Inspired in Solitude: Travel in New England and COVID-19

Thoreau’s Cabin in Concord, MA

by Hannah White

Social distancing: a term previously unknown to most that grew in common usage seemingly overnight. Though we are living in extremely uncertain, difficult, and often lonely times with the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, we can still keep dreaming about travel, while also enjoying the solitude and break in the hustle and bustle of modern life that many New England authors produced their best works under. Though living in intentional, temporary solitude, many transcendentalist New England authors like Henry David Thoureau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and debatably Emily Dickinson, were most inspired when alone in nature or at home, with works like Walden and Hope is the Thing with Feathers being produced under solitary circumstances. So while we are uncertain about the future of “normal” travel, we can use this time as a moment to appreciate the beauty and calm of nature, experience “virtual” travel thanks to our advanced technologies, and look forward to when we can visit some of the places that inspired so many writers in New England in-person.

While interstate travel is currently very restricted around the country, New England states vary when it comes to rules regarding visitors quarantining after travel, overnight lodging, and dining experiences. Travelers to Massachusetts must quarantine for 14 days after entering the state, while travelers within Massachusetts do not have to. Beginning Monday June 22nd, limited indoor service at restaurants opened up. In New Hampshire, day and overnight camps are beginning to open to in-state residents or out of state travelers if they have quarantined for 14 days; a complete list of tourist attractions that are open in New Hampshire can be found here. And though Connecticut does not require you to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from travel outside of the state, and self-isolation is also not necessary for travelers from another state to Connecticut, the state recommends that anyone traveling to Connecticut from overseas self-isolate for 14 days. “Travel Less. Experience More.” is the new mantra of Connecticut’s Office of Tourism, whose website is filled with an abundance of great ideas for safe travel in the state and various virtual travel experiences. In all states, there are new regulations regarding lodging services, such as a recommended 24 hour gap period between guests, limited staff, and eliminating or restructuring areas where people may congregate.

The Little Women “Orchard House” in Concord, MA
Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA

Though visitation is limited or temporarily closed, various literary landmarks and homes remain preserved in New England, including the serene Walden Pond north of Boston where Thoreau wrote from a tiny cabin nested in the woods surrounding this body of water. Though the Walden Woods Project, founded in 1990 to protect Walden pond and the area surrounding it, is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus public health emergency, walden.org has numerous resources that educators, book-lovers, and environmental activists alike can take advantage of before the physical location is open to visitors again. And though the home that inspired Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is also closed to visitors, there is an entire section on the attraction’s website called “digital discovery.” From Facebook Live sessions held every Sunday at 2:00pm, to a 15-minute video tour with “Louisa May Alcott” herself and a 20-minute up close and personal video tour of our rooms and selected artifacts, there are plenty of virtual resources for those interested in learning more about this famous home and the interesting characters that resided in it. For more literary attractions in New England look into the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA and the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.

Fortunately we live in an age where we have so much information and resources at our fingertips. Even though we might not be able to visit some of these famous homes in-person for the time being, we can explore their rich histories from the comfort of our own homes and  also indulge in the delights of the natural world that so many New England authors were inspired by.

Hannah White is an editorial intern at Literary Traveler. She graduated with a degree in English and psychology from Bridgewater State University, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Arts degree in English with a concentration in literature and film. Hannah has experience writing for a nonprofit organization and is interested in working in the book publishing industry. She loves dystopian literature that feels eerily real; one of her favorite novels is The Handmaid’s Tale. She loves traveling; one of her favorite places she’s ever visited is Florence, Italy because of its rich art history and beautiful architecture.

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