Adventure in the Time of Coronavirus: To Travel Hopefully…
This week’s ULU community blog comes from Anthony Peacock. And those of you who have been following along will know that Anthony has been writing about life in the time of coronavirus. Today, Anthony writes about travel and what this might look like in the coming months and years.
To travel hopefully….
For as long as I can remember, I have travelled: even before I went anywhere. As a kid, I used to pore over the British Airways timetable – back in the days when it was printed – and dream of places that sounded unfeasibly exotic at the time.
Those prosaic timetables, printed on what felt like tissue paper, opened up a world of magic and I used to devour them with quasi-religious excitement. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that many years later I ended up in a job where I was actually flying every week: sometimes more than once a week.
But I say ‘was’ flying (in the past tense) as recently I’ve not been flying anywhere. Not since a very short trip to Australia in the middle of March. That’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone for the majority of my life without getting on a plane.
Now, people are beginning to perhaps think about flying again. Until they read the newspaper. There, they are shocked to find out about potential four-hour airport delays, exorbitant fares, and 14-day quarantine periods on return.
For most people, that’s enough to convince them that staying at home – even when legislation no longer requires it – will be a more attractive option. But there’s more than one perspective on every situation. Because in many ways, there’s never going to be a better time to travel.
The whole philosophy behind travel will almost certainly change in the short-term. The days of mass-market, low-cost ‘disposable’ travel is probably gone – at least for now. Instead, people will want to make trips that are more meaningful: not least because they will also need to ‘invest’ in a fortnight of self-isolation once they return.
So there’s no point anymore in having the odd weekend away to a nearby and obvious destination. Instead, if you’re going anywhere at all, the time is right to take longer trips and visit the places you always wanted to go, rather than just where is cheap and convenient.
Travel costs are going to go up though, and the high-density routes will make this most obvious, as the travel industry seeks to recoup the terrifying amount of money it has lost as quickly as possible. But those increases will be far smaller when it comes to the offbeat and less popular routes, as not many people were travelling to them anyway.
All the more reason to seek them out: perhaps venturing into parts of Eastern Europe that you might not have considered before, for example. There are so many surprises to be had, with hoteliers and restaurateurs set to be eternally grateful for your business, once tourism is open again. Even then, there won’t be a huge take-up: these beautiful places will be relatively free of tourist traffic. It’s a rare chance to see them in a natural setting.
But what about money? The coronavirus outbreak has caused some seismic changes to the British economy, and there will inevitably be people who find themselves without a job and with no prospect of immediate re-employment. This has already caused countless people to re-evaluate their careers and priorities. Some will even be forced to change their entire circumstances and acknowledge that their professional lives as they once knew them have come to an end. There’s just no getting around that.
One friend of mine – a freelance writer whose work has all but dried up – described his existence these days as being largely like being a student: days spent asleep and drinking beer, with a bit of daytime TV and reading thrown in. He knows that there’s no real prospect of things going back to the way they were in the immediate future though, so he has an alternative plan.
He’s going to give up his expensive flat in London and is now completing the restoration of his old Volkswagen campervan – similar to the one you see in the photo – which has been an ongoing project over the last couple of years. Only now, he’s actually got the time to do it.
And when everything is good to travel again, he’s going to load it up, take a ferry to France, and see what happens next. Essentially, he’s taking a gap year exploring Europe (although it might turn out to be a longer or shorter period of time) which is something he’s always wanted to do. He’ll do a bit of writing along the way and hopefully earn enough to continue the journey until it’s time to return to the real world.
His logic is impeccable: his conventional career has come to a natural break and there’s nothing to lose at the moment (apart from everyday bills). He could never justify such a trip before, but now – why not?
Hearing about his plans, who can say that they don’t feel at least a small pang of envy? Of course, it’s not as simple as that for most people, tied by families, businesses, schools and other obligations.
But more and more families are actually now planning a ‘semi-sabbatical’ where they go away together and work from somewhere else for a while: especially if they have recently been put on permanent part-time or working from home deals. They’re thinking that it’s now or never, and their destinations (to name but two I’ve heard recently) range from Spain to New Zealand.
So it’s not that travelling will stop completely: it’s more that there will be other, more mindful, permanent, and worthwhile ways to do it in future. Tourism will no longer be about instant gratification. Instead, the ‘trip of a lifetime’ might genuinely become a reality rather than just a tired cliché for the growing number of people who decide to take the plunge and head for pastures new in the coming weeks.
For more of Anthony’s insightful blogs about coronavirus and the modern world, why not check out some of his recent articles?