If you’ve felt yourself hitting the wall recently, you’re not alone. After more than seven months since the first lockdown, and a second one now underway, many of us are running out of steam. With tougher restrictions and darker evenings arriving, it can often feel like ‘corona fatigue’ is getting the best of us. Because every day feels the same, it’s more important than ever to have something to look forward to – and that’s where travel planning comes in.
While travelling during coronavirus isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, our New World of Travel report found that going places has a positive effect on our emotional wellbeing. With all that holiday allowance gathering dust, we’re looking at a few reasons why travel is more important than ever.
- Is travel planning the answer to corona fatigue and anxiety?
- Travel planning gives us something to look forward to
- Travel is important for mental health
- Your wellbeing matters: take a break!
- There’s no right or wrong way to feel about travelling during coronavirus
Is travel planning the answer to corona fatigue and anxiety?
One of the cruellest things about the pandemic is that, along with threatening our health, it’s also taken away many of our coping mechanisms. Pubs are closed. We can’t hold each other. We can’t even mooch around TK Maxx sniffing all the different scented candles (or is that just me?) For many of us, we’re having to face this heightened sense of fear and anxiety head-on.
Before March, one of my major coping mechanisms was booking flights. If I was feeling down in the dumps about something, I’d head straight to Skyscanner to find a cheap deal. I didn’t realise how important it was for my mental health until the pandemic hit. With no outlet for my emotions, I felt sad and anxious all the time. I was at a loose end.
After months of lockdown, we’ve found new ways to calm our racing minds. Baking banana bread, fostering sourdough starters, becoming at-home quizmasters over Zoom. I developed a serious houseplant addiction. If you can’t go to the nature, bring the nature to you. Even so, after seven months, the novelty is starting to wear off – and many of us are tired.
Travel planning gives us something to look forward to
In September, Dr Aisha Ahmad famously spoke about the six-month wall on a Twitter thread showing why these feelings of fatigue and anxiety are normal:
‘The six month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal”, but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?’
One answer is, give yourself something to look forward to. Studies have shown that having something exciting in your diary, like a short break, can improve your mood exponentially. For example in 2002 the University of Surrey found that people are at their happiest when they have an upcoming holiday. More recently, a 2014 study from Cornell University found that money spent on an experience (like a trip) can have a greater impact on happiness than money spent on physical things.
Travelling during coronavirus may not be possible now that tougher lockdowns are in place. That said, you can still make plans for the future. After all, a little bit of wanderlust never hurt anyone. Remember, this too shall pass. Why not sit down and write a list of the places you can’t wait to see once this is over? I love browsing boutique hotels in my dream destinations, checking out the top things to do and writing an itinerary as if I was actually going. It’s not quite the same buzz, but it’ll do for now.
Travel is important for mental health
Travelling during coronavirus may look and feel different, but its effects on mental health are the same. As well as busting stress, it can also help you to reinvent yourself in new ways. Eat, Pray, Love, On the Road, Wild, A Cook’s Tour – there’s a reason why so many of our favourite biographies involve stories of seeing the world and becoming a better person because of it.
Travel makes us more resilient. Learning to navigate problems in a foreign language can help to build up our patience and toughen us up, both mentally and emotionally. It’s even prepped us for the unprecedented situation that we now find ourselves in. The Skyscanner New World of Travel study found that frequent travellers are actually better at coping with the psychological challenges of the ‘new normal’.
That’s something I can definitely relate to. After writing off a car in the south of France – then flying to England, buying a new one and driving for 36 hours to pick up my stuff – very little phases me anymore. Don’t get me started on the Sunday morning tire blowout in Valencia, locking myself out of my apartment in Berlin or having to go to brunch in New Orleans in my pyjamas due to a cat-sitting mix-up.
At the time those things felt like disasters. Now, they’re funny stories. And deep down, they’ve helped me grow into a better version of me.
Your wellbeing matters: take a break!
It might feel as though life is on hold at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to take a break. Very few of us – myself included – have taken time off this year. Although the UK’s annual leave statistics haven’t been published for 2020 yet, data from BrightHR found that 28% of UK workers have cancelled their paid time off.
Fair enough, it seems like a bit of a waste of a holiday if you’re just going to spend it at home (aka your new office). Especially now that major lockdowns are being enforced across the country. But at the end of the day, working from home is still working. In fact, it’s even more likely that you could be working yourself towards exhaustion. The lines between work and life have become increasingly blurred over the past few months. Hands up if you’ve caught yourself tapping away at your laptop beyond midnight?
Multiple studies have shown that going for months without a break from work can have a negative impact on mental and physical health, not to mention on the quality of your output. Paid time off is actually a productivity tool – anti-fatigue studies show that employees concentrate better after time away. This is probably why data shows that people who consistently take holidays are more likely to land a promotion.
If you really want to be indispensable, it’s better to give your brain a break rather than working to the point of exhaustion. Even if you don’t fancy travelling abroad during coronavirus, a short staycation can make a world of difference.
Travelling during coronavirus doesn’t need to mean hopping on a plane
Recently my friends and I were discussing our experiences of burnout, exhaustion and general lack of motivation. A few days later, one of the girls dropped in to tell us that she’d spent the weekend in a nearby hotel. Although there wasn’t much to do because of lockdown restrictions – walk in the woods, swim in the pool, order room service – she came back to work on Monday feeling completely rejuvenated.
Although overnights at hotels in England are strictly for business at the moment, taking a few days off to rest and recharge will help. Even if you are just pretending your bathroom is a fancy spa.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about travelling during coronavirus
Going places can be tough right now. With new lockdowns in place for the rest of November, many of us can’t even leave our local regions. While some intrepid adventurers are making the best of a bad situation, others have packed away their suitcases and are settling in for the long haul at home. Everyone is different, and whether or not you feel comfortable heading off on holiday once lockdown eases is up to you.
Personally, I haven’t been on a plane since I rushed home from Berlin in March – just before lockdown started. It’s a massive change for me, as a frequent flyer, but I’m not alone. Lots of my travel buddies have found themselves signing long-term apartment leases – something they wouldn’t have dreamed of in 2019. Others are keeping a close eye on local travel restrictions to sneak in quick mini breaks to Greece, Portugal and Denmark.
It’s all about how you feel. Don’t let anyone else shame you for being nervous about travel, or for wanting to visit places as soon as restrictions lift. If you do plan travel for after lockdown, remember to check government advice: both from our own Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) as well as in the country or region you’re visiting. It’s the best way to keep yourself, and those around you, safe.
Airports, airlines, hotels and resorts have all taken the situation on board and are doing their best to ensure the safety of their guests. Coronavirus has been particularly tough for those working in the tourism industry – one in 10 people worldwide – and by continuing to travel as safely as possible, we can support them.
Once we’re able to, of course. For now, let’s just settle in for a bit of dreaming, planning and wanderlusting.
Read more about travelling during coronavirus:
Coronavirus travel advice: updated daily, this article covers everything you need to know about travel planning, holiday cancellations and more.
Current travel restrictions: our map is a travel planning essential, showing you which countries are ‘open for business’ and which are closed (for now).
Everything you need to know about flexible travel: if you want to take a break this year, it’s important to be prepared for last-minute changes. Read our expert advice on planning a flexible holiday.
Top winter sun destinations open for UK travellers: feel the heat in your bones this winter with our tips on warm places to visit, quarantine-free.
Empty sun loungers and zero queues: 2020 travel first-hand: we get an on-the-ground perspective from those who have been travelling during coronavirus. Find out what you can expect if you do take a break this year.