The Therapeutic Value of Planning a Vacation You Can’t Take

“Whenever I’m feeling anxious, the best thing I can do is to plan something,” Anderfuren, a lecturer at Northern Arizona University, told me. “At some point, I will get to Vancouver. Right now … I can travel around the world—on Pinterest,” she said with a laugh. Though the trip is off for now, Anderfuren said that she’s continuing to save—or pin, in the site’s parlance—items to the board that she had originally used to plan the vacation, because the exercise keeps her grounded. She picked Vancouver in part because she’s a huge fan of The X-Files, which was primarily filmed in the area. “People have made Google Maps, and they’ve pinned all the different locations of the places [where] things are shot for different shows,” Anderfuren told me of her Vancouver finds. Her 13-year-old daughter, a Nancy Drew obsessive, got excited after hearing that the CW adaptation had been shot there too.

Pinterest is just one way that Angelé Anderfuren and her family are dealing with the stresses of social distancing. (Pinterest)

Perhaps surprisingly, pinning has become a quarantine activity for the household. Because they’re not in school, Anderfuren’s children are spending some of their newfound free time adding their own itinerary ideas to the vacation board. Though the landscape of Arizona allows Anderfuren and her family to retreat to nature relatively often, they largely stay at home; Pinterest is just one way they’re dealing with the stresses of social distancing.

It makes sense that Pinterest’s aspiration-oriented audience would be primed to use the platform amid such unprecedented global isolation. Kiara Diaz, a 19-year-old college student in Florida, has been on Pinterest for only four months, but in light of current events, she says that the site’s travel community has helped her stay optimistic about the remainder of 2020. “You have so much time to look at your boards, plan online, and look at the stuff and save money for what you wanna do in the future,” she told me of quarantine.

Diaz continues to pin travel posts to keep focused on the joy that she imagines returning to later. While waiting out the lengthy travel hiatus, Diaz is planning bigger than she otherwise might have, hoping to realize the lofty vacation dreams she had discussed with family members before the pandemic. For example, she and her mother had always talked about going to Greece together, and she and her brother had been wanting to visit Japan. So far, one Pinterest-suggested item has made it onto the latter agenda: “I’m a huge Mario Kart fan, and they have a real-life thing where you can go and go-kart,” she said.

Similar to Diaz, the U.K.-based travel blogger Imani Adeyemo has found some of her most interesting travel ideas on Pinterest. (When we chatted, she mentioned learning about snow monkeys in Japan and the best times to see the northern lights in Iceland.) Also like Diaz, Adeyemo has started to rethink how she uses Pinterest as a future-planning tool. Before the coronavirus hit, Adeyemo had robust plans to visit the United States. Now, with that trip indefinitely postponed, and in light of strict social-distancing measures, she’s reconsidering whether her earlier travel ambitions were ambitious enough. “In this kind of situation you [want to] go for paradise-type places … bucket-list places,” Adeyemo said of vacation planning during a pandemic. She knows it’ll take her a long time to save up for any post-quarantine journeys, but her new goals point to how forced isolation can drive people to seek out grandeur.

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