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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
Are you feeling stir-crazy yet? I am. I feel like racing to Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin to bask in the cherry blossoms on the National Mall. But I can’t—new measures are in place to keep crowds at bay. It’s the right idea. Ahead of last weekend we reported that while U.S. national parks have waived fees, travelers should think twice about visiting.
Spoiler alert: not everyone did.
In defiance of a state order to shelter in place, crowds swamped beaches, parks, and hiking trails in California. In Arizona, locked-down people seeking a breath of fresh air inundated trails, such as Camelback Mountain near Phoenix, making social distancing nearly impossible. The list goes on, and so do the consequences of passing along the virus.
What a killjoy I have become! The New York Times' Jodi Kantor is even blunter. "Fellow city dwellers," she writes, "we pose a threat to everyone else."
With spring officially here, it seems unbearable to stay away from our most popular parklands, but the greater good demands it. Overuse of national parks is often cited as an example of the tragedy of the commons, an economic theory that describes how people sometimes use natural resources to their advantage without considering the good of society as a whole. Perhaps this theory also applies to our considerations of other people during this pandemic.
Many national park units, lodges, and campgrounds are taking protective measures by closing (here’s a good list). Some organizations, such as the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the American Alpine Club, are offering smart guidance. Now is a time to listen and care for others. Choose your wilderness escapes thoughtfully. You can still “take” A Walk in the Woods. ... why not do it with Bill Bryson?
Related: How some animals practice social distancing
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Following a pioneer: Beginning in 1958, Magnum photographer Inge Morath spent years of her life photographing the Danube River. In 2014, eight women photographers set out to retrace her journey. Nat Geo’s Ami Vitale and her colleagues converted a truck into a mobile gallery they used to exhibit Morath’s work in the villages and towns she photographed. They also documented contemporary life along the river, from way upsteam to Romania’s Danube Delta (above), where the river empties into the Black Sea.
Read: Eight photographers retrace a pioneering predecessor’s Danube journey
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Today in a minute
At first, it seemed like a party: That's from this first-person account about life in Milan amid COVID-19. Then: "I felt like my legs were going to give out, and I went into a supermarket to buy some chocolate, thinking I needed sugar." writes Gea Scancarello for Nat Geo. "Those are the symptoms of the coronavirus."
Helping the helpers: In 2012, we at Nat Geo Traveler called the Herbfarm the No. 1 destination restaurant in the world. Now the Washington State restaurant has retooled itself after shutting down to diners following the coronavirus pandemic. Its kitchen now is preparing meals for doctors, nurses, and medical staff at five Seattle-area hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, the alternative weekly The Stranger reports.
No touch, please: The Thai wai? The Zambian cup-and-clap? The are among a half dozen ways people around the world greet each other without a handshake or other forms of physical contact. All are safer in these days of COVID-19, reports Sunny Fitzgerald for Nat Geo. I particularly like the cup-and-clap, which can involve squatting if you are addressing in-laws. Here are a few of our readers’ suggestions.
Moving beyond war: For the past 25 years, many of the small ethnic republics that make up Russia’s North Caucasus region have been wracked by wars, Islamist insurgencies, and terrorist strikes. Now they are trying to lure outsiders back—and showcase their distinct cultures, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
Overheard at Nat Geo
Going home, alone: Photographer Pete McBride was among King penguins galore as a guest lecturer on the Nat Geo Explorer in South Georgia. Then coronavirus spread and spread. “What was supposed to to be a 2 1/2-week trip to wildlife Eden was quickly turning into something quite different,” McBride writes for an upcoming story. And the closer he got to home, the less crowded it got, until he found himself the only passenger (above).
The big takeaway
When the lockdown is over: New Yorker writer Peter Hessler and his young family were pretty much stuck for 45 days in their home in Chengdu, China, as a precaution against the coronavirus. When it was over, and he could go to a restaurant again with his family (after each had their temperature at the restaurant taken, of course), he was signaled by wait staff to head away from the table for a second. There was a silver tray with a sprig of flowers to be delivered to their table, and a Valentine’s-style card on which he could jot a note to his spouse. “I stared at the red paper,” Hessler reported. “Then I wrote something to the effect that this was the most romantic period we had shared since the 2013 coup in Cairo.”
Subscriber exclusive: When Peter Hessler returned to the Chinese river town where he served in the Peace Corps
In a few words
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The last glimpse
If you couldn’t go: The blossoming of cherry trees is a big deal in places like Japan and Washington, D.C., but this year the coronavirus pandemic has kept most tourists away. Nat Geo’s Starlight Williams takes a look at the blossoms in 25 places around the globe, including Washington, where “peak bloom” was seen last weekend. Pictured: a colorized century-old photograph by Nat Geo pioneer Eliza R. Scidmore, who encouraged the U.S. to import cherry trees from Japan.
See: Cherry blossoms throughout the world
This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea, a link, a place you're dreaming to go to once this COVID-19 thing is over? We'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org . And thanks for reading!