Looking to Travel for a Sense of Renewal


Svetlana Reznikova-Steinway, an emergency-room physician who lives in Phoenix, has spent the better part of a year pulling double-duty in an overwhelmed intensive care unit. Early in the pandemic, she and her husband, a urologist, developed a system for after work, stripping off their scrubs in their garage to protect their 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old twin sons from the virus. She has gotten used to intubating critically ill Covid-19 patients. She has learned how to delicately use patients’ phones to FaceTime family members so that everyone can say their goodbyes.

“It’s been horrific,” Dr. Reznikova-Steinway, 43, said. “My colleagues and I have come across a lot of death, a lot of horror and a lot of suffering — it’s pretty hard to describe the weight, the awfulness and the mental and physical toll.”

In June, Dr. Reznikova-Steinway and her husband will join a group of about a dozen doctors, nurses and their spouses — all of whom will be fully vaccinated — on an eight-night journey to Alaska organized by Boutique Travel Advisors, a luxury travel agency. The itinerary will keep them largely outdoors; they’ll bike, hike and kayak amid the mountains and fjords of the Kenai Peninsula.

Beyond needing a vacation, Dr. Reznikova-Steinway said she is hoping to “debrief” with the other health care professionals, many of whom have also been working in emergency rooms around the country.

“There’s no safety net in medicine to discuss how one feels and to be able to share the pain you’ve experienced and seen,” Dr. Reznikova-Steinway said. “But hopefully we can also take some time to laugh and maybe almost pretend like we’re in a different world for a few minutes.”

Although in some places case counts are increasing, many parts of the United States and the world are opening up, with vaccination numbers rising and more travelers passing through United States airports than at any other point in the pandemic. As we all emerge from our homes and rub our eyes, some travelers believe that vacations nowadays are about restoration — recovering from all that has happened since last March. Instead of no-holds-barred, blowout trips designed to exert “revenge” on the year, these deeply personal trips are meant as a salve that will offer some way — large or small — to move on.

Stress and anxiety about the virus nearly overcame Deepa Patel, 36, as she gave birth to her third child in March 2020. Ms. Patel, who lives in Anaheim, Calif., and works in public health, was turned away from her postpartum exam for bringing her 6-week-old son. None of the Gujarati birth and postpartum traditions that she cherishes — the stream of well-wishers, the family meals and blessings — took place. She deferred a master’s program so she could care for her children — now 6, almost 4 and 1 — full time at home.

Ms. Patel’s work in humanitarian aid has taken her far beyond the typical vacation destinations — to South Sudan, Iraq and beyond. But in July, Ms. Patel and her family will embrace a new-for-them kind of trip: a fly-and-flop at an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

“My humanitarian butt is going to be sitting on a beach, drinking mai tais all day,” she joked. “I am ready to go get out and do nothing for a little while. I just want to shut my brain off; I just want to see my children play.”

Ms. Patel knows she is lucky; she and her husband have been healthy and able to work. But like many parents at the year-plus mark, they are still craving a reprieve.

“We’re hoping to take advantage of the kids’ club,” she said. “We’ve been with our children every day for a year. We have had no babysitters — no family help, no nights away. It’s important for us to find a way to do nothing but relax.”

Like Ms. Vega-Simcic, Judith West has taken comfort in the familiar after a heartbreaking year. Her husband of 61 years died right before the pandemic, in February 2020.

“I had the isolation of grief exacerbated by the isolation of Covid,” said Ms. West, 80, a Manhattanite who’s active in the philanthropy world. “It was a double whammy.”



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