I live in a small town on the old Roman Watling Street between London and Dover, rather closer to Dover than London. In March last year, I caught what I thought was bad flu in London. There were no tests in the UK a year ago; the UK government was in denial and inactive. I decided to adopt the precautionary principle and self-isolated. I was one of the lucky ones, I was not hospitalised, at 10 days I began to recover. There were some changes for which I did need medical advice; some of those are only lifting now.
Covid-19 affects people differently, people younger and fitter than me have been hospitalised, and friends only a little older than me have died. This virus has to be taken seriously and the travel industry will be impacted by it for the foreseeable future. There will almost certainly be new variants and more lockdowns.
Out taking my permitted daily exercise I encountered a man trapped in Faversham, unable to return to his home in Africa. A neighbour’s brother is trapped in Australia. Travel is more adventurous and riskier than it was before the pandemic. Clearly, those countries with SARS and MERS’ experience were better equipped to deal with this pandemic than the UK was. Will our government learn from this pandemic? I don’t know, but I am not confident that they will.
So what have I learnt?
To place less trust in my government’s attention to public health – they were not prepared for a pandemic and were slow, very slow, to respond. So pay more attention to what scientists and medics are reporting and heed the warnings. I could have decided not to go to London that fateful day in March last year, I should certainly not have travelled on the tube.
I have been one of the lucky ones, on a pension, I have not lost income and I have been busy, still working long days and under pressure to deliver. As we hopefully come out of lockdown, many of the tasks I thought I would have time for have not been completed – photos, slides and files unsorted, books unread. I have been too busy.
I have learnt more about my town and local countryside and about what makes the place tick —relishing the local. I have learnt about our eels and seahorses. We have our local exotics too. There are efforts to rewild my town, and I have had more time to visit and appreciate the trees I planted with a fiend on trust land in a nearby valley.
I have discovered how many emerging businesses in town are flourishing in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Covid has been a leveller, I can speak as easily on the phone or on Zoom with friends in South Africa, India or Brazil as I can with those in Faversham. But it feels stranger to speak only in this way with family and close friends with whom I might regularly share a pint or a meal.
I am one of the fortunate for so many the pandemic has brought woe: serious illness, death and loss of livelihoods.
Our local foodbank has been active, many have lost employment. Many have lost loved ones and friends.
I look forward to travelling again in the UK, in Europe and further afield. But I have learnt to savour and enjoy what is local to me and “to dig local”.
I was prompted to write this by a piece in the New Zealand Herald by Justin Francis with whom I co-founded Responsible Travel, although I am no longer a shareholder. His reflections on what he has learnt are worth reading.