Editor’s note: As the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world of travel (and the world in general) upside down, travelers have had to adapt to a reality in which things look a whole lot different. At the same time, there’s an increased focus on longtime racial inequalities in the U.S. and in the travel industry. In our new interview series, “The View from Here,” we’re bringing you diverse perspectives on what it means to be a traveler now from some of our favorite bloggers and influencers.
We couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to our first blogger, Gabby Beckford of PacksLight.com. In this interview, Gabby talks backyard adventures, celebrating our differences, and what she’s looking forward to when travel restrictions lift.
HI USA: To start off, how would you describe Packs Light and its mission for any of our readers who might not be familiar with it?
Gabby Beckford: Packs Light is an award-winning travel and lifestyle blog that showcases my passion for youth travel, adventure, and positivity through its social media, blog, and online communities. At the core, the message is about seeking risk, seizing opportunities, and seeing the world. Packs Light is most known for sharing its weekly Funded Travel Opportunities and the Young Traveler Network, a community of Gen Z travelers.
HI USA: What kind of traveling (or local exploring) have you been doing since the start of the pandemic? What trips did you have to cancel this year, and what did you replace them with?
GB: I quit my full-time job as a quality engineer in February to travel the world full-time and create content for my platform. Of course, with the coronavirus pandemic, those plans were flipped upside down. My expectations went from exploring 20 new countries, to being grateful for the two-week road trip I took in my home state of Virginia.
We also did a road trip to Florida and through Pennsylvania. And within the last month I came back from my first flight and international trip since the pandemic strike. I went to Antigua for one week, and hope to intentionally travel internationally again soon.
HI USA: What kinds of experiences have you found to replicate the feeling of travel in your everyday life these days?
GB: I think travel is a mindset of curiosity and gratefulness that has nothing to do with how far you are from home or how different the people you interact with are from yourself. To keep this year of travel alive during lockdown, I watched a lot of international movies, joined international-focused Facebook groups, and practiced mindfulness by exploring my own home city and outdoors.
HI USA: It’s been a very tumultuous year in terms of not only the pandemic and the election, but also increasing attention on racial, financial, and so many other kinds of inequality in America. How has this year shaped your outlook on travel in terms of what travel means, its importance, who gets to travel, and why we travel?
GB: I helped co-found the Black Travel Alliance in May of this year in light of the U.S.’ focus on racial equity and the Black experience — I wanted to bring that conversation into the travel industry. Travel now more than ever reminds me that our differences should not be viewed as dangerous, but instead celebrated. If we saw the other races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures in our immediate communities with the same eyes, wonder, and reverence that we view them after a long flight, perhaps we can all have a bit more respect for each other.
HI USA: What kinds of experiences will you be looking for when you start traveling again?
GB: It’s been a running joke throughout the lockdown that as soon as I had the opportunity, I will be focusing on outdoor adventure and adrenaline activities. And I mean it! I hope 2021 travels can be full of socially distanced activities that are bucket list-worthy and make me feel alive.
HI USA: What travel advice would give to your younger self that you wish you knew when you were just beginning to travel and see the world?
GB: I’d probably tell younger Gabby to get out of her head. I consider myself an adventurous traveler who loves to meet new people and try new things, but there were some key moments when my hesitation would turn into avoidance. I used to worry myself out of so many cool experiences! I would tell myself to relax and that we only live once.
HI USA: Other than a mask, what’s your favorite travel accessory to bring along nowadays?
GB: I always travel with a humongous scarf. It can be used as a blanket, rolled up as a neck pillow, used for modesty in certain regions, and a million and one other uses.
HI USA: Any projects you’re working on right now that you think our readers should know about?
GB: I just published my e-book, the Go Remote Guide to 2021, which goes into details about the emerging digital nomad visas for the coming year, and how to secure remote work in 2021!