The biggest change to expect with international travel

How we travel on the other side of lockdowns could be radically different to what came before.

How’s your bucket-list looking? A bit battered and useless? Like a relic from a bygone era? No longer… relevant? Same. Hard same.

These are such uncertain times for travellers. For everyone. With the virus still stalking the world and Earth itself in a perilous state, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that our old bucket-lists may, in fact, have kicked the bucket. 

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Mountains waiting to be explored in Kangchenjunga, India.

How we travel on the other side of lockdowns could be radically different to what came before. Trips may be more expensive, as many commentators are predicting. And there’ll obviously be a lot more hassles to do with health.

Perhaps we’ll have fewer opportunities to travel in a post-Covid world. We probably won’t be able to blithely accumulate boarding passes like we did in the Before Times. We’ll have to rethink our priorities, picking and choosing the experiences we think will matter most to us. Rare adventures that are worth the effort, expense and energy. 

Regardless of any future hurdles, travel junkies won’t lose hope. Won’t stop dreaming about their next adrenaline hit. So maybe we just have to rename, or at least reorder, that bucket-list. Make it more of a mission statement than a collection  of whims. Scratch out anything superfluous; focus on what matters. The Last-Chance List?  The Packing List? The Check-In List? 

Okay, so the name needs work. Meantime,  I’ve started trimming my travel wishes down  to the essentials. The places I really, really  want to go (or go back to). 

The Arctic’s right up the top. I’ve been there once before. That was almost a decade ago. But  it’s still the journey I think about most. One of the last great wild places on Earth.

I harbour delusions of arriving in southern Africa – Namibia looks nice – and then weaving my way north.

I harbour delusions of arriving in southern Africa – Namibia looks nice – and then weaving my way north.

Once you venture beyond 66 degrees north,  it’s like arriving on a different planet. One where icebergs the size of shopping malls might drift  by (as one did when I was there). Where weather conditions oscillate wildly between cut-crystal serenity and blinding blizzards, and where every day is a physical challenge. 

Despite being a land of beautiful, fantastical creatures such as muskox, narwhals and majestic polar bears, it’s the people who really fascinated me. The Inuit are the most hardcore humans  I’ve met. The way they’ve adapted to life in such extreme conditions, forging a unique culture  and language, means the Arctic is rich in stories  – incredible, astonishing stories – in a way that uninhabited Antarctica is not. And their message of resilience in adversity feels more relevant  now than ever.

In a similar spirit of adventure, I still harbour delusions of one day arriving in southern Africa  – Namibia looks nice – and then weaving my way north through a dozen or more countries. Getting to know the differences between them the same way I now know the difference between Thailand and Malaysia, or Greece and Turkey. 

Perhaps we’ll have fewer opportunities to travel in a post-Covid world.

Perhaps we’ll have fewer opportunities to travel in a post-Covid world.

Using local transport wherever possible, wandering slowly up the spine of the continent from Angola to Zambia, Tanzania to Kenya, Sudan for the pyramids, Ethiopia, Eritrea and then arriving, finally, in Cairo. 

I’ve always been drawn to great, sprawling cities, especially ones with chaotic energy and richly layered histories and cultures. So Cairo seems the perfect bookend to an epic expedition. 

I’d sail a felucca down the Nile – at sunset,  with cocktails. Get lost in a labyrinth of bazaars, fortifying myself with endless glasses of hibiscus tea and koshary, the national dish of rice, macaroni and lentils. And hopefully marvel at the ancient treasures of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which might finally be finished by the time I get to Cairo  (I believe the pyramids went up in less time). 

Elsewhere on the globe, I definitely hope to return to Europe. I’ve been lucky to visit quite often in the past, staying everywhere from palace hotels to shabby Airbnbs, discovering regional dishes, being awestruck by architecture. The one constant has been that there’s never enough time to do or see everything. So next time I’ll set aside  a month or three and plot a multi-country roadtrip. By electric car. 

Pick up the wheels in London, drop in on  long-lost UK friends before we forget each other completely, then head across the Channel to  do likewise in France and Spain. A side-hustle  to Portugal for clams beside the Atlantic, time permitting. Then head east, lingering in Italy before continuing on to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, maybe Hungary, Romania, and ultimately ending up in Odessa.

One of those cities, like Cairo, that’s always intrigued me,  even though I know almost nothing about it and have no idea what to expect. But that’s the point.  I can’t wait to find myself back in the unknown.

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