These are unprecedented times, but after 6 or so months of global crisis, these words are scarcely new. We cannot travel, yet we cannot really bear to give it up. And so here we are, sailing the travel writing sea during the pandemics.
Having joined Hynt mid-pandemics and only recently coming to realise my travel writing has been influenced by the covid situation, since the very beginning, I decided to interview some of our writers and explorers, about their thoughts on travel, writing and the experience of combining both while on lockdown.
WHAT DOES TRAVELLING MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY?
Mariana: Travelling for me is part of life. It doesn’t mean holiday, it’s time and effort you put into yourself just to get to know the world a little bit better. These experiences enrich us in a way it is hard to put into words, but if I had to, travelling means self-discovery. Knowledge not only of what goes on outside your little bubble but, as well, a tool to help you make better sense of what does go inside it, a new lens, a new perspective.
Gavi: Travelling means growth and freedom to me. It’s so easy to stay in your comfort zone and to read about the world in a book or through a screen, but when you meet people from different cultures and backgrounds and to go to places that challenge your own ideas of what life on earth looks like, you exercise your ability to be open minded and to expand your understanding of what it means to be human. Ignorance stems from a lack of willingness to understand and appreciate people different from yourself, and mindful travel can combat this and connect the world in a powerful way. Mark Twain said it best, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts”.
Esme: To me, travelling is such an important part of my life as I have grown up moving every 4 years and have absorbed a love for exploring and discovering new cultures and places ever since. Travelling is part of my lifestyle and I’d be lost without it – I think it helps you grow and get to know yourself better.
Nicole: Travelling to me means physically escaping the reality of everyday life and absorbing new cultures and lifestyles first-hand. I truly cannot imagine living a life on earth without seeing as much of it as possible. I find the experience incredibly healing and being able to indulge in other countries, cultures and nature around the world is a luxury I certainly do not take for granted.
Zuzana: Growing up (blessed) in a family that loves to travel together, and have done so since I was very young, I always adored the early mornings or late nights at the airports, when time means nothing and you are floating through halls, buying overpriced duty-free candy, eating ice-cream at 3AM. I felt comfortable in the tranquillity of 2AM car drives to the airport and having a specific time frame of my life packed in a suitcase, picking out books for the trip and choosing the shoe that matches everything. My personal enjoyment of travel reaches beyond the discovery of new places, into the actual travel itself – the planning, the sitting on the plane and hanging around airport bars. For some reason, I am more present, whenever I travel, and I live as the person that I truly believe to be in my cor cordium. I like life and who I am, when on the road.
HOW DID THE WAY YOU EXPERIENCE TRAVEL CHANGE SINCE COVID? (LOCAL TRAVEL, STAYCATIONS…)
Mariana: It turned from answering “Do you want to go…” with “Yeeesssss” before the person finished the sentence to “I don’t know… yes but no… how about curfew? Do we have to quarantine when back? What’s open? What’s the mask policy?” and it goes on. Covid turned excitement into fear.
Gavi: Living in London, where a different country is just a short flight or a train ride away, it’s easy to take travelling for granted. I think covid made me take a step back to remember how fortunate and privileged I am to have access to other places like that. On the other hand, it made me reconsider the sustainability and mindfulness of travelling and how sometimes, the best weekend getaway can be one in your own backyard. Local travel can change the way you view your own city and its culture while giving back and supporting your community and the place you call home.
Esme: I was lucky enough to be able to fly back to Madrid in July, at a point when the restrictions had eased, to visit my old flat and see my friends again. I had spent the past year there for my year abroad and was so grateful to be able to say my goodbyes properly! I also made the most of local travel in the Netherlands, where my family is based, and made some visits to different cities and beach towns such as Zeeland. For me, the silver lining of covid travel restrictions was the ability to discover hidden gems and really take the time to explore my hometown. One of my favourite things I did over summer was discover a poem walk near my house in The Hague, where you followed a map to find English and Dutch poems painted on houses around the city. I would never have discovered this secret cultural display had I not been stuck at home looking for things to do, and now it has become one of my best memories from the lockdown period
Nicole: I went skiing in Bulgaria just at the very beginning of the virus when reports of Corona were still isolated to China. I don’t check the news or go on my phone much when I’m away, so quite embarrassingly I thought the drama of COVID had simmered down and ended by the time it was time to go home. Unsurprisingly, it was quite a shock when I was told that it had all started to kick off around Europe and the events of going through airports to travel home and seeing people wearing masks and taking extra sanitary precautions was a new and surreal experience. Since then, I haven’t considered going away until this is over. As much as I’d love to support the travel industry, living with my family as well as the possibility of either the trip being cancelled or having to isolate for a fortnight when I arrive home is enough to put me off booking a trip anytime soon. Instead, I’m making a conscious effort to support local and independent places close to me even more.
Zuzana: I did not have any travel plans for the 2020 summer, because I wanted to spend it interning in London. So at least technically, I did not “miss out” on any holiday plans. Eventually, we did end up taking a road trip to Gdansk (about which I wrote my first article for Hynt), but the experience was strange – it felt so full of uncertainty, and that was a new experience for me. Of course, even when you travel under less pandemic circumstances, things can happen. But with this new situation, things that could happen, could not be easily resolved. Hotel cancelled in 2018? You book another one. Borders and airports close in 2020? Well. So, this was very strange for me, having to rely on circumstance, good omens, karma, collective will to wear facemasks… whatever that was and is, and whichever name you want to call it. Having to rely on forces beyond my control, drastically altered the way I now view and experience vacationing as such.
WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU, TO EXPERIENCE TRAVEL THROUGH WORDS AND THROUGH WRITING?
Mariana: It became like a time capsule. Every time I travelled, I felt the need to have little moments of introspection to understand what was happening around me and what I was doing. I was never one to keep a diary, I felt weird writing something with no outwardly purpose. Joining Hynt, I got the opportunity to, now months and years later, reflect on some of my past adventures. I enjoy writing personal chronic because I feel the reader can better relate to me and they provide an outlet for me to truly express myself with no boundaries.
Gavi: No two people experience things the same way, so I think there can be a huge benefit from reading about other people’s experiences. I like reading about the beauty and magic other people find in places that in many cases inspire me to want to visit and explore them as well. I also enjoy reading about places I’ve already been because perception is subjective and sometimes people find inspiration in things, I wouldn’t have seen myself. You can stare at a beautiful photo of a place and appreciate it, but words and experiences bring it to life and give it meaning.
Esme: I love reading about travel through other people’s eyes, I think it gives writers the chance to share their experiences and no one account of a place is the same – 5 people could visit the same city and each experience would be so unique. More than reading about travel, I really enjoy having the opportunity to write about my own travel experiences and share my top tips and recommendations, knowing that I might help make someone else’s travel easier or improve their experience!
Nicole: To have the opportunity to put my experiences into words and to concretely document my holidays through writing is exactly the positive distraction I have needed over the past few months. I love reliving the experiences and, especially, the food and restaurants of the places I have visited in the past.
Zuzana: The experience is actually a lot different that I have expected – I feel like the whole expectation, and perhaps the misconception, was that it will prove painful and/or disappointing in the long run, because of the inability or the very limited ability to do, the very thing I like. Travel. However, in my personal experience, it has proven to be everything but that. I definitely do miss it – it is always like that with things you cannot do, you want them a lot more, and what is more, it was a regular part of my life, so it is sad to not get to do that. But especially in the Covid era, which is, strangely, when I joined this travel site, I feel a sort of refuge in writing about travel. I have always loved it and now, it is hard to do it, but with writing about it I get to reminisce and be nostalgic about it, and I think I like that. It takes me back and makes me appreciate it a lot more. I absolutely wholeheartedly bask in everything I write about travel and all the nice places I have visited. I reminisce about the smell of coffee on a rainy day in Oslo (I should definitely write about Oslo at some point) and re-appreciate all the places I was able to visit and enjoy. It is not simply the recollection of events and places for me – writing about travel, and all those magical moments, is a whole separate, a wholly new and unique activity.
THOUGHTS FROM THE EDITOR:
As our founder, fearless leader and friend, Tal’s experience with developing and managing a travel start-up, has been, understandably, somewhat different to ours. I zoom-interviewed her over coffee, to get an inside scoop on her experiences, working in the travel industry during these uncertain covid times:
“I started working on the start-up before Corona, so the situation, and my overall plan for it was a lot different. I was working for a PR agency, and transferred to work full-time for Hynt, just a week or two before the pandemics started – I would say not ideal but are all learning as we go. The biggest challenge is, as for many, financial – it is a challenge to get proper funding for a start-up in the travel industry in these travel-less times. The uncertainty of the whole situation has made even the development itself very difficult, because I cannot implement the ideas that I initially had in store for the app, and the whole project. But I do believe that uncertain times bring out the best in people, and now, that some time has passed since the pandemics began, I can see the bright spots. We took our time to develop our product and work on it more thoroughly – because of suspended travel, we didn’t feel rushed to put it on the market and I think that was a positive thing for us, to have the chance to take our time and polish all imperfections. Second benefit I noticed, and this one has been a general/worldwide phenomenon as well, is the increase in local travel, that supports domestic economies. Being from Israel, people do not really travel locally, we always fly abroad. Now, I can see the increase in domestic travel, in exploring locally and supporting small businesses along the way. Beside the travelling itself, I think this inadvertently had a positive impact on our app as well. I am now more open-minded in its development and goals. While trying to make it relevant to the current climate I am also changing my own perspective on what travel is and how we can experience it. In a strange way, the inability to continue travelling as we were all used to, made our travel app better. Travel industry will change, so we are changing too”