Travel is supposed to make us happy. A study published in January in the journal Tourism Analysis posited that frequent travelers are 7 percent happier than the rest of us. But if you’re at all like me or Juliana Cardoso, who works in advertising and lives in Montclair, N.J., traveling when we’re still living in a state of Covid angst is no joy.
“My first thought is, why?” said Ms. Cardoso, who, when we spoke, was trying to figure out how she would entertain her 10-year-old daughter through an upcoming break. “What are we going to do when we get there? Part of the fun is going to the shops and the coffee shops and walking around, and we can’t really do that. Why go through the trouble?”
And so, they’re staying put. The family stayed home for vacations before the pandemic, back when staycations were novel. They would spend a day puttering around Manhattan or discovering a new town in the area. But after a year of rarely going anywhere, this round of free time at home feels more like a penance than a pleasure.
Even though Ms. Cardoso and her husband have both received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, they don’t feel confident venturing too far afield with cases rising again in New Jersey. So that leaves them with lots of time, but not very many creative ideas for what to do with it. “After a year, what fun thing can we do at home?” Ms. Cardoso said. “My daughter has rearranged her room five times.”
Welcome to staycation fatigue, the latest iteration of pandemic fatigue. “We’ve reached the outer limits of the value of a staycation,” said Mr. Weiner, the author of “The Geography of Bliss.” “I hate to be so pessimistic about it. But I think that there is a reason that we travel and don’t just try to play mind games at home.”
The novelty of home — all those sourdough bread starters and TikTok dance videos — wore off long ago, and “now we need to muster the energy to try to find new things,” said Emily Balcetis, an associate professor of psychology at New York University. “But we don’t have the bandwidth because we’ve worn our bodies down living with this chronic stress.”
But as more people get vaccinated, Covid rates (hopefully) will fall, and by late summer or the fall, it may feel safer to travel more freely again. Perhaps a year from now, we’ll look back on this moment and see it as the last staycation. We’ll remember it not as another tedious leg in a seemingly endless slog, but as the last holiday season with no expectations that we should go anywhere or do anything. One day soon, our calendars will be full again, and maybe we’ll feel nostalgic about these empty days.