| New Delhi |
Updated: May 29, 2020 12:32:47 pm
‘Fernweh’ — German for wanderlust. The desire to visit far-off places, and feel a strange pang for the places you have never been to, yet. Quite literally, it is the opposite of homesickness, and sometimes is even referred to as ‘farsickness’.
You know how when you wake up from a dream so real, you feel dazed for the entire duration of the day? Like you aren’t sure how your mind managed to conjure something so realistic, and now all you want to do is go back to sleep to find out if there’s more to it? Well, the world seems to be going through something similar at the moment — only that this is a collective dream, which feels more like a nightmare, and people are ready to wake up and never dream anything like it ever again.
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Unfortunately though, the ongoing global health crisis is not the doing of the subconscious. It is really happening right now, toppling economies, restraining the health sector and affecting the mental well-being of people.
Until last year, you could run away from your troubles. Even when faced with a little hiccup, you could pack your bags and travel to the picture-perfect places of the world, and post enviable pictures and meaningful Rumi-esque quotes on social media. But, everything feels distant right now, mainly because many countries have imposed travel restrictions — both domestic and international — to flatten the coronavirus curve and deal with the crisis. This leaves the travelling community in a Catch-22 situation. Besides chasing their own wanderlust, travel writers and bloggers depended greatly on their journeys to come up with meaningful content.
So, how have they been coping with travel restrictions? Here’s how some professional travellers describe their apprehensions.
Lucknow and New-Delhi based Abhinav Singh — a travel blogger, photographer and v-logger — says his income is entirely dependent on travel blogging. The pinned post on his travel blog ‘A Soul Window’ reveals he was fired from his job for travelling too much, and he used this opportunity to finally pursue his dream of travelling. Today, Singh is one of the most sought-after travel blog writers in India.
“Traveling is the reason I am alive. Unlike many travel bloggers, it is more than just a business for me. It’s a passion which has helped me find contentment and happiness during a rough phase of my life. Travel happened to me when I had lost a loved one, and when I was fired from my corporate job. It has made me who I am and is, therefore, sacred to me,” he says, adding, he has been travelling mostly solo and independently since 2008, and has been to some 300 destinations in India, and 11 countries across the world till now.
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Singh says he had planned a trip to Europe with his parents in June 2020. “The plans of SouthEast Asia, a cruise, and East Bhutan were also finalised. In fact, I had cancelled an invite to be on board a luxury train in India. My first visit to Char Dham pilgrimage was also due to happen this year. All this and more plans came crashing down. All my hard work for years came to a zero. I tasted early success with blogging, and just when I thought I had finally achieved what I wanted to, corona happened. It was not easy to cope with.”
Singh has now been using this time to connect with his parents and learn new skills. “I would prefer to travel domestically after a few months if I feel it’s safe to go out. There is no point travelling right now. The themes which will be popular in the next few months will be backyard travels, road trips, treks and adventures, bike tours, offbeat destinations, bird watching and wildlife trips, due to the better control on hygiene and absence of crowds. I, too, will prefer these genres. That said, I will stay indoors until it’s very safe to go out,” he tells indianexpress.com.
Singh is not alone. Around the world, many travellers and travel writers are reeling under this crisis, unsure about what kind of content to put out and stay buoyant and relevant. While Singh says he has been posting wildlife pictures with quick facts on his Instagram account, award-winning travel blogger, freelance travel writer and author Shivya Nath says her “content mix has now evolved to include lockdown inspiration and throwback travel stories”.
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I miss the feeling of landing late at night in a new country. Picking up my bags, figuring some transport, staring at the city lights as I roll out of the airport. The air smells different, the language sounds different, the people look different, I feel different. I miss the feeling of waking up in a strange bed, in a strange land. Taking that first walk in a strange neighborhood. Navigating a strange system of local buses or trains. Reading strange names on the map. Then a stranger smiles at me, or helps me figure out my way, and suddenly everything feels familiar. I miss the feeling of heading out into the countryside. To some small village, to some remote part of the mountains, to somewhere I can feel the full brunt of my solitude. The liberation, the loneliness, the thrill, all mixed in. And if the universe has its way, like it usually does, to finally meet a friend or family that somehow feels like my own. I’m trying to be grateful for this time to reboot and rethink life. But I miss the feeling of being on the road. I miss who I am on the road. What about you, what do you miss about travelling?
Nath, who grew up in Dehradun, says she quit her full-time corporate job in Singapore in 2011, to pursue her dream of travel and writing. In 2013, she gave up her rented apartment, sold most of her belongings and embraced a nomadic life — living out of two bags and working on the go. “Long-term travel is not about sightseeing or escaping life. It is life itself. For me, it’s as much an internal journey as a physical one. The road has helped me unlearn the societal conventions and expectations that have been shoved down my throat, especially growing up as a woman in India,” she tells indianexpress.com.
In the weeks before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Nath was in Chhattisgarh, living with tribal communities in remote villages. “I was scheduled to speak at The Economic Times Women’s Forum in end March, so I had planned to spend time in India until then. After March, I had planned to head back to Iran in spring — a country I had fallen head over heels in love with last year, followed by a land journey to Azerbaijan. In July, I was to speak at an environmental conference in Uzbekistan. Of course, all plans stand postponed indefinitely, or cancelled now,” she shares.
So, how challenging has this period been for her?
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The past few days have been rather scary. Mask-covered faces. Queues to wash hands in public toilets. Sanitizers constantly out of stock. Accusatory looks towards anyone coughing or sneezing. Eerily empty hotels, flights and streets following the travel lockdown for Coronavirus. Places that were once plagued by overtourism are now deserted. The spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus has suddenly brought all usual life – and travel – to a halt. But you already know that. You, like me, have cancelled your immediate travel plans. And probably you, like me, are wondering what you can do now to indulge your wander-lusting soul! To keep myself from going crazy, I just published a blog post with creative ideas to satiate our travel cravings – safely and responsibly – during this uncertain coronavirus period. Go read it at the-shooting-star.com or at the link in my bio! As I prepare to hide out for the next few weeks, I plan to practice my Urdu writing lessons everyday. Finish watching One Strange Rock and a couple of other documentaries. After some heavy recent reads, I’m planning to lose myself in Murakami’s crazy but magical universe for a while. And I plan to continue penning stories from my travels (especially my recent adventures in Chhattisgarh) – because even if we can’t travel physically, we can continue to travel into the recesses of our minds! More creative ideas to indulge your wanderlust “at home” on my blog 😉 What about you? What are your travel lockdown plans?
Nath says she is going through a roller coaster of emotions. “On good days, I think the world will open up sometime in the distant future and we will travel again. Borders will reopen, businesses that survive will emerge stronger and we’ll get our passports stamped. And when that happens, travel blogging – especially the kind that’s rooted in sustainability – will become more important than ever. On bad days, I wonder if this is just the beginning. Unless we collectively fight for the environment with innovative policies and strict environmental laws, what will change?” she asks.
For now, Nath says she is trying to identify a place in India for the next six months or so, “ideally somewhere close to nature but also with access to basic amenities”.
Harry and Nikita
Harry and Nikita call themselves the ‘travel couple’ on Instagram. Their account is full of pictures of their many worldly adventures. In a quick chat with indianexpress.com, they say that while they do have their respective jobs — Harry is a marketing professional and Nikita is a content marketing consultant — travelling together was something they wanted to do even before they got married. “We would love it if travelling was our main career. Our blog does help with our finances, but not entirely as of now. For us, travelling means to be experiencing new cultures, people and places. It means freedom, fun and adventure. Travelling is therapy for us,” they say.
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Just before the lockdown was announced, the couple was in Odisha, in Harry’s hometown. This year, they had planned a trip to Jim Corbett National Park, an anniversary trip to Thailand, among other such trips. “It is unfortunate to see the world suffer, and the travel industry be crippled like this. To be honest, content has been a little slow lately. Inspiration isn’t really striking, but we do keep posting our throwback pictures and some inspirational content to keep our followers motivated in these hard times,” they say, adding: “We wish we could travel tomorrow! But alas, we cannot. In such uncertain times, we do not know when we will get to travel next. But, we are sure the industry will evolve. And adapting to the changes is the name of the game now”.
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