Like many people, I’m really missing making travel plans during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m fortunate that in normal times I get away four or five times a year. Usually for short breaks and rarely longer than a week. I like to always have something to look forward to in the fairly near future, and as I travel solo a lot, and like cities, short breaks suit me well.
As the world begins to open up again, albeit with many restrictions still, we can start to think about travelling again. But this proves to be a bit of a minefield for discussion; people have very different ideas about when they would go abroad, jump on a plane, stay in a hotel, or wander round a city again. Even ‘normal’ life reveals a big range of what is acceptable to people, never mind what is actually ‘allowed’ now. Some people are still having to shield; some people still don’t feel comfortable going out at all; some wear masks and gloves while others (unless it’s mandatory, like on public transport) wouldn’t dream of it. Many people say they can’t envisage when they’d go into a restaurant, cinema or theatre again, let alone into an airport and onto a plane; others can’t wait to get back into pubs and restaurants. This isn’t a time for judgements. Everyone must do what they’re happy with and according to their own personal circumstances.
Nothing is risk free, of course, and I happen to think that so many safety precautions are being put in place in airports and on planes that it’s probably not that unsafe. But for me, the real issue is not the flight itself, but the hassle involved in getting on the plane in the first place and what I’ll find the other end. Places like Italy and Spain may have ‘opened up’ but there are still restrictions. I’m not keen on the idea of arriving and finding I can’t wander in and out of restaurants, cafes and bars at will; visit art galleries and museums without a mask or having to maintain a ‘social’ distance as I go round; sit in places separated from fellow diners by glass or plastic panels; be surrounded by and served by people wearing masks. Frankly, I think, just what kind relaxing holiday would that be! It actually feels easier to just stay at home where I’m now accustomed to what I can do and what to expect. I’m actually spending less money than usual because I’m not going to theatres and restaurants or travelling, so it makes sense to save towards a pandemic-free holiday next year and plan to treat myself a bit more than normal.
I started an ‘After the Lockdown … ‘ list a few weeks ago. It was both an action of positivity and optimism, and a bit of a reality check. There seemed no point in planning a trip this year. If things change dramatically for the better than I can book a last-minute trip but otherwise, let’s concentrate on and look forward to a sunnier future in 2021.
It got me thinking about the kind of holidays I’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. It also made me think about the many things we’ve learnt – and hopefully will remember and act on – from the pandemic. So, of course, we must all take the care of our world into account and all the environmental issues we’ve been largely reluctant to engage with up to now. Thus my planning has been about exploring ideas for fewer but longer trips; less miles in the air over a year.
It’s made me feel better to look towards some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Then a couple of days ago I saw an article in National Geographic magazine about ‘why planning a trip can help your mental health’. So now it was official – thinking ahead really was good for me.
What’s interesting is where my dreams take me. In normal times I like to return to old favourite destinations with one or two new ones in a year. But my longings are for places I know well or a bit already. I crave the comfort of the familiar. This made me realise that the stress we’ve all be under for the past three months, even when we think we’ve adjusted and are doing okay, surfaces at the prospect of dealing with anything new or vaguely challenging. Of course, this is personal. I’m sure some people are longing to at last make a reality a trip to somewhere they’ve always dreamed of going. If the pandemic has done nothing else (and of course it’s done plenty), it’s highlighted that we should enjoy life while we may and not put off things that we could do now.
Certain things have ignited my desire for travel to particular places.
I want to go back to beautiful Turin because it’s become a favourite haunt and I had to cancel my trip there in March; a trip I’d planned out carefully, not only staying in one of my favourite hotels anywhere, Grand Hotel Sitea, but now I knew the restaurants and cafes I liked best, I would just indulge myself in enjoying them and not pressurise myself into feeling I should try new places.
I have a great yearning to return to Granada, which I visited for the first time in 2017. I have some earrings I bought there and always think of the beautiful city when I put them on. And I listen to ClassicFM most of the time I’m in the house (and car!) and whenever they play Francisco Tarrega’s ‘Recuerdoes de la Alhambra’ (Memories of the Alhambra), which they do quite often, it stirs my own memories and I always think: ‘I must go there again.’
It was Fred Sirieix’s new series of Remarkable Places to Eat last Thursday that put Marrakesh in my mind again. I find him very entertaining and I really enjoyed watching him wandering around this Moroccan city with Andi Oliver and eating the kind of gorgeous food I love. I’ve only been to Marrakesh a couple of times; the last back in 2008 with my friend Tina. So it really must be time I returned to this vibrant, colourful and exciting city.
It’s a remarkable 5 years since I was last in Venice – April 2015. I say remarkable because I love it so much and have been so many times, I’ve lost count. I’ve been in touch by email with Walter and Sandro, owners of my favourite hotel – Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo – during the pandemic to ask how they are. I promised I would visit when I could. The hotel has reopened but I want to wait for things to ease more and become a bit more normal before I book a trip.
Are you dreaming of travelling? Where would you like to go on your first post-pandemic trip? Do please let me know.