“Dream now, travel later.”
This phrase has swept the travel industry as hotels, airlines, and agencies encourage people to plan vacations months in advance amid a global pandemic. The same sentiment also inspired Boston-based travel influencer Jon Miksis. A Wakefield native, Miksis, 26, has built a career around circling the globe and sharing his experience online. He writes trip itineraries on his blog and shares photos and videos with followers.
Shelter-in-place orders have upended his adventures, including a trip he was going to take in April to Jordan and Qatar. But Miksis continues to upload while housebound with his wife.
“International travel restrictions were a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people,” he said over video chat last week. “I can show people what’s still out there and inspire them to keep dreaming and planning for the future while we are stuck in our homes.”
Miksis knows the hard truth: Travel, at least travel as he knew it, won’t be back for a while. Yet most of the influencer’s coronavirus-era content makes it look like little has changed. He traveled for 15 of the 52 weeks last year to countries including Germany, San Marino, and China. In isolation, he steadily pulls images from these trips and publishes them on Instagram. The captions include tidbits of history and his memories of a day spent there. Once in a while, he throws in a scenic video.
View this post on Instagram
Dreaming back to this emerald alpine lake in Central Austria ✨🇦🇹 It’s so crazy that it was basically unknown and untouched until Ashton Kutcher posted it on his Facebook page in 2014 😅🙌 Tune in to my virtual tour of Austria on my Insta stories! 🇦🇹 I’ve saved them as a highlight on my profile in case you’ve missed any of them over the past couple of days 📹 Let me know if you’d like to see more of these virtual tours in the future! 😊
“Dreaming back to this emerald alpine lake in Central Austria ✨🇦🇹,” he wrote under a recent post, an idyllic image of Grüner See. “It’s so crazy that it was basically unknown and untouched until Ashton Kutcher posted it on his Facebook page in 2014.”
On TikTok, Miksis has adapted to the norms of the app, a newer video-based platform where users often place words on top of clips and insert music or narration behind them. There, he highlights individual destinations such as Iceland or Nepal. Sometimes, he compiles lists — coolest country nicknames, most powerful passports, and most colorful cities, for example.
The continued stream of content has received a mix of reactions from Miksis’s now-confined following. His comment sections are inundated with people wistfully fantasizing about the faraway locales. One user called his own home “a cage”; another wished to “fly” and “walk in the garden” of the small Slovenian church included in a post.
A few, well-meaning people have sprinkled his replies with warnings not to travel. “I have made it a point to emphasize how I’m not traveling right now in my captions,” Miksis said. “They don’t always catch that.”
In a poll he shared on Instagram in March, followers aired their own woes. “My daughter was supposed to come visit me next month, but now she won’t be able to,” wrote one user.
Unlike Miksis, some travel influencers have disappeared from the public eye in recent months, in part because the advertisements and sponsorships that support them are now in short supply. Others simply feel odd posting images of themselves trekking through countries devastated by the crisis.
Utah-based @expertvagabond, for example, has not posted regularly since March 15, when he stopped traveling. Matt Kartsten’s last international post was of Burano, Italy, which later saw a surge in coronavirus cases. When will his normal stream of content return? No one knows.
“A lot of people feel awkward about posting pictures at a time like this,” said Miksis. “It’s unfortunate they’re not creating the content that they used to, but I get it.”
The shock to the travel industry is personal for Miksis, whose mother is a travel agent. After all, passenger traffic on US airlines has plummeted 95 percent compared to last year, and 100 million workers in the travel and tourism sector have been terminated or will be. Select hotels have desperately tried to stay afloat by introducing discounted “bonds” that visitors can use in the future. And the pay-when-you-book vacation model is gaining traction — though it’s not enough to resurrect the industry.
Miksis has stayed hard at work to keep himself afloat. He gets up early and stays up late. And he is expanding his presence on platforms such as YouTube and Pinterest, all while inventing novel ways to keep his audience engaged from the four walls of his home.
Really, the job is a meticulous effort in planning, filming, and organizing, he said.
“Everyone thinks my job is about being on a beach with a cocktail in my hand all the time,” he explained. “Which it is sometimes. But really, I’m a trusted travel adviser going around for as long as possible for as little money as possible.”
He is scoping out the possibility of traveling late in the year while keeping a close eye on the government’s safety guidelines, of course.
From his perspective, there could be one positive to come out of all of this: a shift to more sustainable travel. He hopes that, in an effort to prolong some form of social distancing, overtourism will dwindle. Maybe vacationers will avoid spots known for attracting massive crowds — the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Colosseum, for example — in favor of smaller destinations?
“I’m a hidden gem kind of person,” he said. “This kind of travel will go up after quarantine — at least it should.”
He believes that domestic road trips will be the first kind of travel to make a comeback.
“I could use a road trip after this,” he said. “But couldn’t we all?”
Diti Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.