What to do when you're a traveler and the world hits pause
Furlough. Unprecedented. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Words right there that I hope at some point in the near distant future become a simple memory. For many of us, our entire lives are on pause; no more so than those of us with a desire to travel. Whether that be for work, or pleasure (or both if you're like me; a fully fledged dolly with a passion to explore), for those of us with itchy feet, this situation can be the most claustrophobic, and anxiety-inducing experience.
So! You've baked enough banana bread to feed Africa, you've become the next Mo Farah in taking to one 5k run every day (because your entire friends list has nominated you for THAT challenge for some reason), and you're a TikTok superstar... (T-Shirt challenge anyone?). Then comes the more obscure, the random down a pint challenge that seemingly didn't benefit anyone, the Zoom house parties, and virtual pub crawls. You're sat wondering what the difference between 'stay home' and 'stay alert' actually is, and are counting down the days until the pubs are re-opened.
Except for those travelers among us. There's one burning question that dominates every day. 'When am I going to be able to travel again?'
I've found it very difficult to accept it when people say to me things like 'try to be positive', 'we're all in the same boat', and 'use this time for some personal development'. I believe that whilst we are all in the same storm, we are all in very different boats. For some people, they are battling keeping their family safe, tackling home-schooling, working from home, and that must present many challenges in its own right. For me, my boat resembles more of a dingy than a cruise-liner. Some days, it feels like my dingy is in the middle of the Atlantic, trapped in a storm, with nothing other than one oar to try and paddle away from this storm with. And whilst some days, I can manage the 'be positive' bit, and I can meditate, do yoga, cook from fresh, go for a run, read a book, do a tiktok, plan my future and god knows what else you can fill a day with, some days that just doesn't happen. The overriding fear of when I can return to my life, see my family and friends again (living on your own is very difficult during this time, so please if this is you, reach out!), and thoughts of what the future holds for me consuming my entire day.
There's no doubt that the world post COVID-19 is going to look very different. And that concept for many people is very scary. For me included! I work in travel and aviation, arguably one of the hardest hit sectors from this pandemic. I wake up every day with questions such as 'when will I return to work?', 'Will there be a place for me in the travel industry now?', 'Will customers trust us with their safety?', 'When will I be able to go on holiday with my family again?'.
But one thing that has helped me is the mindset that different doesn't necessarily mean bad. Yes, for sure there is going to be increased safety, sanitation, and security processes onboard and in airports. We look to the WHO, CAA, EASA and other governing bodies to define these, but they WILL ensure passenger and crew safety above all. That cannot be a bad reminder for the industry, that ultimately, ensuring onboard safety is the crucial element of what we do.
But more importantly, this huge change I hope will just bring increased kindness, and humanity to the public. I understand we are living in fear. Everybody is experiencing a different kind of fear within this situation. But to climb out of this, we need to be brave. We need to trust each other now more than ever before, and show kindness and compassion. These are also the skills that define those of us that are crew. Kindness, compassion, and humanity define us and are what we are hired for. I know that we will be the people that step up, live our values, and be looked toward for inspiration, strength and confidence when increasing post COVID-19 travel frequency once more.
My belief is that the desire to travel is deep within us. It's something that is innate, and for that reason, the travel industry will recover, and come back bigger and better than ever. The world isn't going anywhere, it's still there... waiting for us to explore. To discover. To adventure. That thought and that thought alone drives me forward in the toughest of moments.
But for now, how do you lose that feeling of claustrophobia? That strangling feeling that you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time? For those of us with itchy feet, the whole concept of lockdown is unnatural.... put it this way, I don't think I've had a week off in the last 10 years where I haven't left the country!
I guess that's what led me to finally create this blog. Passport and Pants has been in the making in concept for probably the last 5 years, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. The idea of creating something that represented a little part of me, and my passion has always excited me. For travel, and people are the two things that set my soul on fire. The two things that keep my heart beating. Now more than ever, I feel it will benefit people to explore the world... albeit in a very different and virtual way. But maybe, just maybe, it will encourage people to think about their adventure and outlook on exploration post COVID-19. My key value is that life is for living, and taking every opportunity that is presented to you, so when the world finds this 'new normal', let us never take for granted the freedom to travel again.
I'd like to share with you my top tips for COVID-19 mental survival... from the perspective of a traveler, to other travelers:
1) Don't expect too much of yourself. It's okay to not learn a new language or become Mary Berry. Some days, it's okay to just congratulate yourself for getting out of bed at SOME point. It is a difficult time, and pressures placed upon yourself (when let's face it they're probably placed upon you by external sources) are neither helpful nor necessary. It is also okay to feel sad about trips, events, and occasions cancelled or missed because of COVID-19. It isn't fair, it is tragic, moments of your life have been stolen from you by this cruel virus, and I'm sorry that it has happened to you. I can only hope that you've managed to reschedule for a much brighter time in our lives.
2) However in saying that, try as hard as you can to establish some form of a routine. Set alarms if you can to wake up, and plan the day the night before. That might even be as simple as '8am, wake up and make coffee', but at least in planning and achieving this, you've kick-started your day in a positive way. Maybe try to get some fresh air early on in the day (run, walk or cycle), just so you see some life and get moving!
3) It's a really good opportunity to try something creative if that appeals to you! I chose blogging. I have friends who have taken up baking, crocheting, languages, drawing, tik-tok'ing... it doesn't have to be what everyone else is doing, or something you turn into a life-long career! But just try something!
4) Limit your time reading the news and media. This is a big one. The news is full of contradictory opinions, and debate. With facts and figures, speculation and rumours being thrown around left right and centre. It can also become incredibly depressing hearing the same headline figures over and over again, a kind of feeling like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. But I'm here to tell you there is. This WILL pass. Things WILL get better. The Scientists WILL understand this cruel disease. As a society we can get through this. Pick one reputable news worthy source, tune in once in the morning, and once at night. This will keep you in the loop, but not overwhelmed.
5) Use social media to connect with those around you, and maybe even 'meet' some people you don't know really well yet! Zoom, Houseparty, Whatsapp, Facetime and Tik Tok Duets, have become my saving grace, and I've probably spoken to more of my friends now than I did prior to lockdown. But I've also connected with lots of new people during this time; people that I'm really grateful to for cheering me up, making me smile, providing hope in the dullest of moment. A good chunk of these people work in aviation, and as a type we have that quality that makes us all look out for each other, and through this true connections have been made!
6) Look to the future. I'm not asking you to completely overhaul your life with a full in depth 10 year plan. Just start to consider life post lockdown. Why not start planning that trip of a lifetime? Think about who you're going to see, and where you're going to visit as soon as you can! As humans, we need hope.... so don't forget to give yourself some right now.
Lockdown life is difficult. Believe me I know. But I know that better days are coming, and together we honestly can get through this terrible time. When we do, let us promise to never take anything for granted. From a hug with your mum, to hopping on a 12 hour flight. Let's vow to make the most of every moment.