For many avid travellers, May 17th marks the beginning of freedom, the first steps taken along a roadmap towards the normality of pre-COVID life.
Before the pandemic, travelling abroad was something exciting with holidays coming in different shapes, sizes, cultures and climates. Perhaps you preferred a tranquil holiday on a beach, perhaps you were an adventurous solo traveller or maybe you were fond of exploring an entire city at the weekend. I am already discussing holiday plans with friends, and I can’t wait to break free from the shackles of lockdown and jump on a plane to any corner of the globe. It is a taste of freedom after a year of confinement, and I imagine freedom tastes like a Piña Colada along the shores of Spain.
When I imagine my future travels abroad, I envisage stepping off a plane into uncharted territory. I imagine a buzz of excitement in the air, ready to explore those lands as of yet left unconquered. However, is this vision of care-free travel just a figment of our imagination? Will we be able to relax when travelling abroad, or is the harsh reality a prevailing sense of anxiety and social distancing. The bitter truth is that travelling abroad may not be as care-free as before. As I contemplate the future of travel, I feel an ominous cloud infecting my romanticised dreams of adventure. We may need to re-envisage what travelling may look like in a post-COVID age and whether catching planes will actually trigger our fight or flight response.
The pandemic has already brought about many changes to our lifestyle, forced us to collectively adapt to the new normal—weekly Zoom calls, a growing TikTok addiction, and a newfound love for banana bread. I struggled to adapt to this new lifestyle at first, and I constantly reminisced of the fun times at university. Going from a crazy university lifestyle to living with my family again was a huge shock to the system. However, I adjusted to the new normal and even had some enjoyable moments: making quizzes with friends, rediscovering my love for cooking, challenging myself with exercise and reconnecting with those I had grown distant from. It was certainly a bittersweet period of my life.
The easing of lockdown rules means adapting to a new normal once again. We are venturing into the unknown once more, swapping self-isolation for a heartfelt conversation with strangers. The idea of being sat on a crowded plane is a daunting thought for some. The anxieties surrounding post-COVID life is shared by many, as a recent UK survey by the Office for National statistics found almost half of the population have reported high levels of anxiety about life after lockdown. It raises the question: will we feel anxious about travel once the pandemic has subsided? Hand sanitiser and masks will certainly be the focus of our holiday essentials. Will the prospect of catching the virus always be in the back of our minds? There is a degree of ambiguity about travelling abroad and it can be scary to jump into the unknown. If we have learned one thing from this past year, it is that we are able to adapt to new and scary situations, demonstrating a profound ability to persevere through hardship.