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8 things COVID-19 has taught me about travel

Hi there! Welcome back to the R Word Blog!

Today, I decided to write about travel.

Travel has been an integral part of my life since I was a child. Whether it be the excitement of a long drive up the east coast to visit family or a trek into a new campground or getting on a plane I have always been thrilled to have the opportunity to travel.

Growing up I was fortunate enough to be able to travel overseas on a number of trips with my mum to see the world. I was also very fortunate that despite my parents being divorced I was able to spend almost every school holiday going away somewhere either within Australia or outside of it.

Not every kid was lucky enough to have the opportunities I did and I remind myself as often as I can of that fact.

I’ve been to a lot of places.

From Tasmania to the Flinders Ranges I’ve visited almost every state and territory in Australia. I’ve also seen South America, Africa, The Amazon, Paris, London and Easter Island. Just to name a selection.

I‘ve learnt a lot about travelling from these trips. I made a post about with some tips for newcomers on travelling here if that’s something you might be interested in reading:

But today, I wanted to talk about what I’ve learnt about travel in a COVID-19 world.

Since COVID-19 began I’ve made about six treks to Melbourne from Canberra.

These trips varied from a two-day weekend away to a week or so holiday. Having a parent living interstate makes it much easier in terms of booking accommodation!

But there are a few key things I’ve noticed on these trips that I can’t help but wonder if they’ll become permanent changes to our travel practices:

1. Masks

I wanted to kick this off with a relatively obvious one. Masks have become a central part of this virus. They’ve become so central in fact that there is now a business growing off of them selling every style and colour imaginable.

What I’ve picked up on most is the reluctance by some to let them go.

When walking around Canberra I see very few masks. Most people seem to be back to a normal attire. On occasion I might see a person or two wearing a mask on public transport or here and there in a mall but for the most part they going “out of fashion”.

When I visit Melbourne though, this shifts. Masks are every where. In every shop, on every street, on public transport, walking through the city and out to restaurants. Granted - due to a number of lockdowns, tensions are higher in the city and people are used to a more restrictive regime. Still - I find myself surprised by all different designs and the normalcy at wearing masks indoors.

I still find myself rushing around when packing for a trip to Melbourne trying to find my mask.

2. Destination changes

As previously stated, I've made a number of trips to Melbourne since January 2020 to visit my dad and friends who live in the city. But this doesn't mean I've gone every time I planned. Between snap lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions I've found myself making a number of last minute cancellations too. Instead of a trip to the coast, an at home weekend was planned. A weekend away was re-considered and a few weekends to Melbourne were put on the backburner until situations settled.

As it has been for everyone, being unable to visit my family was difficult and a minefield to manage planning trips away. It almost feels normal now to plan counter trips just in case the first falls through because of a lockdown or a restriction. Is this possibly making me even MORE organised? God forbid!

3. Border passes

For those who did decide to make the trek interstate since the beginning of COVID-19 you will be aware of "the border pass". Almost equivalent to a customs form on an international flight this form is required to be filled in and submitted when planning a trip interstate (especially to Victoria).

I felt odd filling out a form to declare that I'd be arriving from a "green-zone" and that I hadn't been into contact with any "hot-spots". It almost felt like I was entering a danger zone and leaving the safety of my clean Canberra for unchartered territory. But I dutifully fill one in every time I travel, as I am required to do. Though I will admit, this has yet to be checked by anyone.

Perhaps one day I will be required to collect an interstate passport to visit family. What a world that will be!

4. COVID-19 "check in" app

We're all used to the phrases by now when arriving at a store, mall, café or restaurant.

"Have you checked in?"

"Can you check me in?"

"Wait, I need to check us in!"

Like fancy airport members lounges we are all ushered into businesses by hand, our apps checked and verified before we have permission to enter. This is a change I don't particularly mind as it makes me a feel a little more upper class when going to a restaurant as I flash my phone screen to the hostess and she gives me that little nod of approval.

It truly is a great system for tracking the spread and determining the exposure sites. For this, I commend the team that came up with the idea.

However, despite the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation it is easy to make light of this feature. I've heard many a joke about the Government tracking my four trips to Woolworths in a week because I kept forgetting things from my grocery list.

Or the jokes about the embarrassing list of exposure sites that would appear - like four BBQ shops in a single day for example!

But I digress. It is easy to make jokes - but who would have thought a few years ago we would be required to check ourselves into every location we visit? It truly has changed the way we move around.

5. “Be safe”

This item hits particularly close to home. Any trips I've taken over the last 18 months have been met with slight trepidation from all those who know me. This includes any trips my sister has undertaken and I am sure it is relatable to many of you as well. All of a sudden travel doesn't just bare the risk of a car crash or unexpected pop-up issues.

When we travel we now have to plan for those we interact with. The places we visit, the people we visit, the parties we attend, the dinners we attend, the petrol stations we stop at on the way.

The simple phrase your parents text you as you leave now holds more weight. It doesn't just mean "be safe", it means "be vigilant", "be careful", "be more aware of your surroundings", "watch out for cold and flu symptoms". "stay up to date with the news" etc.

It's a whole new kernel of worry for families as their family members embark on trips away. What has always been a little bit stressful has heightened drastically!

6. The death of a spontaneous trip

Ah, the weekend away. The quick trip on a Friday afternoon to be back by Sunday evening before work. The 3pm "fuck-it" I'm off to the coast. No longer.

What a time that was! Did we really appreciate it enough? What stood in our way before? Needing to fill up the tank and make sure the dishwasher was on before you left?

Everything you could possibly think of stands in the way now. Hot spots surround every capital city. The risk of stepping outside of your circle climbs tenfold when you take into account possible quarantines, financial factors and the ongoing fear you might actually get COVID.

The age of spontaneity seems to have gracefully found its grave and made itself comfortable.

7. The destination grimace: You went where?

Ah, the return from a week away to a room full of co-workers eager to hear about your escape into the wild.

Until the silence is broken by a single expression. When I tell my co-workers I went to Melbourne I'm met with "the grimace". The face says it all.


"Isn't it a COVID mess down there?"

Even when I go during COVID-less periods where Melbourne has no cases and restrictions are easing I get the same response. Because inherently we can't help it. Now it's Sydney. If you went to Sydney 3 months ago you'll probably receive the same judgy look. Like how could you? Look where they are now!

So we grin and bear it. Talk about the weather and pretend. Or we skirt the topic and offer half answers:

"Yeah, just went away for a bit."

No further questions...!

8. International travel

I have almost forgotten what being on a plane feels like. I truly for the life of me can't remember the last time I was on a plane.

A quick search later and I can confirm the last time I flew was in December 2019 on my way home from Bali. A lifetime ago.

The idea of going anywhere overseas in the foreseeable future is almost laughable. Imagine being confident enough to book an OVERSEAS holiday? People are hesitant enough as is to book a week interstate in case borders suddenly close and they become trapped. Imagine risking another country!

I would like to travel again eventually but this will be one of the last things I will allow to return to a normal idea inside my brain. I am sure this resonates with many others.

Also that trip to New York I've been dreaming of in my head... suddenly seems very risky.

Maybe before I'm 25? Fingers crossed!

And that's what I’ve learned about travel in the ongoing COVID-19 virus new world.

And, though I doubt I’ll be doing any international travel any time soon, I do hope the rest of you find some time to get out there and explore Australia. There is no time like the present to explore what’s around us and we’re all lucky enough to live in one of the greatest countries on earth.

Though maybe give it a month or so... considering the current situation.

Till next time,

Rhi xx

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