Usually, this time of year is chock full of vacation planning. March break is a tradition; for some, it’s even a rite of passage. It’s a chance to go on a road trip to the mountains of Colorado, visit the beaches of South Texas or simply catch up on some sleep and, dare I say, overdue schoolwork.
This year everything has been different. Because the semester didn’t begin until February 1, Wichita State is skipping the March break. The idea is that having students stay around campus instead of using the mid-semester break to travel will decrease cases of COVID-19 on campus.
It’s smart and sensible to keep students around and move those vacation days to the end of our winter break. I agree with the decision and the thinking behind it.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t long for a March break. For many of us, this next month will be long and grey without the sunshiney promise of some time off.
Most of us are more isolated than ever — with long days and evenings spent in front of a computer screen. This has led to a consuming feeling that we don’t have people. We don’t get to know each other the same through ZOOM that we would in a standard class and meeting environment. The community and kindred spirit that naturally develops through in-person communications and regular visits are definitely lacking.
So before you lose it, before you break under the pressure and monotony of an entire semester on ZOOM, why not plan a mini-break?
Now before you bust out your credit card and start perusing Airbnb’s, there are a few things to keep in mind.
#1. The point of this mini-break is rest, recovery and recuperation. It is not to attend the party of the century. Those are fun but defeat the purpose of us staying together all semester to keep down the spread of COVID-19.
#2. Get yourself a COVID-19 test through student health services before you hit the road. Do it a few days before travel, so you actually have the results before you leave town. Make sure everyone you’re traveling with also gets tested!
#3. Stay away from large gatherings of people. One or two “break buddies” should give you a much-needed connection to human beings and a feeling of freedom as you hit the road. Don’t go too big, however.
#4. Plan ahead. Don’t just pick the cheapest place possible. Think about how to travel safely. AAA or your local travel agent can help you navigate how to travel safely in a pandemic. Use the experts — that’s what they are there for.
#5. Stay on budget. This is especially important in the era through which we are living. You never know when you will lose a job or a family member will. If you get COVID-19, you don’t know how long you will be sick or how much time off you will need. Please don’t blow your life savings on one weekend just because you are stressed out
#6. Remember there are lots of great places to visit that aren’t too far away. Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, St. Louis, Denver are all within driving distance. If you leave Thursday night or Friday morning and come back Sunday, you can easily enjoy a couple days at these locations.
#7. While I support our airlines and the aviation industry, I would avoid airline travel unless you are actually willing to quarantine for 10 days afterward. Having been through quarantine and lengthy isolation, I wouldn’t recommend it.
#8. Don’t forget state parks. State and national parks are super amazing, but they will probably be pretty chilly this time of year. If you’ve never been winter camping, I would suggest you spend a good chunk of time planning this kind of adventure. Ensure you have adequate gear and be flexible — you don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard if you can help it.
#9. Everyone should pool their money at the beginning and split the costs of everything. I can’t tell you how many times the whole “I’ll pay you back” thing hasn’t worked out for me. It can ruin friendships, so have your crew front the money or tell them they can sit this trip out. It will save you many arguments and much angst in the future.
#10. Don’t forget that merely going on an adventure, driving around for a day with a camera, a cooler, a couple of blankets and a tent can lead you down many ‘roads less traveled.’ You don’t need a spreadsheet and itinerary to have fun. Hit the road at dawn and see where you end up. Just make sure you have a map and your GPS in case you get a little more lost than you bargained for.