The last few weeks have been wild, haven’t they? I must admit, when I first heard about Coronavirus in Wuhan I selfishly and naively thought it wasn’t something that would ever affect us here in the UK.
Just days later and it became a very different story.
In March I travelled to Slovenia, and whilst they didn’t have any positive cases of COVID-19 in their country at the time, it’s just hours away from Italy where they had a fast growing number of cases.
I didn’t feel too worried about travelling on that trip, and our airport experiences absolutely didn’t feel any different. In hindsight, I wish they had done. Maybe then this virus would have been far more under control.
But then we arrived home, a week or two passed, and it suddenly unfolded into a global pandemic.
We’ve now been at home solidly since Monday 23 March, only venturing out for outdoor exercise and shopping for essentials.
Birthday celebrations for four family members and three friends have had to be abandoned so far.
It could be a year – or more – until I get to see my grandparents again. This lockdown is hitting the older generation harder than most.
We’ve had our weekend break to Pisa in April, and our two week adventure to Singapore and the Philippines cancelled. We should have been flying out on that trip tomorrow morning.
Work was different for a while and is now completely paused until further notice. I can’t see it returning to normal for some time – if ever.
And aside from that, I find myself constantly checking my phone for those dreaded breaking news headlines.
There’s been a lot going through my mind over the past nine weeks – let’s be honest, I’ve had the time to think! – but since all of this has happened I keep coming back to one thing in particular. And that’s how up until now, I’ve really been taking travel for granted.
I’ve been so fortunate to visit 31 countries in my life so far. I started travelling in baby grows, then travelled as a child, then travelled as a teenager, and then began travelling as a couple with Darryl from the age of 17. Together, we’ve taken 28 trips since.
And now for the first time ever, I can’t travel. And it’s crazy how much it bothers me. Clearly I’m way more dependent on it than I realised.
The other day I heard a noise that reminded me of the airport tannoy, and I realised how much I missed those pre-flight hours in the departure lounge, sipping strong coffee and browsing shops to pass the time until your gate pops up on the board.
Everytime I make a meal here at home, I remember the syrup-drenched pancake stacks we ate in New York City, the spicy kottu we ate in Sri Lanka and the distinct lack of food we ate in Iceland to try and save money.
Having no connection with anyone makes me miss the people you encounter on your travels – whether it’s the quirky guy next to you on the flight or a legendary tour guide who makes the trip.
And all of these things, plus so much more, were all just expected. Just another part of another trip.
It’s absolutely fine to be sad about a cancelled trip or two, but of course this obviously doesn’t remotely matter when people are continuously fighting the virus, losing lives to the virus, mourning the loss of loved ones, being quarantined for weeks on end, losing jobs, and working on the front line to save lives. I could go on.
As lovely as it is, sadly no amount of doorstep clapping on a Thursday night or sharing social media posts of “thanks” will be enough to really recognise what people are doing around the world to save our population.
Ultimately, whether you contract the virus or not, this really is just a very strange, very unsettling time for everyone. Globally. There’s not one person that it hasn’t affected in some way.
So for now, all we can do is stay home, stay positive, be kind to each other, and make grand travel plans for when we can leave our homes again.
I think it will be a while until travel resumes, and even when we can hop back on a plane, it won’t be the same. I don’t yet know how it’ll be different – I just know it will be.
Staying put for up to a year is a tough thought. But won’t that first flight feel exhilarating? And won’t that first morning of the trip where you wake up early to explore be well worth the wait?
I can’t wait to travel when it’s safe to do so – and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I will never take that freedom for granted again.