When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe, I was on my year abroad in Germany. I was quite scared and anxious about staying and leaving, not knowing which would be the best choice, and if I did leave what this would mean for me, my job, my year abroad. So many unanswerable questions.
When we got to Berlin, it was more like a ghost town than a capital city
I decided I wanted to be at home in the UK with my family to feel safer against the unknown. So, I rearranged my flights home to be two weeks earlier (and paid over 100€ for the privilege!) and was flying back on Monday 16th March. The weekend before this, my friend and I had a trip to Berlin booked, which we did go on, since it hadn’t been cancelled by the company, but it was definitely a sign of things to come. The bus driver on the way there announced that the company would be reducing its services and the buses back to Lübeck (my year abroad city) might not be running, adding a huge worry to an already difficult situation. And then, when we got to Berlin, it was more like a ghost town than a capital city. At this point, I realised the severity of what was going on and couldn’t wait to get home.
When I got back to Lübeck, I packed as much as I could into my suitcases, not knowing how long I would be home or when I’d be coming back again. Turns out I have still not returned to Germany and have no plans on doing so, as my remaining things have been shipped over instead.
As soon as I landed and saw my mum at Heathrow Airport, I cried hysterically, as I had been so anxious to get back home and feel safe, secure and not alone. Over the course of lockdown, I was so scared that I would have to travel back to Germany. I knew how stressful it had been flying home, and I did not want to repeat that panic-inducing experience. But because of the UK lockdown, I couldn’t leave my house, let alone the country! This was a bittersweet feeling, since I was both happy to stay put and sad that this prospect cheered me up.
My wanderlust had gone. It had been masked by all the anxiety and panic
I had been living abroad for over 7 months, travelling around Europe, seeing amazing places and meeting wonderful people, yet I was glad not to have to return. My wanderlust had been firing on all cylinders on my year abroad and I had loved the freedom I had to go wherever I wanted. But at that point, in March/April, I was so scared to do that again. My wanderlust had gone. It had been masked by all the anxiety and panic.
Then, for my birthday, which was during lockdown, my brother bought me a scratch off world map, so I could see all the countries I’d been to in the world. But this map also made me think about where I’d like to go to next, which I hadn’t thought about since February. This was the first time my wanderlust started to creep back in, and I was excited about future travels. I started watching travel videos on social media again and writing travel articles. I even wrote a post on my blog with my travel bucket list!
However, as much as I liked thinking about my dream travel destinations, I am not ready to make these journeys a reality just yet. This virus has not gone away, lockdowns are still in place and quarantines for holidaymakers are being imposed – for me, this situation is still too complex to even contemplate travelling abroad. I’ve experienced first-hand how it feels to have the uncertainty of flights being cancelled, borders being closed and the panic of getting home in time looming over you, and I certainly don’t want to feel like that again. So, I personally don’t feel like travelling abroad any time soon.
After months of lockdown, I can understand the appeal of wanting to get away
Right now, there are still things that we can’t do in the UK, like visiting various households, going out spontaneously or simply giving someone a hug. To me, these things are more important than going on holiday. After months of lockdown, I can understand the appeal of wanting to get away. But sadly, leaving one country doesn’t mean that the threat of the virus leaves too; we are in a global pandemic.
There is instead the option to go on staycations within the UK, so people can get away from home and still feel like they are getting a holiday. However, having viewed photos on the news of the usual tourist hotspots, like the beaches, this is still a holiday option I am not certain about. There are huge levels of overcrowding, which means social distancing cannot be observed. Therefore, going to these popular beaches is taking a huge risk. So even this level of travelling, perhaps only an hour or so down the motorway makes me feel uncomfortable. I would much rather wait it out and fully enjoy the whole travel experience when this is possible and not do it with all the unknowns and restrictions still at play.
The world will not be closed forever. One day, trips abroad will happen again as normal and these worries won’t exist anymore. Travel will return and I will be ready and waiting for that day. But that day is not today.