How to travel when you can’t travel

How to travel when you can’t travel

5 tips to help you find opportunities to explore when travel is restricted…

When difficult things happen in the world, travel often gets put on hold. I’ve put together 5 tips for you to show you how to travel when you can’t travel.

There are lots of things that can disrupt our travel plans – for example, strikes, political upheaval or conflict, border closures, visa problems, volcanic eruptions – and of course viruses.

In an uncertain world there are obvious things we all need to do, such as making sure we have adequate travel insurance to cover most eventualities. It’s also good to have a plan B to help mitigate the effects of unexpected events, and of course to follow local news.

But what can we do if we really want to explore – or we’re already away travelling somewhere when restrictions are put in place?

5 tips to show you how to travel when you can’t travel:

1. Find the places where nobody goes

When the prevailing advice is to avoid crowds, it’s a great opportunity to explore some more unusual places where people don’t usually go.

These places don’t even have to be places that are ‘on the map’ for travellers. Here are 2 random ideas:

You could wander through a beautiful forest for a few hours, breathe in that wonderful forest scent and take time to really notice how magnificent the trees are.

You could choose a theme for some unexpected photos, e.g. street art, graffiti, doorways or gates. Wherever you are, go for a walk and seek out the most unusual ones and take some creative photos. It can be fun – and it helps us notice things more.

Discovering unusual places or heading off the beaten track can leave us with more enduring memories than if we’d stuck to our previous plans.

2. Explore more of where you live

If you’re going a bit stir crazy because you’ve had to cancel your travel plans, why not get to know your own local area better. There are hidden gems everywhere, for example a little local museum or a gallery for local artists – or an out-of-the-way café.

You could create your own ‘alternative’ walking tour of the place where you live: Google something interesting and unusual about its social or political history, and then go and find out more about it on your ‘alternative’ walking tour.

The same applies if you’re already travelling and find yourself stuck. While stuck in France during a fuel strike I found a tiny little restaurant where only local people ate – and there was just one big table for everyone. It was really wonderful.

3. Practice ‘working from anywhere’

Remember the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland back in 2010? The airspace over 20 countries in Europe was closed, affecting around 10 million travellers. Some people were stranded for several weeks.

When difficult things happen, it’s a great opportunity to get creative.

A pandemic or global health scare may have you questioning how much you should be travelling right now. You may also need to work from home.

So here’s a positive idea to take forward:

If you have the opportunity to work from home at the moment, take it. It’s excellent practice for being able to ‘work from anywhere’ – across the world – once things have returned to normal.

Assuming you have phone and internet:

What parts of your job can you still do at home?
What conversations can you still have?
What meetings can you still have?
What work can you still prepare?
What work can you still deliver?
What research can you still do?
And what new opportunities might this throw up for you?

4. Help out someone who’s stranded

When flights are cancelled, people are stranded – and yet many of those people will have pets at home that need feeding. Those pets may currently be being fed by a neighbour, or there may currently be a house sitter in place.

However, neighbours can’t always continue to feed them, and pre-booked house sitters may need to leave. It means you may find an opportunity to step in and help.

If you’re stranded yourself, house sitting is a really nice way to stay longer in a place – and do something fun as well.

There are lots of house sitting websites where home owners post requests for house sitters. You may find someone where you are right now. And of course in times of travel disruption, home owners may need someone urgently.

I do a lot of house sitting, and it’s one of my favourite ways to travel. I also house sit in my home country. I love looking after animals, especially cats, and house sitting is a win: win for both the home owner and the house sitter. Over the years I’ve got to know some lovely home owners, many of whom are now friends.

Read more about house sitting here

5. Go with the flow

Way back in April 1986 I was in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, doing a research project. My plan was to finish all my work in Belgrade and then continue on to Hungary. However, before I could do that, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in Ukraine. Many borders were closed, including the one between (the then) Yugoslavia and Hungary. It was also a frightening time.

So I was stuck – but it meant I could spend longer in Belgrade. I remember spending an afternoon sitting in a park in the city just people watching – something I probably wouldn’t have made time to do if the borders hadn’t been closed.

So sometimes there are silver linings when difficult things happen. Stay flexible, stay safe, have a plan B, help people out – and see if you can find opportunity in the uncertainty.

Have you had unexpected adventures when travel plans have been disrupted? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below.

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