October 2020 and already three quarters of the way through this annus horribillis. January was full of promise. I imagined that by the Autumn my blog would be brimming with tonnes more content. Maybe videos to boot as well. Unfortunately for myself and others, the global coronavirus pandemic has ruined plans and ambitions beyond description.
The extreme distress caused by the virus that spread from China at the start of the year has destroyed millions of lives and livelihoods. The basic social contact that we had taken for granted too. I sit here writing this praying for some amazing major breakthrough moment ASAP that steers life back in the direction of pre-2020 normal. A world where the culture of enforced social distancing and mask wearing and signs reminding you are all no more. And of course the ability to travel and go places again without any of this nonsense in place.
With international travel having re-opened to an extent in June albeit with quarantine restrictions and the like, unsurprisingly I have not done any travel of the sort since March. So travel, that great escape, has no longer become a viable option thus leaving me somewhat trapped. But with lingering uncertainty for the future of travel I find myself wondering how and if I can reintegrate myself with my old travel persona. Or do I fear that the longer this drags on and do I slip into a lifestyle of monotony and lose my travel mojo? Have I lost my wanderlust now?
A ROUTINE OF MONOTONY
I may not be one of those fabled digital nomads but some kind of travel has always been part of my life and more exponentially so last year. And this does not necessarily refer to overseas trips, as almost every other week I would have a good excuse for some trip not too far away. Least not in London
Since this pandemic escalated in March and the web of fear with it, it has been impossible to revive the liberties that used to be second nature.
Anything resembling a social life has disappeared and although working from home has been my routine for a few years now, only the occasional trip to the supermarket or post office or other services has been the exception to the rule. Keeping myself amused with all manner of DVDs and other nostalgic entertainment as well as planning for future trips is all good and well up to a point.
The truth is no amount of Zoom meets or messaging and social media can substitute for real world face-to-face contact. This new normal has been going on for seven months and counting. Although some positive have come out of it such as discovering new hustles or learning new skills, nothing can compensate for the lack of normal social interactions like we know. And the trouble is that as anyone will tell you, the longer something becomes a habit the harder it is going to be to snap out of it.
The ever changing rules and regulations in the name of “keeping safe” have evaporated any enthusiasm for a day out somewhere like a museum or stately home. Yes, even solo. So even the smallest things that equate to travel have been rare. My 2020 has been a groundhog day cycle of staying in, writing, selling, unwinding with classic DVDs or YouTube and some outdoor strolls. Add the occasional supermarket trip or other essential service with 2020’s pandemic restrictions attached and you get the gist. The routine of monotony with my “travel energy” gone. A routine I do not want to get stuck into. But options are limited.
BAD HABITS AND MENTAL HEALTH
There is nothing I need to say about the adverse effects on millions of people’s wellbeing that hasn’t been addressed anywhere else. Lockdowns, quarantines, jobs, businesses disappearing, and the inevitable effects all that has had. Being forced to adhere to all sorts of instructions on staying home, wearing masks and standing 2m apart. Yet, what is also being overlooked by the mass media are the high numbers of non-COVID related deaths that have occurred. Suicides or attempted suicides. Overlooked cancer screenings and essential check-ups that went undetected until it was too late.
As well as this, domestic violence incidents that have increased, no doubt exacerbated by the extreme stress and worry brought on by this. Constant exposure to more depressing and distressing news stories around the world of those who have succumbed to this horrific plague from China or suffered the repercussions of lockdown. All of this plus more is enough to drag anyone’s mood to subterranean levels. When this first emerged in March it seemed many of us were clinging on to the belief things will sort themselves out before Christmas at the very latest. It’s October now and the apparent ”second wave” appears to have arrived across Europe. All prompting yet more uncertainty about the future and if and when we can get our pre-2020 lives back. With that, comes more worry. A vicious circle.
Finding good counselling services would be a challenge, but for anyone that really needs to talk to a professional it may be possible there are some great therapists who offer services on Zoom.
HOW THE TRAVEL ENERGY HAS HELPED IN EVERYDAY LIFE
When travel and going places is part of your life, it is also like the source of energy and motivation that you also carry on into your everyday. At least with me. Travel energy, I like to call it. The adrenaline of trips by train or airline or whatever does also hardwire an energy in me that I carry into my everyday life. An adrenaline that actually makes a chore like shopping seem exciting. This mindset becomes part of your persona and elevates your raison d’etre. Like a confidence boost. But the effects of lockdown and dearth of trips to go on have inevitably sucked this energy out of me and with it my mojo and confidence. No more trips until I do not know when.
I can plan for future destinations and fill my time that way but it is not the same. Lockdown and the descent into a lifestyle of limited social activities is weakening that. As for the chores like supermarket shopping, with all the new irritating rules and instructions and signs plastered on walls and floors reminding you to keep your distance from others, you bet that has become a chore now. No travel energy to the rescue for now. As for tourist attractions, all these signs instead make it feel like a school trip. Everyone being treated like children. Pub meetups, forget it. What’s the point in going somewhere to socialise when you can’t really socialise?
Easier said than done. It will get better. All this shall pass. How many more trite platitudes do I have to hear again and again yet still shrouded in uncertainty? Vaccine, silver bullet, herd immunity. Whatever buzzword it is that indicates this pandemic will be over. Yet apparently there was a flu pandemic in 1968 that claimed around 2 million lives but that never gets talked about. As though hardly anyone remembers it. Were people too busy getting high or protesting to notice? Yet, 2020 has resulted in lockdowns and restrictions whereas that was not the case in 1968.
I promise myself I will go for a lengthy outdoor trek at least once a week. Ideal to also keep my dwindling adventurous streak in tact. Not to mention that dithering indoors piddling around on the Internet is not an acceptable alternative.
I do feel lucky that I live in the close proximity to the Chiltern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is very fortunate that there are some very nice peaceful nature locations to spend time in that are a short drive from me. I cannot stress how important the outdoors is for your mental and physical wellbeing. Even if I don’t have time to venture far, then I will settle for the umpteenth circle through the woods and canal near me.
In the summer when the draconian restrictions were lifted, it was tempting to treat myself to some sort of day trip. And do that I did with a trip to the Durdle Door stretch of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The most adventurous trip I have been on since that fateful set of circumstances in March. It may be some time till I venture on a similar day trip especially with BST giving way to GMT. But every now and then, an outdoor venture can do such wonders.
All of us are united in the hope of a return to normal in 2021, but when? I do not know. The other subject I dither and debate over is how and where and when I can regain my travel confidence. And I am sure many of you are too. The uncertainties and speculation prevails. Airport queues and check-ins are stressful and tedious enough as it is but can they get any worse? Thus ruining the travel experience more?
But remember what I said about travel energy and the adrenaline rush with it? That which motivates you, or at least motivates me with an equal mix of excitement and nerves? When the time comes for a trip will that feeling come back or will it feel like a chore? That is why I try to keep into a mini habit of small trips for now just to keep the rhythm going. So there is less chance I will have anything that resembles a culture shock at an airport or train station, locations that were always my bread and butter.
It is beyond upsetting to hear about companies that have disappeared as a result of the pandemic. Especially in the travel industry. I wonder how many hotels, cafes or even other miscellaneous tourist attractions I enjoyed and visited in the past may have had to close their doors for good now.
COMING BACK: ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
As you can tell, the content and new blog posts have not come. I have many in draft but when is the best time for publishing? Sure, travel has been non-existent for me since March but there have been plenty of articles in the works relating to many destinations I visited in the last year. So, why haven’t you published anything, you may ask? Quite simply, with travel demand slumping this is not the best time.
Whether you are reading this in the UK or wherever, every country in the world has limits on places where its citizens can travel without mandatory quarantine and the like and not surprisingly this is putting millions of people off. As for publishing so you all have some inspiration for when we can travel again, I would rather wait till the New Year. Otherwise in 2020 any content will feel lost and wasted with the inevitable decline in web traffic.
I am trying to see silver linings in all this. Perhaps this will encourage many of us not to ever take travel for granted again in any way, thus changing our behaviour patterns in subtle ways? After all the misery of 2020, all of us need that travel escape more than ever. And by planning prospective trips and swotting up on places that pique your interest, which could make the trips we deserve so much feel more special. Some have called it “revenge travel” but I prefer to use less vicious buzzwords to describe it. I will touch on that in a forthcoming post. And please God, 2021 can only be better than this horrid miserable year.