The end of COVID and return of traveling is keeping many optimistic about 2021

NEW YORK — Although most people are just happy to be in another year besides 2020, regaining their positivity will be a tough task moving forward. Seventy-six percent of Americans say it was harder to stay positive last year than ever before, according to a new survey. This isn’t to say it was impossible, though, as 79 percent of respondents believe embracing new hobbies is the key to coping with the pandemic.

Commissioned by Exodus Travels and conducted by OnePoll, the survey of 2,000 internationally-traveling adults also delved into the other factors contributing to this cautious optimism. COVID-19 remains a major factor as “a hope that the pandemic will end in 2021” tops the list (52%), closely followed by the simple fact that 2020 came to an end (51%). Another 45 percent are feeling more optimistic by the idea of traveling more in 2021.

Other things making travelers more optimistic include practicing a positive mindset (28%) and choosing to believe the future is full of possibilities (19%). While 75 percent of the poll say they followed the news more closely during 2020 than ever before, 76 percent add limiting screen time overall is also contributing to their brighter outlook this year.

For those who say they’re staying positive, the secret might be simpler than most think. More than four in five people (82%) said they made a conscious effort in 2020 to do things that make them happy.

The link between hobbies and hope

Researchers find the 64 percent of respondents who said they had hobbies were twice as likely to identify as “very happy” compared to those without hobbies (40% vs. 18%). Of those with hobbies, 77 percent have started new ones during the COVID-19 pandemic — bringing their total to four on average. Another 70 percent admitted to picking up hobbies that will benefit their future travel plans.

“I think we can all agree 2020 was a real education,” says Robin Brooks, Exodus Travels’ Marketing and PR Director, in a statement. “We learned some valuable lessons on human connections, the importance of science — and appreciating the little things in life. While it’s true that things are still uncertain as we head into 2021, we’ve also learned a lot over the past year, and we’ve got that on our side.”

“It’s been heartening to see so many people taking their passion for global exploration and turning it inward — adopting new hobbies, subscribing to new modes of self-discovery — a third (34%) of those surveyed even started learning a new language,” Brooks continues. “They’re taking this time to learn new skills and interests that can inform their future travel experiences, and there’s just something incredibly hopeful about that.”

Although the poll points to hobbies contributing to happiness, it appears travel does as well. More than three in four people (78%) are happiest when they can travel. When those respondents can’t travel, some look towards future adventures in an effort to make themselves happier. This includes reading about vacations (49%), watching travel shows (45%), and even looking at hotel options for a future destination (44%).

Where do travelers hope to go next?

None of this truly compares to the real thing, obviously, as seven in 10 say a year without travel took a negative toll on their happiness. In fact, a third of respondents (36%) stated that if they could take their perfect trip tomorrow, they would be willing to give up coffee shops or Netflix (both 34%). Another 18 percent of those desperate travelers would even give up sex to hit the road again.

However, 57 percent are feeling hopeful about their travel opportunities in 2021. Many are prioritizing possible trips to Europe (37%), Central America (36%), and Asia (34%), while 14 percent say they want to go “anywhere and everywhere.”

Respondents are most likely to want to travel with their significant other (56%), followed by their child (51%), or their friends (38%).

There are also advantages to planning and booking a future holiday or adventure in advance. According to a previous OnePoll survey, those who rated their current happiness at a nine or 10 are the most likely to be currently planning a trip; showing people are happiest when they have an upcoming adventure to look forward to.

Taking the proper precautions post-COVID

While 67 percent said they will travel as soon as they can, respondents are not forgetting the uncertainty 2020 brought and are staying cautious. Seventy-seven percent are paying more attention to what companies they’re traveling with (hotels, tour groups, airlines, etc.) to ensure they’re taking proper precautions regarding COVID-19.

“We all desire to travel in 2021,” Brooks says. “But the health of our global community must come first. When it’s safe to adventure abroad again, it’s imperative everyone follow the proper precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, which includes booking travel through companies and organizations that support small local businesses and have the resources to keep their travelers and all people safe. For now, the best thing to do is keep dialed into the latest safety measures, remember this is temporary, we are all in this together — and keep looking forward to and planning your next adventure — so that when travel comes back, we’ll all be ready.”