Like many others, I foolishly thought the coronavirus (COVID-19) would be fleeting, like SARS and viruses before it.
What I envisaged for the next few months was travellers being temperature screened as they passed through customs and asked not to travel if unwell. Otherwise, travel would continue as normal.
So you can imagine my shock, back in March, when the Australian government announced a ban on all Australians travelling overseas. Subsequent domestic border closures were announced.
The final straw, particularly for Melburnians like myself, was moving to Stage 4 lockdown recently, which has included restricted movement each day and staying within a 5km radius of your home.
It has been a rapid descent from public service announcements about washing your hands to not being able to travel at all.
As a frequent and passionate traveller, both domestically and internationally, coming to terms with the COVID-19 travel restrictions has been extremely tough. I have been forced to cancel multiple trips and all future travel plans are put on hold indefinitely.
With travel taken away, I’ve found myself reflecting on trips from the past; looking at photos and savouring the moments and experiences I have been lucky to have. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to explore the world and experience other cultures. I cherish the memories of all my trips – both good and bad.
As someone who was always planning my next adventure, there was never a question of if I would go, it was only ever when I would go. Between calculating how I could stretch my annual leave allowance and looking for opportunities to take as many adventures as possible, I’d find a way to make it work.
I’ve always had an insatiable appetite to explore new places, cultures, cuisines and landscapes, and I’m definitely one of those people who work to travel. Now that I’m faced with a bank of annual leave and a healthy pot of travel savings, I find myself asking: how long will I need to wait to tap into these resources? The answer is anyone’s guess.
In recent years travel has become increasingly accessible and available on-demand like Netflix; book one day and fly the next. Travel, which has long been a rite of passage for Australians, is now in question. The traditional gap year for young school-leavers, such as heading off to explore Europe or taking advantage of the working visa in the UK, is not currently possible. Likewise, the dream holiday for retirees to a far corner of the globe is also not an option, nor is the ‘grey nomad’ adventure of caravanning around Australia.
All of this staying at home and social isolation has made me realise that people are naturally travellers. Escape and adventure – or at least the possibility of it – helps us to get through uncertain times and offers a glimmering goal we can work towards.
Despite the current doom and gloom, I am hopeful there will be opportunities for the travel industry to adapt and reimagine how people experience destinations, not only while restrictions are in place but also as they ease.
I believe that travel will return gradually, perhaps in a slightly different manner to what we once knew, and it will no doubt be socially distanced, at least initially.
As I long to take a trip – any trip, at this point – I am staying positive and using this time of isolation to dream, research and plan for future travel, whatever that may look like. I’m contemplating more domestic escapes as I wait for travel restrictions to ease, and I will definitely take plenty of weekend road trips to regional destinations as soon as it’s possible.
Fellow travellers, I empathise with you. Like you, I can’t wait to pack a suitcase, settle into an airline seat, sip my first in-flight gin and tonic, and picture the exciting adventures that lay ahead.
Hopefully we can all be travelling and exploring sooner rather than later.