Since the end of March, India and the world have been locked down tight in the wake of the pandemic, putting travel plans at a halt for many, as well as impeding us all from leading normal lives and indulging in regular day-to-day activities outside our homes.
For the content creators of the world, this has come as a blessing and curse. By being able to give more time to the job at hand, some have blossomed online in the various social media fields of art, beauty and comedy etc.
However, things haven’t been all that easy for those who generate their income from travelling around the world. Travel bloggers have been hit hard – most accounts have been stuck posting #throwback photos to remain relevant and keep interest in their accounts rooted.
In this piece, a few travel bloggers from different part of the world share their stories about why they travel and what lessons they’ve learnt from 2020.
Vasudha, 22, India
To be honest, the general curiosity of different places and people, their way of living and culture intrigues me. The ability to see it with my own eyes is what inspires me the most to travel. In terms of places, for instance, if I am in a city, I would prefer to see the local or non-tourist hotspots because there I can really experience what the city and the people are all about. I usually travel twice or thrice a year.
The length of the trip depends on the place, but it mostly lasts two to four weeks. I work part-time and save most of the money that I earn (or receive from my parents) to travel.
COVID-19 has brought great difficulties this year because I am currently in Belgium and I was supposed to go back to Melbourne (where I am getting my degree) in July. However, I had to extend my stay here until the international borders opened in Australia or I can find a flight back to Mozambique (where my family is settled).
My perception of travelling has been changed greatly because now I would have to evaluate whether a trip abroad is really worth the risk. With increasing regulations of COVID-19 health check it would be difficult to make a decision of travelling to another country in the near future for everyone, I believe.
Considering the fact that I am currently in Europe and movement around countries has been allowed, I am still able to travel a bit and visit new places. Due to this global pandemic, t’s best to stay vigilant about going to new places and have some sort of safety measures in case things don’t go as planned. This could be as simple as having insurance in case of an emergency.
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Tarique, 24, India
I’m usually drawn to landscapes and scenery of a place but the hindrance in that usually appears at the fact that I absolutely enjoy taking photographs of buildings. That primarily stems from being an architect, I suppose. My preference for a travel destination is usually torn between a scenic rural scape or an old intricately built town with vernacular buildings.
Let’s not rule out the urban areas since that’s where you meet the most interesting people while travelling. My travel would usually stem from when I needed a break from a routine – an impromptu weekend escape or if I was moving around for personal work or catching up with friends or family. My biggest travel adventure (stay-cation) happened when I went for an internship in Paris for six months (honestly, it felt short). I would usually manage to take weekend trips to various cities around the neighbouring countries.
I had to cancel a major annual trip of 21 days, 14 hours before the departure. I had been saving up for close to eight months and yes, you can never foresee how long a pandemic’s going to last and when things would get back to normal, all you can do is adjust to the new pace of life and accept what’s going on, stay in and stay safe. The challenge, however, is to still keep that camera shutter running in these times, which is currently being satiated by every day’s sunset and the changing weather.
I wouldn’t say my perception of travel has greatly been affected by the outbreak. I enjoy getting lost in the Google Maps’ satellite view and go across interesting places that I hope of someday seeing in person. Living indoors in an urban environment and not having the chance to be one with nature once in a while can start getting frustrating, so, for now, I am very much relying on my inventory of photographs from 2017-2019. They were put aside due to new travels, but it’s been great going back and visiting these old memories and reworking and sharing them.
Jessica, 22, Egypt
I’m a pretty adventurous person and I love taking pictures, so I love exploring new places, eating new food, learning different cultures and languages. I don’t have a particular type of place I usually visit so I don’t mind if it’s in the city or a tropical place where I can hang out by the beach. I enjoy everything and try to make the most out of everything. In Egypt, I travel pretty frequently. Abroad, I usually travel yearly and mostly in summer because I had university or school. I’m privileged enough to be in a position where my parents still pay for my travel expenses.
I was planning on going to Italy to study fashion this September and everything got cancelled. I wasn’t able to travel anywhere beyond Egypt this year. Since the outbreak, my parents have been pretty strict as I still live with them, so they don’t always let me travel alone, even within Egypt, so I have been incredibly restricted. Other than that, I don’t think things have been too different. Some countries have the pandemic worse than others so I’m thankful I was at least able to travel to the North Coast and Ain El Sokhna this year. Everything is a lot more expensive though, since the hotels were closed during the lockdown.
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Youssef, 21, Egypt
My main inspiration to travel is to see the world, explore new cultures, try new food, meet new people and just get out of the bubble that is my comfort zone. I don’t necessarily have a typical place to visit – I can go to the desert, the jungle, the city or anywhere else I can find a cheap flight to. I’m mainly attracted to places that I’ve seen pictures or videos online of before and places that are just beautiful that everyone needs to visit before they die.
Normally, I’d take a few trips per year, but I recently spent a semester in Berlin and there I travelled to around nine countries and 20 cities. I could spend anywhere between a day or a week at a place, depending on the trip. I’m very fortunate to have supportive parents that always help me out but most of the travelling I’ve done in the last year or so has been through making my own money that I’ve earned working and freelancing.
Also, I should note that travelling is not as expensive as people think it is. I was able to fly from Berlin to Milan for €5, took a train from Milan to Venice for €15 and a flight from Venice back to Berlin for €10. You just need to be flexible, know how the travel industry works and be really frugal with your money. I would stay in hostels with 6-15 other people in the room because it’s a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel or renting an Airbnb alone. It’s just a matter of priority and how you manage your money.
Staying at home made me appreciate the world we live in and just the beauty of life in general. The ability to see new places, eating different food, meeting people and everything else was put on hold and that really changed my thought process.
Travelling is very external but because of COVID-19, it made me go internal. I couldn’t leave the house so I would spend time travelling through the pictures and videos I took and really cementing what I felt on those trips inside of me. I remember the first few weeks of quarantine I had the most ridiculous and extravagant dreams and one of my friends told me that it was because my brain is so used to being out in the open and now that it’s stuck, it was craving that externality so it was doing everything it can to be free again. Not sure how accurate that is but it felt true to me.
Also read: Meeting Dad: The Traveller
Travelling as an Egyptian, in general, is very different because of all the visas I need to get to be able to travel and the possibility of getting rejected. But during the pandemic, I think we’re all in the same boat. Stuck at home and craving to see the world. I haven’t travelled abroad during the pandemic but I did go to the North Coast in Egypt for a bit and it was slightly different because of all the precautionary measures: wear a mask here, sanitize your hands there, etc. I like the new lifestyle though, people are cleaner and there’s some personal space.
Malak, 21, Egypt
Travelling teaches me a lot about life. It puts me in so many difficult and challenging situations that force me to learn from that experience. It makes me more independent and responsible, and it shows me another side of the world, which I’m grateful for. Travelling makes me feel alive, exploring new countries and meeting new people and learning different languages makes my heart full, it makes me grow as a person and it makes me see things with a different perspective. I don’t have a favourite country or city. For me, I want to see the whole world, each and every corner. I want to see the cities, the islands, I want to see it all. But what pulls me more towards a place is the culture and its people.
I typically travel 2-3 times a year, and the trip itself depends on where I’m going and what I’ll be doing there. Usually, all trips are for about two weeks. For now, I have help from my dad to afford my trips and on the side, I have started my own business in order to be able to afford my trips as well and sometimes I freelance as well. I think every blogger has been affected by what is happening now because all our feed and posts are about travelling.
Since the pandemic, I have tried to share new things and do other stuff like short films about travelling, and about previous trips and archival footage. I tried to share new ideas that are related to travelling but in another way. For example, I realised how everyone took a lot of things for granted and how the little things in life matter the most, how we should appreciate travelling more and be grateful. I focused on this idea so much that I created a short film that talked about it and my posts were mainly about reminiscing old times.
I think that my experience was pretty much the same as other bloggers around the world. I just looked at it in a positive way and tried to make the best out of it and send a positive message to the people.
Michelle, 24, Zimbabwe
I work in PR and juggle with capturing my travels and a new travel platform business. I typically visit warm city destinations with friendly locals and amazing food. This is usually due to the things I can do, see and eat. More recently, I have been attracted to beach cities or long haul beach trips so I can relax and enjoy much more. Pre-COVID, I travelled from as little as 4-5 trips a year to more depending on where I am going. I usually do four-day trips in Europe and typically seven days for long haul trips.
While in university, I used my student finance (highly recommended but be wise with spending) but now I work in London in a corporate job so I save up, but that also means the trips get longer, more bourgeois and less frequent as I enjoy the luxurious side of things. I travel mostly with my boyfriend or friends so, that usually helps to minimise costs as well. I also try to be flexible with my flights so I can get the most out of my money and plan my trips for the year in December due to sales.
COVID-19 has meant the holiday blues have heavily kicked in and I haven’t been able to travel as much. However, I have managed to launch a business during the lockdown and really learn to travel in and around the UK. It has also meant I am able to connect with other travel bloggers more, learn new skills and enjoy making at-home content, which really pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. This new venture has been great but I am also ready to travel as soon as possible.
As an African blogger, my experience is always going to be different whether during a pandemic or not. Usually, I have to check how safe it is in terms of race when travelling. The outbreak coupled with the current political climate has made me more anxious as I would hate to be at a disadvantage if I were to get stuck or be involved in an issue whilst flying. So I am more aware that I can’t do as much as I normally would.
Five months into the lockdown many are left wondering what travelling will look like in the age of corona? With relaxed restrictions and continuous precautions, it is uncertain if our travel adventures will ever be the same. By accepting the new normal we are expected to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances. We can only hope that one day, we visit a local street vendor with an eased conscience, cruise through the busy streets of a local hotspot without being confined by a mask and meeting people without fear of the consequences of physical contact.
Nicolas Nhalungo is a student pursuing B.Tech degree. He has traversed all the way from Mozambique in pursuit of better opportunities. He is an aspiring writer and researcher whose interests include mental health, intersectional feminism, pop culture, travel, fashion and sustainability. As someone who grew up privileged, he pushes himself to constantly learn and unlearn by engaging with people of all walks of life.
Featured Image Credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash