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Yosemite National Park in California was among the top three natural wonders that travelers missed most during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when travel came to a standstill. Photo by Jerry Ondash
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Being flexible key to travel uncertainty

There has been a lot of grumbling about the ongoing changes in health policy when it comes to guidelines for living with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Wear a mask indoors. If vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask. If vaccinated, you still need to wear a mask. Proof of vaccination is needed here but not there. Kids should wear masks at school. Masks will rob kids of their mental health. There aren’t enough vaccines. There are leftover vaccines. No need for a booster. You may need a booster.

This can be maddening, especially if you are trying to plan travel. But let’s keep this in perspective. 

We are lucky to live in the United States and should recognize that the above-mentioned aggravations are First World problems.

Look, millions of people around the globe live in sub-human conditions — damp, sweltering/freezing tents in refugee camps, the remnants of bombed-out buildings, or villages with no clean running water or sewage systems.

There are families who count themselves lucky if they get one meal a day and who have no hope of getting an education or basic medical care, much less a vaccination against this ever-more-deadly coronavirus. To these people, getting paid to get vaccinated must seem sadly outrageous and damn unjust.   

The Alpine Slide at Big Bear Lake provides family fun at nearly 7,000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains, about a two-hour drive from North County. Courtesy photo

As one of the fortunates, I am thankful for the vaccine and have concluded that being flexible is the key to surviving the roller coaster of daily pandemic news.

As someone recently suggested, we must learn to check daily COVID-19 updates just like we check the weather, because like the weather, this pandemic is ever-evolving, ever changing. We have to trust that experts from reputable sources (emphasis on “reputable”) are doing their darndest to keep up with new information about the virus and are advising accordingly.

And if you want to travel without stress and unknowns, get vaccinated. Until we achieve herd immunity (between 80% and 90%), there’ll always be roadblocks and uncertainty in the world of travel.

So, during all those months that travel came to a standstill, what natural wonders were people most looking forward to seeing again?


The website Save On Energy out of the United Kingdom wanted to find out which of the world’s natural wonders travelers were most looking forward to seeing again. To determine this, they searched variations of hashtags pertaining to natural wonders around the globe to see which were most popular on Instagram.

Niagara Falls, Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park came in at the top. Other destinations in the Top 10 included Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights, the Galapagos Islands, Mount Everest and the Dead Sea.

The least sought-after natural wonders were the Amazon River, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. 


Summers here in Southern California are getting warmer, so where to go for cooler climes? At nearly 7,000 feet altitude, Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains might be the answer.

It can be 20 degrees to 30 degrees cooler and offers plenty of family fun: waterslides, the Mineshaft Coaster and zip line-like roaring Eagle, and Alpine Slide. For those with a weak stomach, there are the go-kart track, putt-putt golf and video arcade.

Plenty of hiking trails, including a portion of the Pacific Coast Trail, are available nearby in the San Bernardino National Forest.

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