Relearning travel in a COVID world – I’m finally travelling again!

In my 2021 round up, I talked about travel being like a habit, but now I think a more apt comparison would be to think of travel as a muscle: flex it often and it comes easy, overdo it and you might break something, and if you leave it dormant for long enough, things get a little flabby, which is where I find myself today. Not travelling for the last 2 years has really increased my inertia to taking a trip, especially with the added complications of COVID-related measures on top of the work it takes to plan a trip.

I know I call myself The Occasional Traveller, but I’m aware that I probably travel more than the average person, given that my instinct is to use all my annual leave to book something overseas and the media trip invites I received for this blog back in the day. In 2019 (those long-forgotten pre-COVID times) alone, I took 9 separate trips! What was pretty normal back then now seems so inexplicable.

Suncheon Seonamsa Lanterns Me Up
On a solo trip in South Korea’s Suncheon region in 2019

The ‘quietest’ it’s been for me since I started travelling independently was perhaps in 2008/2009 when I just started my first job (and incidentally how I realised that I’d forgotten how to travel), but I still managed 2 trips that year even if they were just nearby jaunts. Incidentally that was the year there was a H1N1 outbreak so I skipped a family trip to China in favour of work.

So COVID with all its travel restrictions really hit me hard given how much I’ve travelled in recent years. I’d been lucky enough to squeeze out a trip in February 2020 to London and Rome, but since then it’s been a solid 2 years spent in Singapore without stepping foot on foreign land. Pretty unprecedented by my standards because even before I started travelling independently, my family usually took an annual trip somewhere thanks to my pilot Dad.

Rome Colosseum Outside Crowds
Would I have travelled any different knowing that this trip to Rome would be the last in awhile?

In late 2021 there was (finally) legitimate buzz about the reopening of borders and relaxing of measures, and most of my friends and family thought I would be one of those on the first flight out the moment they announce VTLs, but surprisingly, even to myself, I chose to stay home. There were plenty of easy reasons to reach for as to why I didn’t want to travel:

“I really don’t want to get COVID”

“Gosh all the hassle of quarantining and testing”

“Why are the rules changing everyday”

I think another revelation from COVID beyond how it ground travel to a halt, is also how it’s inculcated so much fear in all of us – or me at least. Suddenly there were 10,000 things to be worried about, the main one of course potentially catching COVID and infecting others, and with regards to travel restrictions, having to spend a lot more money, time and effort just to go on a short break was pretty off putting.

It was just easier to stay home, stay safe.

On hindsight, it reminds me a little of gearing up for that very first solo trip back in 2011, or even deciding to quit my job to take my career break. I’m not always the bravest person out there ready to head into the unknown and there were a lot of reasons not to travel on my own and it was just easier to stick to status quo. Getting over that hump really takes some work.

Bagan Ballooning Flying Selfie
Ballooning over Bagan was a pretty epic birthday treat for myself!

And for me, I put it off until the confluence of two important factors: Firstly, I was sorely missing an epic birthday trip after spending the last few doing some pretty amazing things, and secondly I got a mailer from SIA and gosh those flight prices to Europe are pretty decently priced eh?

Other mitigating factors here include that measures were loosening up – Spain doesn’t have any entry requirements for Singaporeans, and Singapore’s re-entry requirements don’t involve any quarantine for VTL flight passengers. Along with ultra flexible booking conditions, it was hard to say no!

And back to that earlier analogy, travel really was a muscle that I missed flexing, and now that the first step was made, I threw myself full scale into preparation for my trip and couldn’t be happier. Spending hours scrolling through accommodation options, planning routes and things to do, I was so stoked to be travelling again. Stay tuned for that detailed post on my trip planning to Spain so you know what to look out for when planning your own trip.

It turns out I probably picked a good time to go since Singapore officially announced loosening of measures (to come into effect right around my birthday no less) which includes less rules on travelling in and out of Singapore, so I’m getting in before the travel wave really picks up again.

Peru Machu Picchu Sungate View Me
Memories of Peru. How was this epic trip almost 5 years ago already.

But this isn’t a post preaching to you that you should start travelling again. Whether or not you choose to travel now honestly is a personal choice and how much risk you’re willing to take, how much you can afford to spend now and who you need to take care of back home. I was hesitant for so long and I can see why some would still choose not to travel right now, and that’s completely okay – Even pre-COVID, leisure travel has always been a privilege and a choice that isn’t up everyone’s alley.

But for me, travel has been such an integral part of my entire life so to have it cut out completely definitely felt like something was missing all this time. The blog and my social platforms have been quiet because even as I was busy exploring Singapore and giving tours, I wasn’t particularly inspired to write or post on my platforms very much. But even now as I prep, I can feel that urge to create and share surging back now as I ready myself for this upcoming trip.

It’s been more than two years since I picked up my bags and traipsed through Singapore’s Changi Airport in search of adventure. Once I could pack a bag in an hour the night before a trip, now I’m struggling just to find the locks that go on my backpack. I’m relearning that rhythm of travel again like a fresh-faced traveller and honestly, it’s been surprisingly fun. I’m going to be posting on IG in bits and bobs throughout my trip and trying to keep a physical travel journal for the first time in ages. Stay tuned for more and I hope whether you choose to travel right now or not, that you are able to rediscover that wonder of travel again in your own way soon.

How are you feeling about travelling right now? Or have you already taken the plunge? Share your views in the comments!

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