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The question on everyone's mind: When can I travel again?

Experts say leisure travel may not resume till mid-2021 so it seems only sensible to wait even while you're making plans

A visit to Jewel Changi Airport late last month took me to Terminal 3. It was my first time at the airport since March 6, when I returned from a two-week holiday.

Covid-19-induced travel restrictions to and from countries - other than mainland China, South Korea, Iran and Italy - had not yet kicked in then. And masks were not yet mandatory.

But five months later, when I found myself at the airport again, it looked like a very different place. Needless to say, it was sparse. And, even though it was expected, I did a double take at just the handful of flights showing on the once very busy, constantly-updated flight information screens. Out of six screens, just one was active - showing eight flights that day.

Almost like a reflection of our lives now, the limited number of flights on the single screen seemed to convey pause and patience. But it couldn't hide the promise of wonderful possibilities when the rest of the screens become active and busy once again.

It is those possibilities - of revisiting a favourite holiday destination or of catching up with family overseas - that keep us going and make us Google, "when can I travel again".

Experts say leisure travel may not start till the middle of next year. Even then, and even though they are outwardly patient, the question is on a lot of people's minds.

After almost half a year of restricting themselves to their homes and the immediate neighbourhoods, making perhaps the occasional foray to the cinema, mall, beach or park for a break from the home which is now also an office and a school, it seems like a reasonable question to ask. Patience. Deep breaths.

Making plans while we wait seems to be the only sensible and responsible thing to do now.

A look at Google trends data for the past five months shows that the top five countries where "when can I travel again" is a popular search are Ireland, Britain, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Top among the places that people are looking for travel information on are Europe, Canada, the United States, Thailand and Greece.


A quiet transit area in Changi Airport's Terminal 3, on Aug 3, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Travel bloggers are using #armchairtravel, #dreamnowvisitlater to highlight holiday spots to check out. Read now, visit later, they say. Tourism offices of different countries have been tweeting, "stay home, visit later" messages.

Travellers are using the above hashtags and sharing photos of places they have visited or would like to, and encouraging followers to share their thoughts too.

 
 
 

Instagram user @heyjulianahey shared a photo of a cobblestone street with the post: "Counting down the days until it's safe to travel again. Until then, you'll find me daydreaming of roaming cobblestone streets on a cosy fall day. What are you daydreaming of this afternoon?"

Instagram user @thesecretlifeofwaltermickey has been chronicling the 45 countries he has been to so far, and ending his posts with the question: "Which one will be next?"

They sound wistful but also patient and positive.

Then there are others planning #revengetravel the moment borders open or widespread testing - and better still a vaccine - are made available. The term refers to pent-up demand over travel. People are planning long holidays to make up for the time lost and vacations given up in order to stay at home. However, revenge travel could lead to overcrowding and overpricing, experts caution, and may not be a great way to herald the return of leisure travel.

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

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    KAMALA HARRIS: The US Senator became the first black woman on a major party presidential ticket in American history when Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden named her as his running mate.

    LEIPZIG: The German football club, which was founded in 2009, will face Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League semi-finals next week after its shock win over Atletico Madrid.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to use this time to rediscover your own backyard, some say.

The recently-launched SingapoRediscovers campaign encourages residents to experience heritage, connect with traditions, rediscover nature spots, and indulge in staycations right here, right now.

Rediscovering nearby places in Scotland is Instagram user theglobefromglasgow. "Okay, I know we've not really been allowed to go anywhere at all this summer. But where's the best place you've managed to go?"

She describes finding An Lochan Uaine in Glenmore Forest Park as definitely one of the most spectacular places she has been to in Scotland.

"I can't wait to be allowed to explore further afield, but for now I'll take days like this when I can get them," she adds.

Indeed, in a bittersweet way, the virus which has impacted so many aspects of our lives, separated us from our friends and loved ones, and forced us to hide our smiles behind masks has also united us in our desire to fight it and come out of it stronger. It has forced us to think of workarounds to do what we need to do even as we wear a mask, wash our hands frequently, avoid non-essential travel to protect others and ourselves.

Just as there are possibilities to explore when this is over, there are possibilities within these strained, restricted circumstances as well. We just need to find them.

ANIMALS' DAY OUT

If two bears turn up at your front door, what kind of a conversation would they have? This was the topic of discussion in a Facebook thread after a North Carolina resident posted a video of a bear cub and its mother hanging out on her front deck.

"We had some visitors last night. We woke up to their pool party, birdseed snacking, and ~12 foot deck climbing. I think the cub wanted to come inside to hang out, but his momma wasn't in the mood to deal with his mischievousness at 4am," wrote Ms Sumer Walser Williams, of the approximate 3.7m deck. She said that she played out in her head the mother bear's reaction to her cub's curiosity as: "Let's go, I have told you a hundred times not to bother people while we're raiding their house for goodies. We have to be silent. I've told you this. Why can't you seem to listen? I had to climb 12 feet up a pole to rescue your little butt. Get off their deck now."

This prompted other Facebook users to guess what the bears could be saying.

Ms Tara Davis Proctor wrote: "Oh muh goodness!!! She's saying, 'Boy!!! I TOLD you not to be harassing people!' "

Ms Alice Altizer Diana Ryder wrote: "It's like he is saying 'let me in MoMA's coming,' lol."

The one-minute-and-20-second long video has had 1.2k shares since it was posted last Monday.

The mother-cub pair were not the only bears to see Internet fame recently. Late last month, Ms Regina Keller was visited by a big black bear in her home in George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Virginia. He took an hour-long nap in the kiddie pool in her backyard before leaving.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2020, with the headline 'The question on everyone's mind: When can I travel again?'. Print Edition | Subscribe