(Not) Travelling during a pandemic

Most travel enthusiasts started 2020 on a very positive note. Much like everyone else, I had my own bucket-list and was ready to cross off some of my top destinations this year. I was still planning my trip for summer when we heard about 'an infectious viral disease' that started far off in China. Like any other highly optimistic globetrotter, I didn't think the coronavirus was going to affect us here in Dubai or anywhere else for that matter, and I had my year carefully planned out. It was in early February that we began to hear about the cases in my city and in a matter of few weeks, we all went under a complete lock-down, allowing us only to step out of our homes in case of dire medical emergencies or for food supplies.

"Living alone has its perks as it does its pitfalls and being stuck indoors for an outdoor enthusiast like me has not been easy!"

Me, in my balcony. My favourite place in my house.

But I tend to see the silver lining in the cloud (incorrigibly optimistic, really) and I used this time to do everything I always complained about not having enough time for! At first, we were quarantined for 3 weeks while working from home, and I really thought it was not going to last very long. I donned on my chef's hat and buried myself into creating culinary masterpieces (slight sarcasm intended). But then as quarantine was extended, my workplace sent us on a 3-week annual leave, and the city came to a complete shutdown, forcing me to explore more options. And here I am, after 3 months, having experimented with cooking cuisines from around the world, learning to make healthy versions of my favourite desserts, trying my hand at mixology (I crafted some really amazing concoctions) and decorating my home, creating peaceful and beautiful spaces to spend my time every day. Thankfully, mentally healthy and still sane!

How did I stay connected to my passion for travel? I didn't - I took a break instead and explored other avenues. Life has forced us to look outside of our daily routine, to think differently, to focus on the inside rather than the outside. I cannot complain anymore that I do not have enough time. Having said that, I really hope that the second half of 2020 will be when we can go back to some semblance of normalcy. Because travelling is not just my passion, it is my need. It's what fulfills my soul and makes me feel complete.

Not being able to travel is harder on some people than others, and for a travel blogger, it translates into loss of website traffic & subsequently some income, but most importantly, a complete disconnect from the one thing they're passionate about - travel! So I asked some travel enthusiasts to write about how (not) travelling during a pandemic has affected them and what they have been doing to stay sane and connected to their passion.

"Where I couldn't control my outside environment, I could be in charge of the inside"

Elaine J Masters of Tripwellgal

I returned from Spain in March on the day before the US shut down travel from Europe and immediately went into self quarantine. Like most I thought it would be two weeks of sheltering-in-place and all, with luck, would be well. I was thrilled to be home in Southern California and not stranded. As the US began it's uneven shut down and confused responses to Covid-19, I grew more disoriented. It's been hard to see where to focus as a travel and food writer. I started working on house cleaning and found that physical work satisfying. Where I couldn't control my outside environment, I could be in charge of the inside. Next, my husband and I tackled some bigger projects after the roof started leaking. I eventually moved onto creating a backyard sitting space, spending an hour a day with my hands in the dirt and moving rocks.  Now we finally have a space to go outside and relax.

Eventually, I joined a couple of writer's critique groups and returned to writing about my last trip to fulfill promises to my trip hosts. I started pitching essays that I now had time to write. As a travel writer it's been difficult to reflect compassion and not  seem tone deaf to the suffering many are experiencing.. My blog and YouTube channel foundered a bit until I found local stories that dove-tailed into the Black Lives Matter protests by focusing on the healing power of art.

Our self quarantine started in March and it's now mid-June. We're on our first road trip, have been taking all the suggested precautions, and are seeing family for the first time in six months. I continue to wear masks whenever I'm outside, wash my hands constantly, and avoid crowds. It looks like we're in this for a long time so until I know otherwise, I'd rather 'err on the side of caution.' I hope that my summer will include more road and camping trips for work and pleasure. International travel will have to wait. I want to be part of the solution, support the travel industry, and be around to participate in positive changes in humanity.

"Reading travel content feels like looking through a shoebox of souvenirs from a relationship right after the breakup."

Dee Agnieszka of Vanilla Papers

I'm an introvert who mostly works from home, so at first self-isolating because of the pandemic wasn't a huge change in my lifestyle. I finally had time to do things I've always put off because my usual routine got cancelled. But cabin fever hit a few weeks later. I thought I'd keep posting travel stories for some much-needed escapism, but those stories felt too painful to write. I stopped reading travel blogs myself because I didn't want to be reminded of what I'd lost. Reading travel content felt like looking through a shoebox of souvenirs from a relationship right after the breakup. My travel blog has gone from about 25% lifestyle content to exclusively lifestyle with slow travel somewhere back in the archives. And I've seen a lot of advice on how to keep your passion for travel alive during lockdown by watching travel documentaries or reading travel books. For me that just feels like squeezing lemon on a wound.

Instead, I've been using this time to read more and do some meditation. I've also resurrected old hobbies like watercolor painting and, yes, I'm that annoying Instagram cliche who's baking bread (so much easier than I thought) and learning a new language (Greek, just because). The pandemic also made me realize how lucky I've been to travel and see this world. I took a lot for granted in a world where the majority of people will never even step on an airplane. The pandemic has also given me a new-found appreciation of slow travel, the niche I'd usually blog about.

I hope that when we return to travel, we'll put quality over quantity especially in cities like Venice or Barcelona that have been so overburdened by tourism.

"2020, what is going on with you? You’ve made your point; now can you give me some enjoyment back please and let me go traveling again!"

Amit Sharma of Forever Roaming the World

It’s hard to believe that towards the end of last year, I sporadically decided to swap beaches and sunsets in Portugal for jungle and Orangutans in Malaysia and then return to Portugal, just because I could. It seems like another lifetime ago. For the last 6 months I’ve been stuck at home in England and for the majority of it, not even allowed to walk to the end of my street.

Since Covid hit and England went into lockdown, it’s been a weird few months; on one hand being a nomad, used to drifting around the world, I’ve hated being cooped up but on the other hand, it’s done me a lot of good. While I’ve sat at my window staring out at the usually grey English sky procrastinating anything and everything, past travels, thoughts, emotions, I’ve grown a lockdown beard. Oh yeah, I’ve also started writing a book. A book about my backpacking journey and nomadic life over the last 10 years (keep an eye out on Forever Roaming the World for updates).

I’d love to say I’ve filled my time in between writing the book with venturing into the wilderness of my town but that ain’t the case. My town is a concrete jungle, so instead I’ve completed TV - yup there is nothing left for me to see. To be fair, I have picked up a few new skills, looked up some potential future destinations and regions to roam through (whenever I can in the future) and generally tried to keep as busy as possible.

I have to say, the last couple of weeks, since lockdown has started to ease up, have been the hardest because it’s like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can’t touch it. All I can say is, I’m ready to be laying on a beach without a care in the world again!

"Initially we got quite depressed and low but soon we accepted the bitter truth and what was going to come ahead, now we are really positive."

Suruchi Tashi of AllGudThings

The news of Covid 19 started spreading in Jan 2020. Simultaneously travel bloggers and travel businesses started reporting dip in their traffic and revenues. Our website first reported a dip in our traffic analytics after mid-February and since then there is a continuous dip along with the loss in advertisements and sponsored content. Honestly, we were not prepared for such a grave situation. Initially we got quite depressed and low but soon we accepted the bitter truth and what was going to come ahead. Now we are really positive.

During the pandemic, we are reminiscing our past travels. We are doing #armchair or #virtual travel i.e. taking people on a journey from their homes through our blog posts and pictures posted on various social media channels. Also, we are updating our old posts, posting new content which was pending from a long time and working on our other ventures.

Since people are not going to travel for the time being, instead of working only on travel guides, we have refocused our energy on travel stories and experiences. We also believe that after the pandemic, Local Travel and Road trips will be the preferred things. So, we are working on detailed road trip guides. Also, we are learning new skills and finally trying our hands on other creative projects like making videos, that we never had the time to pursue before. We feel that the world has finally given us a 'craving room' we all had craved for and learning a new skill during this time, might be a new income stream in the near future.

Most importantly, we have stopped looking on our analytics dashboard long ago, as it did nothing but depressed the hell out of us.

"I discovered my path through the pandemic was through activities that involve nurturing."

Jackie Gately of Enjoy Travel Life

Even in the darkest of times, I am the type of person who looks for the positive. While deeply troubled by the devastating loss of lives, business closures, and impact on travel world-wide, I've quietly reflected on the best way to refocus my energies in a positive direction.

I discovered my path through the pandemic was through activities that involve nurturing. For starters, I've been spending the pandemic with my son, who moved home when his college closed. As much as I love empty-nesting, it really has been a pleasure to have someone home to cook and care for again—even though I know it’s not for the long-term. Second, I've made my home a sanctuary. I've thoughtfully incorporated small luxuries, such as high-quality bedding, automatic lighting, fragrant soaps, and plush bathrobes, all of which make me feel pampered at home. Plus, I've reconnected to a past love—gardening! It’s so rewarding to care for my vegetable garden and perennial beds. My flowers are now in full bloom and each morning, I look forward to appreciating their beauty.

Of course, I dearly miss travel. But for now, I am content to nurture my wanderlust through past adventures and by sharing those unwritten journeys with readers. I am also looking ahead to day trips for the remainder of the season. In New England where I live, there are endless beautiful stops and day trips from Boston! It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore places I might have otherwise overlooked. So, during this troubling pause, I've realized everything I enjoy about travel remains possible: the beautiful surroundings, mindfulness and self-care, and creative inspiration are right under my nose-even if safely covered by a mask for the time being.

43 thoughts on “(Not) Travelling during a pandemic”

  1. You have shared your experience in a very awesome manner. This pandemic has stopped us all from travelling. I am too eagerly waiting to just jump out of my home and reach the lap of nature. Great work. Keep Going.

  2. This is a beautifully written blog. I love your style of writing. its so simple yet sophisticated. I also appreciated how you involved other bloggers to share their experiences through these times. I hope we can travel again, at least by Q4. I generally travel 4 times in a year and this year i was planning to traveling 6 times. Well, you know how they say “if you want to give God a good laugh, show him your plans”. I have used this time to reflect on myself and follow my passions and learn new skills. Nonetheless,I am grateful for this break.

  3. I can really feel all of them. This has been just too much for all of us. But I see a lot of positivity in Jackie and Suruchi. Yes, it is better to accept the bitter truth and stay positive. It is a great time now to share your past experience with the readers and keep nurturing your wanderlust.

  4. This is such an interesting read. Is so interesting to know how travel bloggers are feeling during this pandemic without any traveling. Quite an insight into how people are coping this difficult time.

  5. We thought 2020 will be another year for more travels, and here I am in Australia far away from my homeland the Philippines, staying for the time being. But I still got the chance to visit local tourism nearby our Aussie home, explore the country side and also goes back to my sewing hobby. Watching travel movies and tv series from Netflix also helps!

    1. In many countries where local travel is an option, people are lucky that they have so much to explore. You can easily survive 2020 without international travel, although I do realize that one needs to make it to their home town at least. I live away from my family too and can’t wait to visit them in India but it might be a while before I’m able to do so.

  6. It’s interesting to read all these different perspective on the quarantine and lockdown. Especially since they all seem to come to the same conclusion: although we love to travel, we have lots of other passions and hobbies that make us happy. Living in Berlin, it feels like covid is pretty much already over. Aside from a few restrictions, life is almost completely back to normal. And I can travel within Europe again! Although I spent a lot of time indulging in other hobbies (cooking, reading, online courses), I am beyond happy to be allowed to take trips again. For me, the covid coincided with another major life change. I went from being a digital nomad with a freelance job to settling down in a new city and working an office job again. It was one big adjustment to being in one place and I definitely felt like a caged bird. But I’m glad it at least happened all at once for me.

    1. It’s good to know that the situation is under control in Berlin. I hope other countries across the world are able to do so soon enough, people cannot wait to get back to normal even though we managed to make the most of the ‘lockdown’ by indulging in other passions ans hobbies.

  7. I too underestimated the reach of COVID: I had two other trips in the States that I canceled this year when they were already all planned out. Luckily for you, you have a fantastic balcony; I only wish I saw that much scenery from my home in city suburbs! You diverged from me in terms of hobbies though, I can’t bother myself enough to make extravagant food when all I usually care about is not going hungry ha. I also can’t say I took my mind off of travel like you did – I was still looking at exciting places to potentially go to this year, and they started piling up like a clogged sink of ideas. Withdrawal sucks. It’s nice to hear of all the other travelers’ inputs. I identified with Suruchi most, in that I’m still thinking of road trip ideas, and that I’ve thought about my 2018/19 travels, if just to reminisce how easy it was back then…

  8. It felt like its everyone’s story, yours and mine. We have all been patient, we have tried different things in the kitchen, we have worked on different projects, we have kept ourselves engaged with several activities but the truth we just want it all to pass soon. Can’t wait to travel but more than that we can’t be deaf to the sufferings around. We will have to start all over again for ourselves and for others. A lot has changed due to this pandemic. I wish it just vanishes one day.

  9. Good to read about the different impact on different people – it was actually a comfort to know that the whole world is in the same boat. I was one of the lucky ones who was working full time throughout the crisis. I thought it would give me more time to work on some backlog on my travel blog, but I was wrong as I was also faced with writer’s block.

  10. I read your post twice as most of us can resonate with it. Like you I had plans for 2020 and to begin with I was too spend 5 weeks exploring Eastern Africa. I had waited for setting Gorillas so close for a few years now. Though our spirits are dampened, we still have hope. For now the wanderlust is quenched with virtual tours, going through thousands of pictures from earlier travels and yes the excitement of being able to travel one day.

  11. It hasn’t been easy for people like us to stay indoors and like most of these guys, we have been trying to keep our spirits up. Sharing pictures, writing despite the dismal traffic, Instagram lives, workshops – that is what has been keeping me alive. Hoping that this enthusiasm gets its wings soon. Reading through these experiences is a reassurance that we are all in this together.

  12. I can relate to so many of these stories! When the pandemic first began I remember thinking that it was something occurring in China and there’s no way that it could reach my tiny little town in New York. That quickly proved wrong and when we went into lock down I thought it was only going to last the two weeks. Here we are 5 months later and we are still partially locked down and travel is very limited. For those of us who make a life of travel it has certainly been devastating. I have been traveling locally, but it is just not the same. Hopefully we will be able to return to travel soon.

  13. I love how you got different viewpoints on this topic! It’s been REALLY hard being at home, although I’ve established some positive routines and have gotten a lot done. I oscillate between being happy at home and wanting to just get away from it all. And I love your balcony view – so lovely and enjoyable. A silver lining for sure! 🙂

    1. Having a balcony is a blessing, some open space at least! I do envy those who have gardens and backyards 🙂

  14. All you can do is surrender to the circumstances and get on with your life however you can. I had to cut my France trip short, and ended up in one part of the UK, while my husband went to the other side of the country to see his mum, and that was four months ago. We’ve been waiting to return to our house in Turkey, but it has been difficult to plan, and flights have been sketchy. So I’ve been writing and gardening, and making the most of my time, even though my plans have been shattered.

  15. It is certainly the testing time of our lives! Like you, I was also initially annoyed because a whole lot of my travel plans, family holidays got cancelled and we were running behind the airlines chasing our money, instead of chasing sunsets! But sooner, I looked out for the positive things that this lockdown has brought in, and started feeling gratitude towards the , more “me” time, focus on health, family time, meals together – all the little things that never mattered earlier. Loved the way you have put down everything together, and the outlook of the post and the interviewers had shared!

    1. Happy to see that most of us have handled the situation quite well and tried to find positives rather than stay upset and disappointed about not being able to travel!

  16. I agree about controlling my inside when I can’t control what’s outside. It’s been overwhelming and frustrating how America has responded to this so I try to look at my close net for the good that we have.

    1. Oh yes, it sure is a pity to see how the situation is being handled (or not handled) in the US.

  17. I was lucky to get away in February so I got a bit of travel in. Where I live we were completely shut down until June. Living alone during that long of shut down took its tole, but things are opening up again and sincd our border is still closed, i am doing a lot of local hiking.

  18. We had a trip planned to Thailand, but because of covid19, it didn’t really happen. Even though we have been restricted from exploring this beautiful world, I think it is safe to say we all learned a lesson here. Awesome article including other’s opinions!

    1. Pretty much everyone I know had a trip planned during this period which they had to cancel.

  19. I think I’ve gone through all of these emotions in the last few months. Its good to hear how others are coping and dealing with this as well. It can be hard to think I’m stuck at home but what I’ve been saying is that I am safe at home. Especially here in NZ where we are covid free.

    1. Oh New Zealand is a great place to be right now. You’re lucky not only because the country is covid-free but also because there’s so much to see and do within your country that you have a lot of options to explore!

  20. A beautifully put together post and one I can definitely resonate with. Like Dee, I am also an introvert, so being “stuck” at home for 3.5 months actually hasn’t been bad and I’ve been grateful for the break from work – but cancelling all our trips really sucked – especially when I use trips as a way to look forward to things. I’ve also changed my perspective on things and took the time to work on projects I’d never get the chance to otherwise. I’ve been focusing on local travel (and non-interaction traveling) which for now will have to do! This was an interesting read!

    1. I envy those who live in countries with a lot to explore locally. I live in a very tiny country (the UAE) and have pretty much explored everything there is to explore. Domestic travel isn’t attractive enough for me, I am hoping for international travel to pick up soon!

  21. It’s nice to see that our feelings are not isolated. There are times when we honestly feel guilty about the fact that we are complainging about not traveling when there are soo many other issues going on, but everyone has their anchors that keep them happy and healthy and travel is one of them for us. We are extremly blessed to be safe and healthy, but we are super super bummed because it doesn’t look like we will be able to travel even within the US with the current numbers :(.

    1. Yeah, I really hope things in the US improve soon. I totally get your point about travel being an anchor.

  22. We were mid-way through our India trip when the world began shutting down. Rushing home, having a fall trip to Machu Picchu canceled, and being quarantined has been tough. However, living though other peoples past adventures and adding to a bucket list for future trips has helped.
    we’re glad we didn’t downsize to a condo this year, our backyard. and garden have been our saving grace. A local road trip may be in our future!

    1. Yes, its domestic travel that’s on the rise in the near future. You’re lucky to have a nice garden and backyard to spend your time in.

  23. Great post! Everyone has handled this so differently and it’s neat to hear how different people have coped. We accepted early on that we would be cancelling all of our trips for at least 2020, but it’s still hard to cope with!

  24. Love your outlook and all that you interviewed. Dee made me laugh with the idea of it feeling like a bad breakup as you review images and relive stories from your past. I just wish Travel didnt take half of my money in the divorce! haha!
    But I what I really love is how everyone got creative and learned to re-focus on different parts of their lives and the world.
    Dont get me wrong, I am chomping at the bit to return to my nomadic life, but I also have loved the time with family and rediscovering things from my childhood again. Like, I hadnt played a board game in forever and suddenly it was becoming a nightly thing! And that is what not travelling during the pandemic has meant to me. A new discover of new ideas while returning to some oldie but goodies!

    1. I absolutely agree, we all adjusted to the change and found meaningful ways to spend our time. I guess it goes to show how adaptive we, as humans, really are. And I think although it was not what we wanted, the little break from the ‘usual’ lives we lead was not necessarily a bad one. We managed to learn new things, find creative ways to spend our time, reconnected with people in a different way and even with our own inner selves!

  25. There is no denying that it has been a difficult few months since Covid hit us. As travellers, we always had a plan. When we return from A, we have x weeks before B and from B we need to explore C etc . You get the drift. It is what it is and we make the best of our time planning 2021. The quote about looking at a shoebox after a break up is an interesting one. I remain positive that 2021 will be a year to travel again albeit travel differently.

    1. Personally, I am still hoping to fit in a trip before the end of the year!

  26. It has definitely been a tough time for everyone, being stuck at home. The quote about looking at a shoebox after a breakup is an interesting comparison. For me, I found it comforting to look at photos and videos from trips. If I couldn’t make new memories at the moment I was going to live through past ones.

    1. That’s fair.. I guess we all have our own ways of dealing with the situation.

  27. The break from travel has been hard for all great travellers. But sometimes a break is good. Nice that you looked for other things to fill some time and you worked through a “to do” list. We had a long blog and photo work list. So it has been a time to catch up before we are off again. Interesting to read how others are dealing with not travelling. We are starting to test the waters with day trips as Canada opens up. But we are not close to looking for longer travel yet.

    1. Yea I guess its the way to go.. you’re lucky you have a beautiful country to explore! Canada has so much to see and do…so much nature and beauty!

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