Footloose no more: Taking cautious steps into the world of travel

Trekking up treacherous hills, sun-bathing on beaches and island hopping, peeping into the history of musty monuments, or, simply, taking a walk in the woods — life was one epic adventure for travel bloggers, influencers, and travel show hosts, till COVID-19 forced them to swap those picture-perfect portraits with shots taken on their couch or the balcony during the global lockdown.

Apart from sustaining an insatiable audience, they also had to satisfy platforms that rewarded constant posting of their adventures in faraway lands. The lockdown put their lives on an amazing trajectory, where they were forced to accept the new reality for travel created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety is key

With restrictions on travel gradually easing up, how do travellers plan to inch back out there? Travel blogger Siddhartha Joshi, who calls himself a ‘storyteller’ on his Instagram handle @siddharthajoshi/ and has a massive follower base of 1.8 lakh, says, “Safety will be very high on my list of priorities — my safety as well as that of the places or properties I promote. I believe in evidence-based safe travel and would promote that. If I am not convinced about the safety of a place and won’t travel there myself, there’s no question of talking about it. Right now, the safety of a place is everything that people — especially families and those travelling in groups — want to know.”

For the time being, Siddhartha is hiking in Mumbai. “There are so many hills and hikes around Mumbai. I have started heading to places where I can be alone and don’t have to put on my mask. I also go to beaches that are empty, where I can just take a walk,” he shares.

Travel & fashion blogger and influencer Roomer Sen, who has 53k followers on his Instagram handle @romeersen/, also believes that highlighting the safety of a destination will be the new norm “because people would feel comfortable visiting a place where they know extra precautions are being taken to address safety concerns”. He adds, “Before booking a ticket, people should not hesitate to question the relevant authorities about social distancing measures and safety protocols.”

Think local

Apart from shrinking travel plans, uncertainties caused due to the coronavirus — the constantly-changing travel corridor lists of various governments making booking a holiday into a game of chance — have made travellers rethink their priorities. They are learning to be content with smaller trips, which, in turn, means a boost for hyperlocal places.

Shivani Singh, a Hyderabad-based travel blogger, says, “For long, I have wanted to travel to a few Indian cities, but never got the chance. Now, I am working on plans to explore places such as Rishikesh, Mussoorie, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer in the next six months.” Shivani has 35.6k followers on Instagram (@whimsthatwoo/).

Ami Bhat, a Bengaluru-based travel writer, photographer, blogger, and social media influencer with 16.1k followers on Instagram (@amibhat/), says she is all for backyard tourism. She feels now is the time for everyone to explore their own country and find pride in what it has to offer. “I would not be surprised if after exploring these gems of India, one comes back feeling that we have the whole world right here,” she quips.

Roomer says he would be reluctant to undertake international travel until March 2021. “Having said that, I would like to say that India has so much to offer. Be it luxury or affordable travel, India has something for everyone. So, first, let’s get our own country ruling, then think of an international trip,” he says.

Learning a new skill

While the world was put on hold during the lockdown — where mask-covered faces became the norm, sanitisers constantly ran out of stock, and anyone coughing or sneezing got accusatory glances from others — it made many people realise that they need to discover a new interest or skill, as a way of gaining some focus during precarious times.

“If your income is built on just one thing, it’s risky. That’s what I have realised during the lockdown,” asserts Siddhartha. “You can’t be so focused on one thing that you run out of options if that one thing isn’t happening. I have learnt not to be platform-dependent. We have seen what happened to Tik-Tok. So, I like to diversify. I have actually built on my skills and diversified more than ever in the last few months. The pandemic may or may not worsen, but the world has changed a lot in the past few months and it will change further. With that, even the way we earn money will change,” he adds.

For her part, Ami has been dishing out untold stories from her past travels for her followers on a weekly basis. “I also used the [lockdown] time to impart my experience and skills to fellow creators by way of online workshops. I have also been collaborating with various tourism boards to conduct live virtual tours of destinations around the world,” she says.

Shivani, too, documented her past adventures to keep her followers engaged. “I had travelled to a few Nordic countries just before the lockdown. So, I had many stories to share from those travels, which I used for few weeks,” she says. Once she was done with the same, she began exploring other platforms such as videos, which she couldn’t work on earlier because of time constraints. “I started going live more often to interact with my followers, and shared my stories with much more details and depth,” adds Shivani.

Alex received some “lovely messages” from those who had watched her shows, with some even saying that for them it was a way to travel the world despite having to stay at home. “It was so nice to read those messages and hope that I had made a difference to their days or perhaps made them feel less lonely,” she says.

The caveat

Even in the post-pandemic world, travel will definitely not be the same as it used to be. The deep and lasting damage cause by the pandemic will inevitably transform this sector. Though with flights resuming, some travel has become possible, people still need to weigh the benefits of a trip over its risks.

Popular travel television presenter Alex Outhwaite, who is based in London and has 56.7k followers on Instagram (@alexouthwaite/), feels one of the biggest challenges will be getting filming permits for certain places. She enjoys exploring lesser-visited destinations, meeting new people, and “not knowing where you will stay each night”.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the uncertainty around which place is safe to visit has made it difficult for her. “A lot of filmmakers are looking closer to home and perhaps filming in their country rather than abroad. Filming in restaurants and bars will be more challenging due to social distancing rules. Once there is a vaccine and the pandemic has completely passed, the main restraint will be budget, I suppose, and whether production companies or tourist boards will be putting money into projects,” she concludes.

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Aveek Bhowmik

Aveek Bhowmik

A curious traveller and sports buff, I'm drawn to food, history, cultures & communities. Let’s chat: aveek.bhowmik1611@gmail.com