Life update: Covid-19, travel and the future

It’s been months since I blogged and, during that time, the world has become an unrecognisable ruin. Ravaged by a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and decimated the economy. Who could have imagined a world where planes were grounded, borders closed, whole countries locked down? On top of that, the USA bleeding and burning with social injustice. I couldn’t. Even in the dozens of dystopian novels I love to read, I never imagined a real disaster would feel like this: powerless, sudden, surreal.

Sheep in a field in Wales

We spent the first part of lockdown in Wales

But then, you know all that, because you’re living it too. We all are, to varying degrees. We’ve all lost something from Covid-19: income, opportunities, freedom, housing and in the worst case, loved ones. That’s the real tragedy, of course, and while people are dying it feels insane to write or think about travel, to feel sorry for yourself or to worry about your own circumstances. This is especially true given what’s happening in the USA. As a white, privileged person I have it easy and cannot imagine what’s it’s like to be oppressed, ignored and dehumanised.

Stone church in Wales

However, after weeks of telling myself to be grateful for what I have and not to moan about the loss of income, our insecure housing situation and wrecked plans, I realised that it does me no good to deny my feelings. Yes, I’m worried for the world, but on a personal level, I’m also devastated about losing my travel writing work and more broadly, about what’s happened to the entire travel industry. Who knows how many businesses and livelihoods are being lost in the sector, particularly in regions that rely on tourism to survive? I know the industry isn’t perfect, especially environmentally, but I hope it can somehow recover, perhaps in a more responsible way.

Welsh fields

Despite everything, I can now recognise that there are people far worse off than me and understand that I’m fortunate, while also allowing myself to be sad and to feel uncertain about the future. Because, the future is one huge, unpredictable void at the moment. For everyone. This pandemic has illuminated the fractures in societies, changed the way we all live and work, what we view as important and wiped other concerns – even previously massive ones like Brexit – off the map.

Our personal Covid-19 journey

When lockdown came in the UK, we were housesitting in London. In fact, our whole calendar until October was filled with house sits, visits to family and a long, summer trip to Canada and the USA. We both had secure, yet short-term work contracts, and I had some freelance work on the side. Our savings account was slowly filling up. Somehow, by hook or by crook, we were making life in the UK work.

The path on a walk in Brechfa Forest, Wales

While watching Boris’s speech on TV, the homeowners we were sitting for messaged us to say they’d be returning the next day. Lacking a home of our own to lockdown in, we made a split-second decision to head to Wales, where Andrew’s parents had a motorhome which they kindly let us isolate in for a while. The days melted into one, with walks in the nearby forest, Skype calls and watching hours of endless news.

Brechfa Forest, Wales

Even though schools closed, most stayed open to accommodate the children of key workers. So, after quarantining in Wales, Andrew returned to London to fulfil his work contract at a school in Bermondsey. With Airbnbs and hotels shut, he booked cheap accommodation for key workers whilst I stayed separately with family, enjoying a peaceful daily routine and plenty of dog walks. We came under fire for this decision and were shamed by some for moving under lockdown, adding guilt to the list of emotions weighing us down in these strange times.

Poppy the spaniel on a log in the forest

Through a stroke of luck, a family we house sat for in February offered to let us a flat in Teddington for three months, at a cut-price rate. Relieved to be reunited, we moved in at the beginning of May. Since then life has been a routine of work, staying home and daily walks in nearby Bushy Park and along the Thames. This is a beautiful area and we’re so thankful to be riding things out here. We’ve been cancelling our summer travel plans, attempting to get refunds and accepting that we’re probably only going to receive credit for our flights.

Bluebell Forest in full bloom

Andrew is in school three days a week and although I’ve lost pretty much all of my travel work, I’m fortunate to have been furloughed for the final few weeks of one contract and to have also received a small self-employment grant. This has allowed me the breathing space to launch the new vegan website I’ve been dreaming about and planning for over a year. It’s an uncertain time, income-wise, but we’re grateful that Andrew has his teaching job and our savings account is healthy.

The Thames near Kingston

We love being close to the Thames

Above all else, we are so, so lucky that none of our family or friends have been sick and that we remain healthy. I remind myself every day that things could be, and are for many, a million times worse. We’re ok, all things considered, we’re doing fine.

Tentative post-Covid plans

For an anxious, chronic over-planner, not knowing what comes next is difficult for me, as I’m sure it is for many people. This manifests in strange moods, periods where I find it difficult to stay motivated or even speak to family and friends. It leaks out in anxiety-ridden dreams, the most common a recurring one where my contact lenses have grown to huge proportions and I’m struggling to stuff them into my eyes. I Googled this and apparently, I’m not the only one who has this dream – perhaps it means that circumstances are too big for me to absorb?

Teddington Lock

Summer scenes near Teddington Lock

We only have this apartment until August though, so we do have to figure out what we can do next. With housing an over-priced nightmare in London (this place usually rents for over £1,100 per month, bills not included), we need to find a cheaper alternative. Housesitting opportunities will be scarce since people can’t and perhaps don’t have the money to travel and who knows when Airbnbs and hotels will reopen. They’re a sure-fire way to run-down our savings in record time anyway.

In pre-Covid times, we would have simply moved to a cheaper place for a while to regroup. Understandably, international movement isn’t going to be allowed for some time and who knows when or if any of us will ever be able to travel with ease again, to cross the seas and hop over borders. As soon as it’s safe to do so, when flights and visas allow and if we can get tested and fulfil quarantine requirements abroad, we’re pretty sure that we’ll be returning to Asia. Obviously, only if and when we can do so without putting anyone at risk.

Sapa rice fields in the summer, Vietnam

Vietnam is on the mend

I don’t know if you’ve seen the news, but Vietnam has done an amazing job of containing and eliminating the virus – in fact, it’s returning to some sense of normalcy. Tourism is decimated, but their e-visa system is opening again in July and hopefully international flights will resume shortly after. The language centre we used to work for in Hanoi are recruiting overseas teachers for September and have told Andrew there’s a teaching or managerial role there for him, should he want it. We’re also monitoring the situation in Thailand.

We don’t have any clear-cut answers yet, we’ll have to see what happens. Until then, we’ll keep on taking one day at a time.

I hope that you’re all safe and well. Let us know in the comments below how you’ve been dealing with Coronavirus and this strange new normal.

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 14:05h, 04 June Reply

    Amy, I am so delighted to get this post and find out how you guys are doing. These are strange times indeed, we are all still coming to terms with how much our lives have changed. But certainly, for you and Andrew, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been. The loss of income, having to stay apart, the uncertainty regarding a place to call home, it is all very difficult. I really can’t believe that anyone would criticize your decisions, people should really mind their own business. I can see why you would want to return to Asia, the lifestyle is great and prices are even better. We really enjoyed Vietnam, it was such a shame that we could not explore Hanoi as we wanted. Our Halong Bay cruise was also canceled. But there is no doubt that we will return there is the future. As you mentioned Vietnam has done an amazing job of containing the virus, they were super diligent. I wish the UK had been as good and decisive. We will be traveling by motorhome as soon as we are allowed and feel safe to do so, meanwhile it is a case of being patient and taking one day at the time. Look after yourselves and stay safe 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:45h, 04 June Reply

      Hi Gilda, great to hear from you too, I hope you guys are well. I’m so glad you got to enjoy Asia for a while before all this hit, although it’s a real shame about the Halong Bay cruise; here’s hoping you can get back there again one day soon. We are really eager to get back to Asia, after being in Europe for so long we really miss it. It’s amazing how well Vietnam has dealt with the virus, it looks quite likely that we’ll be heading back there sometime in the Autumn if everything aligns. I really hope it won’t be long before you guys can get out on the road too in your motorhome x

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 15:55h, 04 June Reply

    Awwww Amy & Andrew. I was just thinking about you. It sure has been a challenging time for all-around for sure and the current rioting and terrible political situation going on in the USA is miserable. I am glad to hear you were able to find lodging and that Andrew was able to keep working during the crisis. We are impressed with how Vietnam handled the COVID crisis as well- hoping that is a possible opportunity for you moving forward. Take some deep breaths and good luck with everything! We’re all in this together.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:48h, 04 June Reply

      Hi Rhonda, great to hear from you, how are things where you are? I must catch up on all my blog reading soon. I hope you guys are safe and well and we can all travel again soon. These are such weird times. Hope you’re both safe and well x

  • Melanie
    Posted at 04:45h, 13 June Reply

    Hi Amy, it’s good to hear that you’re OK and are getting through this crisis, albeit somewhat battered! It’s a very strange world at the moment but I’m hoping it’s like the Australian bush after the recent bushfires – it was a blackened, devastated landscape but now, with all the rain we’re suddenly having, there’s green shoots growing out of burnt trees and a carpet of new growth across the ashy ground. Life has a way of coming back, and wonderful new things are often born out of extreme adversity. I hope that some really positive things happen for you and Andrew as your spring happens. Take care x

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:56h, 16 June Reply

      Hi Melanie, great to hear from you. Wow, it’s been a brutal year, I’m glad to hear that your seeing some new growth in Australia. I hope you’re safe and well x

  • Patti
    Posted at 15:46h, 16 June Reply

    Completely agree with your assessment, Amy. I don’t remember a time of living in such surreal circumstances, not even 9/11 did I feel this much angst on a never ending daily basis. We’ve had to adapt to a new way of living, including long-term isolation. Hopefully, we’ll see a blue wave in November and the country can begin to heal. I can’t even fathom a different election outcome.

    It must be comforting to know Andrew has a job waiting for him in Hanoi. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find safe and healthy transport to Viet Nam.

    We have no long-term travel plans, just exploring our own backyard so-to-speak. We’re not even considering international travel before 2021. Waiting for the vaccine!

    Stay safe and take care.

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:55h, 16 June Reply

      Totally Patti, this long-term isolation is so weird and none of us could have guessed that 2020 would look like this. Fingers crossed though for the blue wave, that will be a massive step in the right direction. We’ve heard that international flights will be allowed into Vietnam from the end of this month, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to arrange flights and visas for October – although we know situations can change incredibly quickly in this climate. I can totally understand why you’d wait for the vaccine, let’s hope it comes soon! x

  • Alyson Long
    Posted at 02:16h, 17 June Reply

    Hi. Well here in the top right of Australia everything feels completely normal, as if nothing ever happened. Restaurants opened weeks ago, with bigger spaces between tables, the reef fleet are running again soon, shops are normal other than plastic screens on casher’s desks. The only big issue here is, we’re not allowed to leave the country. But I’m prepared to bet that that will end soon or Australia’s tourism industry will simply expire. The first local tourists are starting to return but the interstate tourists need to be back and after that the international tourists. I’m willing to put money on this ” bubble” with New Zealand not happening. I don’t think Australia handled it well, I think they over-reacted. I don’t think lockdown was necessary. I think here we have space and no crowds. The virus was far harder to transmit in the great outdoors than in crowded tubes. We had no increase after lockdown was eased. They also didn’t test many people here. I had a friend sick as a dog, but no test, as she hadn’t been “overseas”. It was nonsense. I think healthier countries, like Vietnam, did better in part because less obesity, bad health and an ingrained national better hygiene through daily mask use. They all wore masks anyway. Australians were specifically told not to wear masks which was obvious lies. You know Vietnam, you know what I mean. I’m really over this and probably my resentment at being locked up shows. I’ve lost an elderly relative in the UK and my mum is quite likely to follow very soon. I’m not immune nor and I privileged to be here. My income is decimated and that’s my whole family’s income but we’ll be OK, we’re cashing in a pension, nobody is going to starve. But when I think that more people have died in Nepal through suicide – because of lockdown and no tourist revenue, than have died of this virus, it’s just so wrong. Governments got it wrong globally. They all shut the stable door after the horse had bolted (the UK most particularly so) and nothing was achieved. Yep, I’m over it. Best of luck, hope you get back to Vietnam ASAP. I know it looks very different from the UK, there’s far more anxiety and doom and gloom coming out of there than I’m seeing from most other countries. Our friends there see things very differently to us here. There’s so much not being said, globally. The “second wave” hasn’t come in the UK (yet – maybe, but last time I checked a few hours ago there was no increase in cases) despite the protests and an awful lot of people not complying with lockdown. We’ve been lied to, maybe deliberately, maybe on purpose and I want out. I want the world open. I doubt very much that a vaccine will happen soon (as a medical scientist) but I would like antibody titres available because I think millions of us will find we’ve already had it and it was a mild or not even noticeable infection., possibly last year even. We won’t be travelling because we’re not allowed to and can’t until our income returns. We’ve pivoted, we’ve totally changed our lives but I’m pig sick that my parents at the end of their lives are living under house arrest and that my kids are finishing up their childhood in solitary. Sorry for the rant. At least you’re allowed to leave, if Vietnam will let Brits in. I’m also a Brit by passport, so future travels could be complicated for me too, despite the rest of the family having Australian citizenship. That’s just something else they won’t have thought of.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:14h, 17 June Reply

      Hi Alyson, so sorry to hear about your relatives and your income, it’s such an awful situation.

      I totally agree that most governments got it wrong – places like Vietnam, Thailand and New Zealand seem to have done a good job of containing things but are still suffering from lack of tourism. Great to hear that things are feeling almost normal (lack of international tourists aside) in Port Douglas. I hope that tourists are allowed back into Australia soon though to get things moving again tourism-wise. Same all over really, if things stay locked down like this the entire industry is going to die. It’s so sad about Nepal – we really want to get back out and travel again as soon as possible.

      Yes, it has felt pretty awful being here in the UK but this week non-essential shops are opening again and things feel like they’re slowly getting more normal. Saying that, in Wales Andrew’s parents are still technically not allowed to go more than 5 miles from their home, which is crazy considering the low risk there and the fact that they’re in the middle of nowhere. The two-week quarantine on arrival in the UK will stop people visiting the UK and Brits going abroad, so that’s not good news. I’m sick of lockdown too and know many people here are – my Mum really suffered from not seeing her grandkids for example. Things are going to be weird here for ages I think, for example, a teacher at Andrew’s school has just gone into self-isolation with symptoms and is being tested, if he’s positive, the whole year group will be off for 1-2 weeks. Crazy though as Andrew and the kids have already had contact with the teacher in question this week, yet they’re all still going into school until the test results come through! It’s a weird system and people are gong to be off work left, right and centre self-isolating for the foreseeable future.

      Really hoping we are allowed to fly and can get back to Asia before a second wave hits at the moment – we’re tentatively hoping to go in October, not sure what will happen if we can’t as house sitting is pretty much off the table. Yes, the passport issue for your family is another question that I bet no-one has thought of. I hope things get better for us all soon. Take care x

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