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Travel writing has been drastically changed by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019 I visited 19 countries, from dog sledding through Quebec’s snowfields to the remoteness of mountainous Uzbekistan and the teaming townships of South Africa to astonishing discoveries of Lebanon’s glorious past.
My Plans for 2020 were ambitious, to continue along the fascinating Silk Roads of central Asia, horse trek through Northern Macedonia, sleep under the stars whilst glamping in Utah’s stunning national parks, and follow Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica, among them.
Then the virus struck and we were grounded. Travel writers are resourceful in finding new ways to tell our stories. Some of us wrote aspirational features based on past or future journeys to inspire our readers to dream beyond Coronavirus. We focussed on staycations and socially distanced journeys, from campervan adventures to long distance walking trails and activity home breaks. Social distancing was the buzz word throughout this extraordinary era of ‘new normal’.
Importantly the pandemic gave travel writing scope to examine a future in which we could inspire tourists to travel in a more socially and environmentally sustainable way.
I have embraced all of that, and sought out the wisdom of celebrated travel writer Dervla Murphy, cocooning for most of 2020 during successive lockdowns at her home in Co Waterford,Ireland.
In early winter I travelled to Barbados, one of the Caribbean’s best loved hideaways where international tourism returned by October 2020 thanks to strict COVID 19 protocols. There I met and interviewed digital nomads attracted to the island to work remotely.
Ireland’s summer of staycations took me up North to discover some of the island’s best landscapes and most delicious gastronomy on commission for the Sunday Times and Irish Daily Mail travel pages. As summer wore on and more international trips were cancelled by the pandemic I took to Ireland’s hidden heartlands to enjoy a truly memorable short family working holiday exploring the tranquil River Shannon aboard a Le Boat cabin cruiser.
Throughout 2020 governments all over the world imposed lockdowns, planes were grounded and travel corridors continuously opened and closed like a revolving door, with little signs early in the new year of much change. The hope now for all of us who long to start travelling abroad again is that the roll out of the COVID vaccine will see a global re-opening of foreign travel. According to Buddha “You cannot travel the path before you have become the path itself”.