It has been nearly nine months of staying indoors. Now that the year is about to end and a lot of countries are going through lockdown 2.0, here I am, sitting and thinking of last December when I was super excited to kick start 2020 in Vietnam. Little did I know then, how this year would turn out to be!
I traveled to 5 countries in 2019, and I planned to explore more this year – but sometimes, life doesn’t happen as per our plans.
Since the end of March, the world has 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. All of sudden, we were forced to stay within the four walls of our respective homes, igniting a fear psychosis that got fueled with time.
Travel scenes in 2020.
I’m sure we’re all going to remember this year for more reasons than one! The pandemic has taught me some important lessons of life, including the fact that travel is an essential human activity. I was in Saigon, welcoming 2020 with a bunch of strangers, cheering at the top of my voice while firecrackers lit up the sky at midnight. Coronavirus had already started spreading in China by then, and we had no clue of it, even though we were sitting in a neighboring country!
Returning back home, I wrote several blogs documenting my journey and I was keen to return back to Vietnam & explore more this year. I also started reading about the Vietnam War (which they call the American War) as I was moved by their strategies of defeating the Americans at Cu Chi Tunnels.
February turned out to be the best month of 2020, when luck favored me in all possible ways – and I spotted the ghost cats (read: snow leopards) in Spiti Valley, India. It was a week’s journey through the snow-laden roads of Himachal Pradesh, where we had one of the rarest sightings – a mother with three cubs, cozily sitting on a cliff. A friend of mine mentioned that ‘only 1% of the world’s population gets to spot the snow leopards amidst wilderness, and we were amongst that 1%’. It felt surreal.
Sitting at the homestay in Kibber, my friend often used to scroll through his newsfeed and updated us about the coronavirus status every now and then. By that time, China was pretty much affected and the West witnessed a gradual increase in the number of cases. Honestly, I took things quite lightly.
Carrying on with work, I documented my experiences of the snow leopard expedition, and soon, I had an opportunity to travel to Bir.
It was around the second week of March, when I took a trip back to Himachal, to stay at Karyashaala, a home for digital nomads who were seeking a space to work with all amenities and also enjoy a life ‘out of the box’. Walking around the streets of Bir, I noticed that cafes were getting shut one after another, the monasteries were closed and then, paragliding also stopped. The final blow was when I got to know that all interstate bus services were to be ceased, and I hurriedly planned my return back home.
That was it. Within a week’s time, the lockdown was announced and even before I could process anything, the world came to a standstill.
Canceled travel plans in 2020.
Twenty-nine years of my life and I’ve never really known what a ‘pandemic’ looks like! Quite obviously, I held on to my hopeful self, thinking that things would get back to normal in a couple of months, if not less! But reality hit me hard, as the lockdown kept on extending, until a point when I had to cancel my travel plans one after another.
My ‘2020 Resolutions’ began with visiting at least 5 countries this year as well & Bangladesh was on top of my priority list. A friend who works in Dhaka kept tempting me about all the places that he promised to show me if I visited him. I also thought of digging down to my roots and explore the places where my grandmother came from. I’ve heard stories about distant relatives who still live there, from my aunt – and even though I knew they wouldn’t identify me, I wished to meet them for once.
In May, I was supposed to travel to Sri Lanka with a bunch of friends, and we had our flights booked since January! Our itinerary was fixed and all plans were set, but we ended up cribbing over video calls.
Turkey has been on my mind since forever. I thought of traveling there in June, and then visit a friend in London, spending summer by the Thames and driving down the country roads! As I managed home chores and struggled to find something new to do during the quarantine, I spent half my days daydreaming of all the places I could travel to, all the food I could have tasted, and all the conversations I could have had with people I never met!
In 2019, I had a chance to volunteer at a childcare center in Kenya and it turned out to be one of the most heartwarming experiences of my life. This year, I thought of volunteering for an animal conservation program in South Africa, sometime around September.
As the coronavirus cases kept soaring, chances of traveling abroad looked bleak – and it was already 6 months at home! By then, I had started feeling an itch to break free and just go somewhere. Anywhere!
Domestic traveling had already begun in India by then (with several protocols, of course!) and I planned to go to Uttarakhand, to stay at a friend’s homestay. A couple of other friends also agreed to join in. Finally, in October, after 7 months of isolation and depression, anxieties and thoughts encircling ‘will I be able to travel again?’ – I took my first post-pandemic trip to Nathuakhan, a picturesque village cradled in the lap of the Himalayas.
Waking up to see the snow-clad Nanda Devi range, going for random hikes through forest trails, spending hours playing board games, and binging on delicious homemade food with a bunch of friends literally wiped off my pandemic woes. After posting endless #throwback photos on Instagram, I finally had something new to share.
A month in the mountains passed by the wink of an eye! Even before I could realise, it was time to head back to the city and embrace the ‘new normal’, with masks and sanitizers being the most important parts of our lives. But as the world is slowly healing, there are chances of traveling responsibly with adequate precautions.
Travel & Blogging In The Times Of Coronavirus!
The travel & hospitality industry saw its rock bottom, during the pandemic. Small businesses like guesthouses and restaurants that relied on tourism ran out of money and many had to close down. The airlines and cruise ship companies laid off their workforce as the unemployment rate skyrocketed as the tourism industry crashed onto itself like a dying star.
For the first month, travel bloggers and content creators (myself included) had considerable work, as we got time to catch up with the pending stuff. I was juggling between writing blogs and creating itineraries for a leading travel brand. But slowly, things slowed down and the focus shifted to non-travel content, including inspiration articles, listicles about travel shows, changing travel trends in the post-pandemic times, so on and so forth.
I realized that even though people wouldn’t travel anytime in the near future, many were still dreaming about exploring places after this all blows over, and I focused on doubling down on producing such content that will allow readers to escape from the brutal reality and be teleported somewhere, without being bombarded with the negative news of the world.
As the months passed by, experiential blogging almost came to a pause and major travel companies started working on their website content, emphasizing on creating virtual travel experiences. This also gave me a chance to nurture my creativity and learn how to use photoshop & lightroom, making newsletters, etc.
Travel bloggers and influencers have already started exploring and documenting their journeys, but what the future holds is uncertain especially after such a world-changing event like a pandemic. It is hard to say if and when people will start to travel again and if they do, how much the coronavirus will change the way we travel.