my usual stop at Departed Soles for to-go beer.
I have been grateful for the outdoor seating at breweries when the weather was pleasant — some of them even did half pours to give an opportunity to try more (I avoided having more than one full beer as I had to drive). It was a great way to support local business while getting out for a bit, but it also drained my wallet as I wanted to bring more home to try.
I spent more than I intended on two trips to Four City Brewing in Orange and Chilton Mill in Long Valley, but they were well worth it. I also purchased a special bottle from The Alementary, which I had hoped would be shared at some point, but I drank it all myself instead because Covid.
Overall, my year of pandemic travel has pushed me to find what there is to enjoy most in my home state, and there is still so much that I haven’t seen in New Jersey. I had planned on taking more hikes this year anyway, but now I have a mission to visit all the parks in the state (I’ll continue that into 2021).
How have you re-imagined travel this year? How did it work out?