A Covid-19 reflection from bloggers around the world and how they see the future of travel as they learn to forge new paths.
It was inevitable: the scent of freedom always reminded me of the fate of unrequited love.
The last time I jumped on a commuter bus was eight months ago on the island of Mindanao, Philippines.
The last time I hopped on a plane was six months ago for my journey back to continental Europe from Asia.
The last time I boarded a ferry was four months ago crossing a rough Atlantic from Morocco to Spain.
The last time I packed my bag was last night.
I set foot on jagged peaks of waist-deep snow and traversed vast glaciers under a pitiless gaze of a full moon. I was about to learn, waking up in strangeness of a dream the morning after, I never really left.
For what else is it, that we seek in comfort?
It has been said that when night comes, we face the hardest truth and what remains of hope dies with the light. Life as we know it has come to a halt. The world is standing still as it grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 200 countries are struggling to wrestle an invisible enemy. The virus hangs like a heavy mist, from Paris to Panama and Wuhan to Wisconsin. It walks on narrow stony paths and wide paved streets slipping through border crossings and ports all over the globe. It has paralyzed the economy; millions of jobs were lost, lives perished. It whispered words of fear and exacerbated deepening anxieties while shifting the balance and the quotidian.
Confinement. Lockdown. Isolation. Social distancing. New realities. The rituals of life are changing.
So is the landscape of travel and tourism. To many travel bloggers, writers, photographers and influencers who rely mostly on travel for income and while others see it as a whole life philosophy, many are caught in a challenging circumstances.
With flight and hotel cancellations, and countries shutting down their borders while others are imposing strict travel restrictions, the traveling community, myself included feel that the sense of freedom and being able to roam around the globe has become a fleeting dream, much like a mirage in the Sahara. Overnight, a great number of us turned from restless free-spirited beings into tamed creatures of habit engaging in an endless loop of domesticity. Travel in itself became nothing but nostalgia.
To make sense of what’s happening and understand what it means to be a travel blogger in the time of pandemic, I turn to influential travel writers and bloggers all over the globe in hopes that they can lend their insightful views about the current state.
I asked how they go about writing travel stories during the lockdown period and the greatest lesson they’ve learned while in confinement. Here’s what they have to say.
Erick @erikgauger / Notes from the Road
When ornithologists first started studying migration, they noticed that caged birds get particularly restless around migration time; that restlessness is associated on the direction to where they’re supposed to migrate. I am always like a bird in this way, I always want to be going someplace, and when I’m not going someplace, I want to be working on where I’m going later.
My pandemic lockdown began way before everybody else’s, since the backpacking accident in September 2019 (aided by 14 rescuers), and undergone surgery for various ankle fractures. I was largely immobile through December, and my walking wasn’t good enough to get on the road until spring. I used that downtime, increasingly like a caged bird, to dream up a fantastic travel itinerary for 2020, starting in April. It took me a while to comprehend that all of my dreams to get back on the road would be put on hold.
So, while the pandemic initially had me feeling trapped up, I knew that I had to adjust, and even to stay productive with the blog. I am a firm believer in listening to science. My family stayed indoors for about two weeks, but then I started asking: am I allowed to go here? Am I allowed to go there? I soon found that, here in Oregon, most of the places I spend a lot of time over the weekends were actually open. My favorite kayak launches, various wildlife refuges and forest service roads. On Notes from the Road, I have this point of view that I always try to express, which is that travel begins when you step outside your house. I walk 5 miles every day, and so, I consider a walk out of front door to be similar to a road trip or an international trip. If I am out, and free, and observing, I am traveling.
Just a week ago, following state guidelines, I scheduled a four day road trip to the Oregon desert with my son. We will be based in an area I am familiar with, but exploring a new area. The idea of this trip is to say, I can travel and stay within state guidelines, and those trips I dreamed of last year may not happen anytime soon, so start thinking more about more local travel.
As my travel schedule has changed, the pandemic allowed me the time to finish a sketch project and articles I never finished and to focus on some new skills into my photo kit.
The world is changing, and not just because of this pandemic. As travelers, we are really entering a brave new world of climate change, overpopulation and the depletion of the natural world. This pandemic should remind us as travel writers that we need to present in the world – talking about the role of travel, both positive and negative, in impacting this brave new world for the better.
(Erik writes, sketches and photographs for http://notesfromtheroad.com, a distant outpost in the travel blogosphere.)
Alex @lostwpurpose / Lost with a Purpose
Lockdown has actually been a blessing in that regard (I’m pretty unorganized and behind on my content); I finally have the time to go back and share stories that got lost in the chaos of my normal full-time travels.
I’ve learned the importance of slowing down and having a routine! As a full-time traveler, I’m always hopping around from place to place, and when I’m not “traveling” I’m scrambling last minute to catch up on work that I was neglecting in favor of more exciting things. My health usually falls by the wayside in favor of whatever fantastically hot and oily street food is in front of me at the moment, and I’m bad about staying in touch with people because I’m too busy with my surroundings and staying afloat.
Lockdown has been a chance to slow down, take better care of myself, and better connect with people I’ve been largely out of touch with for a while… my family included! My body feels much better now that it’s not living off of cheap carbs and dealing with diarrhea every other day, and my mind is much clearer. I know lockdown is stressful for most of us (me, too, in many ways – seeing and doing the same exact thing for months without a light at the end of the tunnel is taking its toll) but I’m also thinking I should probably allow myself a lockdown every once in a while after this!
I can’t wait to go somewhere new, even if it’s just across the country, sit outside, and simply enjoy a leisurely sunny afternoon without worrying about getting fined for it. Something new. Anything new and exciting. I crave stimulation—probably why I’m addicted to travel.
(Alex is a twenty-something backpacking lass enjoying a voyage around the world on truly offbeat destinations, alternating between swashbuckling skullduggery and gallant gallivanting depending on the alignment of the stars.…or so she like to think. Half Filipino, half English and living in the United States. She shares experiences https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/)
Stef and Seb @nomadicboys / Nomadic Boys
We are using this opportunity to go back through all our content and do some very important updates that we have been craving to do for years but simply didn’t have time for. We are also careful about publishing any COVID19 related content because we’ve read in several places that Google is penalizing articles that mention it as part of its initiative to avoid spreading misinformation.
We’ve learnt that we love cooking more than we thought and Seby’s rediscovered his love for the guitar and I got him a brand new acoustic guitar as a present (his birthday 05/21/2020). Our home is filled with music again which is so nice! Otherwise it has taught us to love and appreciate the simple things we have around us more, particularly the environment!
The main thing we’re looking forward to is being able to travel again, but we’re more than happy to wait until it’s safe to do so. First we want to visit our families – me in London and Seby in France. We’ve not seen them since early February as we’ve been in lockdown here in Cyprus since.
Stefan and Sebastien are a Greek/French couple from London who have been travelling the world together since 2009. https://nomadicboys.com is where they publish their firsthand account of their travels aiming to inspire LGBTQ travelers to have a safe and fun trip.
Tim @beyondtheduero / Beyond the Duero
I know the current crisis has disrupted a lot of lives in a big way, though mine in truth has really continued much as it was. Continual travel is not a huge part of the work I do, and so the restrictions haven’t affected me too much. I have half a lifetime of experiences and tens of thousands of photographs as material. I just work harder to make an impact on the internet, and hopefully, eventually, beyond that in the real world.
For me thousands of words can gush from a five minute meeting with someone, a view glimpsed on the way to an airport, or something someone said, all maybe decades ago, because I like to look at the nuances of people’s behavior and their situations.
I’ve just written a post about an English eccentric I used to see on my way to school nearly fifty years ago. We never forget things, less so the fine nuances, they are what make our memories, they’re powerful things. The memory of this person is as clear today as it was then. If I was to advise travel bloggers out there how they might cope with being confined in their houses, I would say it’s a great moment to get in touch with their memories and infuse them with lashings of imagination, and see what words come out of it.
I think, in the future I will continue to travel less, more selectively, with a heightened sensitivity, and therefore hope to write with greater depth. That might be the responsible thing to do in the future, since I don’t forget that our freedom and ability to travel has been effective in spreading the virus. I miss having a beer with Sooty, my dog, at midday though!
(Tim was a designer in London before deciding to be both a writer and photographer in Extremadura, Spain. Why not? Mrs Hughes had told him his school essays were great, she liked the dialogue, and his boss was pleasantly surprised when he returned from a building survey with creative photography. Tim writes not only stand alone creative non-fiction but also experimental multi-media documentaries with words and images. He shares writings and images on https://beyondtheduero.com/, where you’ll also find experiences from London, Doha, and Mumbai, where he’s previously lived.)
By every measure and every level, the pandemic has affected the many lives of the entire traveling community including my own. With so many uncertainties looming ahead and while the world resets itself, it made me reflect more on the present. To slow down, pause and stay in the ‘now’. Even my suitcase is having an idle moment too, only to be interrupted by the accumulation of dust and the occasional army of ants that have taken a like to snack on the dried chewing gum left from the last trip.
I can still travel, albeit a little encouragement from my overactive imagination and a pile of books that have been nagging me since I last fluttered away from home. I felt reassured that there is an aspect of my life that the virus left untouched. The pandemic is going to fade slowly with lingering after effects but the desire to travel will never go away as each one of us revisit old favorites, cover off-beaten paths and forge new grounds.
So dear world, I hope you are listening. I’m coming for you.