The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19 that resulted in national lockdowns, closed borders, travel restrictions and what was to become, the new normal.
Our lives changed instantly. Fear at the start of the pandemic, panic buying, isolation, stay at home rules, masks and face coverings, social distancing, wash your hands, hand sanitisers and disinfectants and quarantine.
Suddenly countries closed borders, Italy being the first in the world to do so as the pandemic struck there with thousands infected and a high death rate. Other countries followed, European free movement was stopped as each county tried to stop the spread of COVID, others did little or too late such as the United Kingdom with the highest death rate recorded in Europe.
If you had travel plans they were suddenly cancelled, flights and aircraft parked on runways, hotels closed its doors, bars and restaurants shut down, entertainment venues and theme parks unable to operate, tourism came to a full stop. The way we travel was about to change.
I had a flight booked to Spain in July, the virus still very active but the government did not put it on a do not travel list, there was hope a summer holiday would be possible. Plans to fly to Toronto in August to see family and friends, aware of quarantine rules when arriving in Canada.
The experience of travel had changed, mandatory face masks for the duration of the flight, empty airports, closed shops and restaurants, registering with the government portals to allow entry and track you if there were quarantine rules to follow. No more hot meals on flights. No glass or cutlery, plastic sanitary bags which held sanitisers and bubbled or bagged food, all in the effort to avoid contact with others.
In Alicante many hotels were closed, outdoor terraces were empty, long promenades lacking the many who would normally be strolling along, festivals cancelled, face masks mandatory even on the streets as you went for a walk. Beaches were open, people keeping distance, in some parts patrols stopped access to prevent overcrowding. This wasn’t the way I remember a holiday in Spain.
Entering Canada meant registering online before arriving, providing details of where you would be staying for the required two-week quarantine, or face up to $750,000 fine or six months in jail. On my fourth day, a government official called to ask where I was, if had I had visitors, how I was getting food, if I had an outdoor space, was I sharing a kitchen? This was followed up with emails every other day where I had to log in and report how I was feeling.
Streets of Toronto were busy in the daytime but soon became a ghost town by night. The usually active entertainment districts were bare and empty. Restaurants were open, but you were required to give personal information for contact tracing and limiting the number of people. The airport was empty, a handful of flights, not even duty-free remained open for long.
The long haul flight meant wearing a mask the entire journey. A boxed meal wrapped in plastic, cold sandwich, plastic cups, everything was made to be disposable so there was no contact with others. Flying was not as enjoyable as it was.
Back in London long queues awaited at border patrol, registration of travel had to be made via the online platform and asked to be shown to the officials before entry, this as an effort to control the newly imposed quarantine rules which were never followed up or checked.
I had to quarantine two weeks after my trip to Spain, followed by another two weeks of quarantine when I arrived in Canada. Had a week of freedom, then to get on the return flight and go back into quarantine for two weeks when arriving back in the United Kingdom. I did 6 weeks of quarantine out of the 9 weeks of travel.
As the pandemic second wave begins and the COVID cases rise again, for the first time in my life I look ahead and don’t see any plan to travel.
To go or not to go? My experience tells me travel is too complicated at this time and far less enjoyable. Being there, wherever ‘there’ is, will not be the same or normal.
JOEJOURNEYS and travel-related industries have been hugely affected by the pandemic. The little income from advertising and affiliates that helped support this site is no longer coming in. I am not yet sure what the coming months will be like, or how long this can last, but it may be necessary to end these journeys adventures and more after more than 15 years of sharing them online here. I hope to still be around. However, there will always be JOEJOURNEYS Youtube.