It is a difficult thing for me to sit still. To remain grounded. To be flightless. To be confined to my immediate surroundings. As the global pandemic hit, however, this is a situation we all found ourselves in, locked down and unable to travel.
In February this year, I was returning from a rather epic expedition along the fjords of Norway. I had boarded a Hurtigruten ship and sailed up the coastline from Bergen into the Arctic circle, chasing the Northern Lights. A day’s sail out from Kirkness on the Russian border, the night sky was illuminated with these Northern Lights, and my soul sang. Little did I know that those lights would be my last international travel experience in a while.
Flying home to Australia mid-February, the buzz around COVID-19 had started. People in airports seemed on edge and before long, the panic buying of toilet paper across Australia kicked in. At first, I welcomed the two-week lockdown we had in Queensland. Having just returned from my Nordic adventures, I found it the perfect time to catch up on work, edit photographs and just unwind from an incredible trip without feeling guilty of being absent from social circles.
Being based on the Gold Coast in Queensland, I soon discovered how lucky I was in the location stakes. As we were released from lockdown in our houses, I began to explore my own back yard. Wilderness Wednesdays was born as I would head into the Gold Coast Hinterland for hikes. It was exciting to discover new rainforest tracks that led to stunning waterfalls. I was in awe of this wilderness that served up a weekly dose of adventure, right on my doorstep.
As more restrictions eased in Queensland, I ventured further afield. The Whitsunday Islands, Lady Elliot Island, Port Douglas and the Daintree, all fuelling my urge for travel and exploration. Borders remained closed but that did not bother me so much as I had all I needed here in Queensland. It started to dawn on me that for all these years I had been escaping the shores of Australia in search of the next adventure around the globe, not realising what adventures were to be had in my own country.
I then started to get creative with my experiences. If I longed for the mindfulness of Thailand, I booked myself into a Thai massage where the smells of jasmine oil, the soft Thai music and the chitter chatter of the Thai masseuse transported me back to the shores of Phuket. Missing Africa, I went in search of Australia’s unique wildlife, photographing it as if I were on a game safari snapping a lioness on the hunt.
Food delivered great transportation to global destinations. Middle Eastern delights added the spice of adventure, hot curries reignited Indian memories, spiced and flavoured rum took me back to Mauritius.
I went in the ocean … a lot. Diving transported me to a different world that seemed miles away from reality, albeit just meters under the surface. Sailing offered a sense of adventurous escape where I was left to the mercy of the wind. Even the sensation of diving under the waves and exploring a deserted beach made me feel the vibes of the Pacific and helped wash away the strains of reality in lockdowns.
By this stage, the reality of this pandemic has become more evident, and while the dreaming of travels to far off destinations is still around, the possibilities of the present are more realistic. Those far away places will be there to visit in the future. Maybe soon, maybe much later. What is right in front of us now is what we have to work with. The world remains in different levels of lockdown, so we must learn to work with what we have.
Travel is not necessarily the physical movement, it can also be mentally, sensory and even emotionally. Now is the time to be creative. For those restricted to your homes, dig out a good book and let the author transport you, try cooking a meal from a different country or start learning a language so when the time comes to step foot in that new country, you will be prepared.
For people restricted to your state or area, stop moving around it like a local and start being a tourist. Visit the local tourist information centre and get a map. Take a camera and go look at your area with fresh eyes. Have picnics. Do those activities you once cringed at for being tacky and only for tourists.
It is a difficult thing for me to sit still, so I didn’t. I kept moving, moving in the ways I could when the times where right. This planet Earth will keep spinning, time will keep ticking and we all must learn to keep moving the best we can with the situations we are in. That is what 2020 has taught me.