COVID-19 Travel Anticipation (+Tips for coping)

by Yaska Sahara

It’s already mid-January but Happy new year all! I’m here to talk about something that’s all on our minds coming into the new year!

Travel is a strange topic at the moment, being very much off the table for a while. Even if we travel, its often out of necessity or to see family but still remained cooped up. We’re more cautious too, after travel of the summer of 2020 showing many of us acted too fast and caused numerous problems. There has been a lot of blatant disregard for the pandemic. As a travel lover, how on earth does one navigate these mixed signals and feelings? Plans for the summer of 2021 hoping the vaccine will be well-distributed by then? More abstract plans that can be executed whenever? Try to predict the possible coming travel boom and travel just before or after? Set your sights closer to home and drive nearby? Staycation? What on earth can soothe pains and feed your addiction?

This is one of a few planned blog posts on my lifestyle during the pandemic. As much I want to share more about food, or about organisation and other practical experiences and tips, I can’t help but feel that millions of similar things exist and that it would be a waste of time. (Also I’m graduating soon so I’m very swamped). I do plan to perhaps try to simply conquer this fear and put it out there. But for now, this is something I truly feel I can write about to provoke thought. 

This is such a painful post to write seeing as we’re almost a year in and everything is still so confusing and up in the air right now. With 2021 here, so many of us are calling it a fresh start. I understand that most of us humans plan our lives around the Gregorian calendar and its yearly cycle holds significance for us. But even if we are done with 2020, 2020 is not done with us, its events still have a tight grasp on our ‘normal’ lives. So I don’t want to hold onto false hopes. 

I would say I have some hopes for the second half of 2021 allowing us to travel. However, we can’t all just assume that as soon as we get vaccinated ourselves we can go? What about other countries you want to travel to? What about those insanely flooded tourist attractions?

Some nations say they will subsidise trips but that is only one good thing among many difficult things. For example, the future of COVID-19 on flights. One interesting video by The Economist discusses sky traffic not going back to normal until 2024 with the insane impacts of this virus on airlines and revenues. The idea that areas that have low competition in the flight industry will force some consumers to pay even more exorbitant prices is extremely disheartening. ‘Budget travel’ may not be what we knew. All this in mind, how do we approach the subject on an individual, emotional level?

For a while, I found myself unable to even think about travel lest it be too painful. Why would I want to focus on what I’m missing out on? That seems insane and would only make this hard year harder. I succeeded for a while. Then my month-long language school experience in Seoul was cancelled and I got sad again. Then, as expected, it was painful, so I blocked travel out again. 

Now, we see some glimmers of hope are coming into the light, maybe at least after our bleak winter. So, I’m allowing myself to dream, but only a little, and in a very different manner to before. I’m going to speak about this and how to find the balance between indulging in ideas of travel but not letting yourself get too disheartened about what you’re missing out on and getting distracted by fantasy. I don’t really have the true answer, but I think I’m getting there. In no particular order of importance, here they are: 

  1. Flexibility – dream both big and small
    – This is so much easier said than done if you’re working, need to attend lessons or have family commitments but nonetheless, it is important. Don’t pin your hopes on dates from governments and travel organisations because as we’ve learnt the hard way, they too don’t know what the hell is going to happen. Try and plan a trip, look for places to stay and things you might want to do and save and plan with that goal in mind. But for now, don’t plan it for a specific time of year, don’t get too wrapped up in the particulars.

    Flexibility is not only in regard to time, but type of travel. You may have to settle for a closer destination, that beautiful, intercontinental trip may still have to wait a few years. In fact, it may be better not think of it as settling, but more as starting small and being safe and considerate in the wake of a global health crisis. You can juggle both long-term and short-term planning simultaneously and it can really motivate you to work towards travel goals! Plan that local city walk and research for your big trip a few years away!

    Allow your dreams to be malleable. Maybe it will do you good to simply see a city near you that you’ve never checked out. Or the tourist attractions you’ve neglected in your own home city or town. Speaking of starting small…
  1. Visiting people you know or recurring destinations
    – This one is interesting and it is hard advice for me to internalise myself. I think as much as we want to jet off on that totally new adventure, it might be smart to have your next holiday in a place you already know and/or somewhere where you know a local. This is very important for a few reasons. One is that seeing someone you know is a non-destination-related but still a travel goal. You get a much-needed change of surroundings but you don’t get saddened if you can’t go and see a particular attraction, or at least not as much. Instead, you get human connection, something also much needed after recent events.

    Secondly, things are unpredictable, going somewhere you already know and/or having a local connection will make life a lot less stressful. And I imagine post-pandemic travel will be more stressful than normal. Also, if god forbid, the corona situation was worsened during your travel, you’d be more equipped to deal with it. Going back to the last point, if you don’t know people in other countries, that’s fine too. Even your friend who lives in a totally different part of your city or country is a good option!
  1. A goal where travel is not primary
    – For me, the best example of this is language. But it could be anything, flower arranging, cooking (see my travel through taste post), dance or whatever. I’ve recently come to have a great desire to learn Mandarin, thinking no time like the present to conquer one of my greatest language challenges yet. As you will read in my next blog post about this very subject, I’m already starting the language, be it through podcasts, lessons or through movies, I’m getting gradually closer and closer to the goal. Like in point 1, I plan to go to China when possible and looking up a bit, but nothing too extreme. For now, I’m trying to learn about language, history and culture and it helps scratch my itch because I’m travelling in another sense of the word. Going to China will be a stepping stone in the process, a big one, but still. The work I will have done will only enhance my eventual trip and make it that much more rewarding! I will be able to apply my knowledge. I’m not purely focusing on the travel rush.

  2. Take care with the type of media you consume
    – Firstly, I must emphasise this depends on you, not only as a person but just how you’re feeling on any given day. Try to stay in tune with yourself in this regard. Its like how sometimes you want to see the news because you’re curious, but other times you know it’s just going to bum you out.

    I’ve noticed watching travel vlogs is often painful for me, especially if it’s very specific, like one café or unique museum in a far-off city, or for a place I was supposed to go to this year. I plan to only watch those once more of these destinations feel more tangible. However, because of the last point, I do occasionally indulge in China travel vlogs, to see the culture and the language I’m learning, instead of just the place. As also mentioned in my last point, when the vlog involves something else that you’re interested in, or when it involves learning about the place, skill, art or its history and its people, it’s far more interesting and less painful to watch! Maybe for you it’s different, perhaps watching loads of travel vlogs on one destination is okay, but not for multiple.

    I also enjoy watching fictional tv shows, films or reading books with worldly settings. You experience different parts of the world but once again, the focus is the characters and their story, not how you’re missing out on this particular experience in a foreign land due to a global health crisis.

  3. Consider Mental Health and Sensory Overload
    – This is a big reason why starting small is important. Life has changed so much recently that some of us who used to go the gym, work, the supermarket and to meet a friend all in a regular day, are now physically and/or mentally exhausted after their daily local walk of half an hour. As much as we think we are ready or want to be ready for the adventurous, active travel life, it is so important to consider how much your brain is going to reel at the change, at the sight of large crowds and gatherings, at the prospect of multiple destinations in a day. Make sure to be mindful!

I hope these things help you and let me know if you have any ideas and coping mechanisms!

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Yasmin NP January 17, 2021 - 4:18 pm

This is some great advice and very eloquently put!

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