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Don’t be George Costanza

“This was supposed to be the summer of George!”

The 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” was never meant to teach us life lessons. Its creators determined from the beginning that the show would have “no hugging and no learning.” And yet now, in the late summer of 2020, I can’t help but relate to George Costanza.

In one particularly memorable episode from 1997, the hapless George discovers he’s about to receive three months’ income without having to show up at work. So he proclaims that for those three months, he’s going to do whatever he wants. It’s going to be, as he says, “the summer of George.”

But George’s time off doesn’t work out the way he hoped. Through a series of comically absurd accidents, George ends up in the hospital with two broken legs, and a doctor tells him that he may never walk again.

At the end of the episode, he cries out in frustration, “This was supposed to be the summer of George!”

Like George Costanza, I think a lot of us in the travel community have been haunted recently by what was supposed to be.

It was supposed to be a year of amazing adventures. It was supposed to be a year of new ideas and innovations. It was supposed to be a year of growing our businesses and expanding our horizons.

It was supposed to be our best year ever.

Instead, it became a year of panic and isolation. My travel calendar for 2020 was jam-packed with exciting plans. But like you, I haven’t gone anywhere since early March.

Coronavirus was supposed to be a Chinese problem. Lockdown was supposed to last two weeks. Travel was supposed to rebound over the summer. We were supposed to be done with this whole mess by now.

In this moment, it would be really easy to go full Costanza and start screaming at the universe.

Here’s the thing, though: From the first episode of “Seinfeld” to the last, George was always a victim. And he was always pathetic.

It’s easy to laugh at the absurdity of George Costanza. It’s much harder to laugh about anything going on in our world today. But if the travel community doesn’t get busy changing the narrative, we risk becoming the Costanza of this year’s story.

There’s no way around it: The travel industry is among the chief victims of the pandemic. But just because we’re victims doesn’t mean we’re hapless. And we don’t have to be pathetic.

We can’t choose everything that will happen in the rest of 2020, but we can choose how we react to it. We can shake our fists at the sky and yell about what was supposed to be. Or we can stand up, square our shoulders and confront our challenges head-on.

There will come a day when COVID is our past, not our present. People will be ready — maybe even desperate — to travel again. When that day comes, will we be ready to take them?

The road to readiness begins here. Recovery requires choosing to be underdogs instead of victims. And the choices we make today will determine how well we bounce back tomorrow.

Forget about what was supposed to be. Focus on what can be.

Then don’t give up until it comes to be.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.