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!"
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
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.