Photograph by Alexandra Keeling
Photograph by Alexandra Keeling
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Is it safe to cross the country in an RV?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

My intrepid little nieces are terrifically well traveled, and yet they have never left the country. On the side of their family’s camper is a map of the U.S., marked with all the states they’ve visited. They only have a few to go (Hawaii will be tricky by truck) and they are eager to see the sights, meet the people, and eat the ice cream. They are among the millions of Americans who will be hitting the road this summer—many in RVs, campervans, and travel trailers.

The pandemic has fueled interest in recreational vehicles, which are seen as safer ways to travel as states continue to report spikes in COVID-19 cases. “Navigating the nation with a trailer in tow takes some planning, but the learning curve should not scare travelers from wheeling away,” reports Stephen Starr in our article about how to get comfortable with a campervan. It’s easier than you think. Here’s a quick video featuring explorer Heather Greenwood Davis, who hit the road with her family last summer.

The question of where to go in this summer of road trips looms large. Those headed to national parks will find limited capacity among the National Park Service’s 8,585 motor home pads, though NPS officials say they’re “continuing to increase access on a daily basis.” The nation’s 18,000 campgrounds are re-opening, albeit with restrictions. In both cases book early—and then recreate responsibly through social distancing.

Don’t limit your planning to one trip! One of my favorite travelers is photographer Gately Williams, who has crossed the country 18 times (and counting), journeying to all mainland states by bike, truck, station wagon, and hot-pink two-wheeler. Click here for eight of his epic drives. When you finally pull into a campsite, grill your Impossible burger, and watch the sunlight fade, here are a few inspiring road trip books to remind you that you’re in good company—even when you’re far away from it all.

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Today in a minute

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Quiet is the new loud: Even before the tourists left, some places were already quiet—and there’s research to back it up. Acoustic engineers have measured decibel readings to find a set of naturally quiet places that are now certified as “quiet parks”—including the world’s first Urban Quiet Park: Yangmingshan National Park (above), just outside bustling Taipei. In the U.S., the areas with the greatest potential for stillness are those that are most removed from transportation noises and flyover traffic from airplanes, Terry Ward writes for Nat Geo. “Once you certify a place as a quiet park, it eventually changes behaviors, much in the same way people have learned about the importance of recycling through education and awareness, ” says urban planner and acoustical ecologist Kenya Williams.

Deserted Santorini: What happened to Greece’s most visited island when the tourists stopped coming? Crowds disappeared, revenue was lost, some construction projects advanced, and locals started to reimagine their futures. Although a few travelers will be returning as of July 1, many on the island are relishing the prospect of a quieter new era, one in which Santorini's hillside beauty and stunning sunsets can be enjoyed without residents being forced to fuel a "machine that just created money," CNN reports.

See you in September (maybe): The world's biggest group of oceangoing cruise ships have delayed voyages from U.S. ports until at least September 15, Afar reports. The cruise lines must develop robust plans for preventing and responding to the onboard spread of COVID-19 by then—and have sufficient medical staff and equipment to deal with potential outbreaks.

Engineering safer tourism: The goal is safer travels by 2022. Here’s how some destinations are planning for it: In addition to an entrance visa and a vaccination record, arriving tourists could find themselves taking a breathalyzer check on respiratory systems, the BBC reports. New procedures are being developed, and represent an improvement on the remote infrared thermometers used now, which cannot detect asymptomatic patients or early infections.

How to improve travel for Black women: For the industry, efforts must move beyond messaging, says Whembley Sewell, executive editor of Condé Nast's Them. “It's great to want us to stay at your hotels or use your service or whatever,” Sewell says on the Women Who Travel podcast. “But if you're going to look at me some kind of way when I'm sitting on your plane in a certain section that I'm not supposed to be in or when I'm checking into your hotel. I think it goes beyond just even those moments, too."

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Bare to the elements: This image was taken in the Glencoe area of the Scottish Highlands. Houses like these have been endlessly romanticized in paintings and photographs: a lone cabin, bare to the elements, with nothing but nature as far as the eye can see, says photographer Michael George. “When I first saw this structure, with the tiny forest built to block some of the wind, I pulled my car over and spent some time wondering. Who lives there? With the harsh weather this area is known for, how is the structure still standing? Where do they get their groceries? I have no answers to these questions, but I like to imagine there is a basement as big as the house tucked underneath with supplies to get through the winter, a fire going, and a shelf of books to read.”

Watch: The unique wildlife of the Scottish Highlands

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The big takeaway

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Pride Month reads: Tales and memoirs by James Baldwin, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, and Samantha Allen are part of our 10 LBGTQ reads on travel adventures, part of our Around the World in Books series. The stories, writes Gillian Kendall for Nat Geo, “share both what unites us and what makes us unique, whether on an American heartland road trip or a bus journey to the tip of the world.” Also on the list: Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, a Pulitzer-winning novel about an aging writer who is jilted by a younger lover—and who travels the world with one shiny blue suit. Above, a Pride flags hangs in Antwerp, Belgium, in June 2013.

Related: These monuments honor LGBTQ history around the world

Here are the 10 best destinations for LGBTQ families

12 historic LGBTQ figures who changed the world

Overheard at Nat Geo

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Wily, indeed: Mr. Coyote might be on the short end of those Road Runnercartoons, but its clever canid kin have spread through North America. In the latest episode of our podcast, Overheard, we examine how the coyote (pictured above at Babcock Ranch State Preserve in Florida) has prospered. We've helped, killing its predators and opening up woodland for suburban fields. Population control efforts have backfired. “The more we try to keep them down, the more they succeed,” senior animals editor Christine Dell’Amore says. Their next frontier? South America.

In a few words

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On Wednesday, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

The last glimpse

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Calcio storico: Normally tomorrow, Florentines would be playing a game whose rules were documented in 1580, that looks a bit like rugby. That is, writes ESPN writer Sam Borden, “if rugby was staged on a giant sandpit in an ancient piazza and involved period costumes, bare-knuckle street fighting, and a general tolerance for maiming.” But tomorrow’s calcio storico tourney is delayed because of COVID-19, and Borden looks at the struggle of the ancient sport to survive. Pictured above, a play in action. Below left, Fans of the Azzurri (Blues) of Santa Croce cheer on their team; right, photographs of revered past players.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse selected the photographs. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!