By Julie-Ann Sherlock

I mentally shake my fist at COVID daily and have started referring to it as “The C word”. This intruder in our lives has taken loved ones from us too soon, disrupted our world and is causing unbelievable hardship for many.

While not a “magic bullet”, the vaccines available are a little spark of light at the end of this long, seemingly never-ending tunnel of movement restrictions, mask-wearing and constant hand-sanitisation. As countries put in action the most extensive immunisation programme in history, we all anxiously wait for the world to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. 

And oh boy, watch out when it does! 

On The Road Again

The ever-curious (my mam calls me nosy), intrepid explorer (ok, ok, I am not really intrepid, but this is my article, so let me think I am a modern-day Amelia Earhart), Ms Sherlock, is coming to a destination near you. You have been warned.

My big shiny purple suitcase is semi-packed with warm-weather clothes, travel adapters, sunscreen etc.—waiting to be dragged out of the closet. My passport sits in a drawer, pining for me, thinking I’m dead. But fear not, my beautiful burgundy-coloured document of travel; you will receive the stamps of border control again soon. You may even have a new friend accompanying you in my travel bag—a vaccination passport! 

Passport, Visa, Vaccination

With many countries considering introducing a document showing immunisation status, travellers could be asked to produce proof of protection against the dreaded virus before being allowed to enter the destination of choice.  

Currently, many countries request a certificate showing a negative COVID-19 test result before allowing you to board the plane or cross their border. These tests can be expensive, and even with a negative result, there are no guarantees that you are virus-free when you arrive at your destination. 

Because of this, lots of countries (rightly so, in my opinion) are insisting on quarantine for up to 14 days upon arrival. As more of the world gets vaccinated and cases drop, these restrictions will gradually ease. I hope. 

I am still waiting for my coronavirus shot, but hopefully not for too much longer. This staying in one place business doesn’t really gel with my identity as a digital nomad. Now I am just digital and going mad.

Thankfully, work keeps me very busy, so I don’t feel like I am missing that much during the week. But come the weekend, and I feel like weeping: they used to be filled with travel and exploring new areas. I would arrive at my latest “home” and dive into life during the weekends while soaking up the atmosphere in a beachfront bar or a chic city café during my work hours. I miss it. 

But I think I miss the company of the random people I would meet and converse with even more. I loved the awkward I-don’t-know-you smiles, the often hilarious encounters due to language barriers and the sheer newness of the faces around me. 

Yes, I am that weirdo who will sit beside you in a bar and ask if your cocktail contains coconut or for recommendations on the city’s best view. Chatting with strangers has allowed me to collect a gaggle of interesting friends and acquaintances on my journeys. Now I feel my life is less colourful for the lack of these encounters. 

The Nomad Life

For me, travel is not just about relaxing in a new destination—I often don’t get much downtime as the digital nomad’s curse means you never really get to escape your work. It follows you like a bad smell thanks to global internet access. Unless, of course, you are desperately trying to file some copy before a rapidly approaching deadline while on a bus driving through the mountains in Rajasthan, India. Aggh!

When I travel, jet lag aside, I feel alive. The bubble of excitement as I step off the plane and smell a new country—yes, they all smell different—mixes with a tremor of trepidation as I try to connect to the airport WiF and find a ride-hailing app to get to my accommodation. 

The total immersion in the sights and sounds of a new city, town or village; figuring out the lay of the land while being ferried to my hotel or homestay; the first post-travel shower and clothing change before hunting out a suitable place to eat; my first hours at a destination may be my favourite. I think I am a travel junkie. 

When I left school, I studied tourism management because the life of travel was what I wanted. It took me another 20 years to achieve it, so I cannot let a pandemic kill my dreams. My sleeve is rolled up and waiting. First stop: to see my new baby niece in Edinburgh, then a trip around Europe followed by….