Jerris Thompson is a world traveler. As a 40-year-old single man and son to a chronically ill mother, he learned early that “self-care” and living life to the fullest is the best medicine.

Since his early 20s, he has made it his mission to travel several times a year, and at one point, he was exploring new destinations monthly. It was as much about self-reflection as it was exploration.

But the COVID-19/ coronavirus pandemic has put a halt in his plans. Or at least, slowed them in a major way.  But Thompson, determined to not lose what he has grown to love, found a way to still “get out and about” while using all safety precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

So how do we still travel? We asked Thompson to share favorite tips and tricks.

Q: Favorite places you’ve visited?

A: I love Mexico, particularly Tulum. I have been there about four or five times. I’ve also been to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mexico City. I have also been to Costa Rica, South Africa, Nigeria, Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, London, Paris, Dubai and Madrid. My favorite place, if I had to relocate, would be Johannesburg, South Africa.

Q: Now since travel is limited, how have you adjusted?

A: I’m flying less and driving more. I went to LA, DC and Sorrento, Florida, but there were not a lot of things to do that you normally could have. I went to places like Runyon Canyon where I could take advantage of the outdoors, adding in running and cycling wherever I visited. There are plenty of ways to explore local culture while social distancing.

Enjoy the ‘Great Outdoors’

 Q: What’s next on your adventure list?

A: I was supposed to go to Germany this year, but the virus has put that on hold, so I am focusing on traveling around my own country, where I am behind.  I’ve been to Las Vegas, but I have never been to the Grand Canyon, and in 2021, I want to go “glamping” there. I’ve also never been to Memphis or Nashville, so those are now on my to-do list. I want to take a day trip to Alabama and visit the “lynching museum,” visit Vancouver, and explore the Carolinas. In lots of movies centered in the South, I see these moss trees on winding dirt roads. I just watched “The Emperor” last night and they had the moss trees in a scene. I am searching for that vision.

Explore “rewards” programs!

Q: How do you finance all these trips?

A: Travel rewards!! I live by the “points” system. I have a United Airlines Visa credit card and I charge everything on there to gain points I can redeem for travel. I also recommend the Capital One Venture card. If you have a brand of hotels that you like, sign up for their rewards. I love Hilton Honors because you can build points quicker, but I love the Marriott Bonvoy properties more. Both are extremely nice hotel chains. Also, people should take advantage of the vacations where you can visit destinations for sometimes less than half the price if you sit through a timeshare or travel club presentation. There are no obligations to buy, but you never know, you may find something that works well for you.

Q: What’s the key to truly enjoying your vacation?

A: Stop going and not being present. Sometimes you are so focused on taking pictures and selfies that you haven’t truly absorbed the experience and the surroundings.

Q: What have you discovered about yourself during this pandemic?

A: I’ve learned that I can take it or leave it. This whole thing has made me have to sit still; I don’t like to sit still. When you travel once a month, you are always thinking about the next thing. But now, I have learned to incorporate the things I’ve been exposed to in travel into my everyday life. Making certain foods myself and even bringing cultural designs to my own home.

Q: When we come out of this and we will, is there anything that you are going to change about yourself?

A: In celebration of my 40th birthday, my goal was to give up something for 40 days. I gave up cocktails. I’ve always drank socially, but now when I go out with friends, I don’t. I’m still the life of the party, as they say, and I am the same person, but I’ve learned I don’t always have to be “lit” to have a good time. I can see people better now and can see myself better, so coming out of this, I believe my circle may change. In fact, it already has.

What’s your biggest takeaway? Final advice….

Stop feeling like you can’t go anywhere because you have no one to go with. Try doing something by yourself – take a small trip alone – you won’t regret it. Don’t wait on somebody else for you to have fun. Live and responsibly!