We Can’t Travel — Survival Tips to Beat the Daily Grind

TRAVEL BAN IN THE PANDEMIC AND HOW TO COPE

9 Ways you can overcome the tedium of being stuck in one place!

Off on an adventure when we could do things like that… Photo by author.

I travel a lot.

I am British; I live in Vietnam, so for my work, I have to travel to get to most places that are relevant to my research. My job is to analyse and predict trends to help my customers prepare their brands for what will happen next. I would go on a deluge of trips every year, often multiple times a month when you include my personal travel.

I know a lot of people would hate that, find it excessive, but not me. This is what I have always considered being one of the best parts of my job; I love travelling, always have.

You see travelling is fundamental in my role, that information allows me to get a real idea of how the world is operating, and it has to be first hand, because as we all know the media well; it’s not exactly accurate is it?


Then everything changed.

We have found ourselves in the grip of this pandemic which for now at least seems never-ending, and although I love this country with all my heart, there is no denying that I feel a bit stuck.

This is the longest I have stayed in one place for YEARS, I thought it would be fine, but I have to admit to myself it’s been HARD. Harder than I thought.

I think what makes it worse is that I feel a little tiny bit jealous of those in lockdown. What an excellent opportunity to learn a new skill, perfect a craft, redecorate your house, clear out your closets and all that stuff.

We didn’t get that: no furlough, no lockdown, no quarantine. Just one (sort of -not entirely) week off work, and now we are working a nine-day fortnight (which is excellent by the way and I don’t want it to be over) to help reduce labour costs.

Aside from that life didn’t change that much, except for travel.

Vietnam closed its borders, and there have been no flights in or out for months except for the odd special charter plane delivering people home.


I have been exhausted, totally and utterly inexplicably exhausted. It doesn’t matter what I do, early nights, healthy food, exercise, I am still tired, and then it dawned on me.

It’s the situation.

I am bored, stagnant, like a kid at the end of the summer holidays, excited to go back to school to see all their friends.

My brain needs stimulation; it needs challenges, problem-solving, apprehension, a sprinkling of nervousness, excitement and anticipation to thrive.

What do I have instead? Monotony. Agh.

I have not had to go to the same place every day with no break from the tedium for such a long time that I am not used to it, and it’s not a good way for me to be productive.

I have no new countries to explore, new cultures to absorb, no being dropped on the other side of the world and having to figure out how to navigate.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, London. Photo by author.

Instead of my life being an endless cycle of packing and unpacking, I have nothing to pack for. My only links to the outside world are via the internet or TV; I feel as though I am living in some bizarre soap except for the ending because let’s face it none of us know what is going to happen next.

The other thing about being stuck in one place and going to one office is you give up your freedom a little bit. You might find that you are under constant scrutiny, people are questioning what you are doing all the time because they have just realised that they don’t know, as you’re generally not there that much.

As a frequent traveller, your entire being functions on the basis of flexitime. You might be up to do things at 3 am and in bed at 8 pm, or maybe you worked all of the weekend, so on Monday, you have given yourself a day off, this suits me very well. Now all of a sudden I am expected to slot back into the 8–5 Mon — Fri cycle, and it is challenging to maintain this level of normalcy for an extended amount of time when to me this isn’t normal, far from it.

People have given me some great advice — really helpful:

‘snap out of it’

‘at least you still have a job’

‘you should be grateful’

‘ I don’t see what your problem is’

Brilliant — I am fixed thank you for that fantastic guidance.

In all seriousness, I am incredibly grateful, I know I am also fortunate to have a job still, but what no one seems to have taken into account is that my entire life and what I do at work have been impacted with quite some magnitude. All the information I would collect, the things that would inspire me to be creative, they have been taken away, and yet I am still expected to produce the same content, which is not impossible, but much more challenging.

Of course, we are all adapting and doing our best, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that I am no longer able to do my job as I know and love, and it is just plain weird.

I feel like a fish out of water, and I am floundering around hoping that someone is going to chuck me back in, and soon.

Fish in Lake Mead, I place I visited some time ago. Photo by author.

So if like me, you are someone more accustomed to being in airports than offices, maybe these coping mechanisms might go some way to helping you feel a bit less flat, while the world gradually returns to it’s new normal.

1. Create commitments

If you do spend a lot of time travelling typically, it can be tough to have any routine or commitments. Now you are at home a lot it’s a great time to start.

I have been ramping up my pilates classes to 4 times a week. The idea for me is that if I get to a certain level, it becomes easier for me to do my practice without a teacher. This applies to anything, whether it’s a daily meditation, going for a run — whatever — now is a great time to start putting your routine into place, use this time at home to your advantage.

If it does become routine, then once you do get back to your frantic life of jet setting, you never know you might even be able to keep it going.


2. Turn your office into a haven.

My beautiful studio — sadly back in the UK, but this is truly my haven. Photo by author.

‘We are now in an era where people don’t just see a job as means of getting paid. People now want to enjoy their job. They want to feel job satisfaction. They want to like the people they work with and like the work environment and feel like their time there is both fulfilling and pleasant.

They want their offices to mimic the tech startup offices of Silicon Valley, with flavored coffees on tap and bean bags on the floor. Of course, this type of environment has its perks; enjoyment in the workplace has proven to boost both morale and efficiency.’ — All top start ups

I am fortunate that my employers are pretty easy going, and I know this will be different for everyone, but hey be creative, and this applies for home working too. If you are struggling with the monotony of going into work every day, then create a space that you are excited to be in. If that means pictures of your pets/children/family on your desk, do it. If it’s a packet of cookies in the cupboard, a nice smelling candle, why not?

I now have a foam roller, spiky mat and neck massage machine too. I am thinking of getting a cold brew tower, because why the hell not? I am all over that sh*t.

I was also introduced to the joys of ‘Tiara Friday’ at one of my previous jobs, everyone on our team would wear a tiara on Friday. You know what? It made Friday just that bit sillier and more fun, not only for our team either, everyone that walked past would be giggling. Here we do ‘Tiara Friday’ and ‘Royal Of The Week’ who gets to select what type of take-out we have for team lunch each Friday. (this is a fun activity you can introduce to Fridays regardless, and hey it doesn’t need to be a tiara, make it your own)


3. Take your team on an adventure

I am a real believer in getting out of the office (I may have mentioned that a couple of times already), and now I am here all the time I have the bonus of being able to take my team with me. For various reasons, I am rarely able to travel with them, but now we are all here together, why not go on some creative endeavours as a group. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just a local art exhibition, it doesn’t have to be creative at all, there is still value in going out for pizza. We are all in a weird situation right now, so let’s show some appreciation for the ones that have stuck it out with us!


4. Make good use of your time at home

Bốn Máy when we rescued her was worryingly malnourished, now a healthy, happy kitty. Glad I got to experience it all! Photo by author.

This is the bit I have enjoyed. Being at home, with all my animals and my partner. When you do travel all the time, you appreciate your home space so much when you return to it. Well, I have been making the most of this, watching my kitten grown into a cat. I am spending lots of time cooking, gardening (also known as desperately trying to keep plants alive). I have taught myself how to macrame, and do all the crafty creative things I never usually have the time to do and just being, in my space. It’s such a luxury.


5. Organise your life

Coming home to an orderly home can help you feel like you’re entering a sanctuary away from the stresses of the outside world.

‘Any time is the right time to create an organized, soothing home atmosphere. You can simplify your life and reduce the daily stress you experience by putting in relatively minimal effort to de-clutter, organize, and decorate your home. Let your home be your sanctuary.’ — Very Well Mind

Time to clear out all that clutter, empty your closet, arrange that random drawer full of crap. Go through your suitcases and travel bags and get rid of the endless tattered tickets, luggage tags. Sort through all those currencies, label them and put them into jars for the different countries. I even created a travel drawer. It has all my miniatures, currency, travel plugs, hand luggage bags, business cards, and anything else that’s travel-specific all in one place.

‘Your mind, which is yourself, can be likened to a house. The first necessary move then, is to rid that house of all but furnishings essential to success.’ — John McDonald


6. Expand your mind

‘For us to live life to the fullest, we must continually look for ways to improve. Even in our own companies, we should strive to help our organizations in areas that are outside of our comfort zone.

Self-growth is key for us to live fulfilling lives and to have a successful career.’ — AJ Agrawal

Not with drugs you understand, unless that’s your thing, of course, then as you were. No, I mean read up, research the places that you were supposed to go to or want to go to, or are just interested in. Get on YouTube, watch some vloggers, listen to some audiobooks, if you are naturally curious and inquisitive, then keep going, it’s important. Ok so maybe the method is different, but you can still be learning and absorbing, you can even prepare for when we can start moving around again.


7. Start a (big) project

The Chaly is finally looking like a scooter again. Photo by author.

This is the perfect time to start working on that thing that you have wanted to for ages but haven’t. You know that thing. Ripping out your bathroom, re-tiling and painting it. Putting that ornamental pond in the front garden you’ve promised your spouse, building the treehouse and sandpit, remodelling your girlfriends Honda Chaly, (yes my Chaly, he finally rebuilt it) you know that stuff. Things that you need a solid few months of weekends at home to accomplish. Well, you have just been dealt the gift of time, use it wisely, my friends.


8. Go on staycation mother flippers

Seriously. DO IT!
I got a paddling pool for my roof (unfortunately this purchase was a message to the gods telling them that Rainy Season should start immediately, so I am yet to go in the pool) I plan to sit in it and play make-believe.

This is also the perfect opportunity to get out and explore where you live. Treat it like a vacation. How many times have you lived somewhere, moved away and been all like:

‘we never did go to look at the ruins of King George’

or

‘we never did go onto Brighton pier’

or whatever, the local tourist attraction/s might be in your place of residence at that time. It’s only when you return later as tourists that you get around to doing these things.

You are so busy just living that you don’t have time to do all that stuff and when you do get a chance, you want to go somewhere else, so you take a vacation. Well. Now is the time to find out about where you live, go exploring, if the tour buses are running, why not jump on one? It will be fun!

Staycation adventuring at the motorbike market — picking up parts for the Chaly project. Photo by author.
Adventures in our neighbourhood. Photo by author.

9. Take your leave

‘What should not be overlooked is that excessive hours can have a negative effect on job performance and cause costly or reputation-damaging mistakes. Fatigue-related accidents are potentially life-threatening.’

‘While working long hours doesn’t necessarily lead to marriage breakdown, it can put a strain on relationships with partners, children and friends.’ — Melissa Compton-Edwards, author of the report, ‘Married to the Job’

Seriously, this is important. Why do we have annual leave? We have it because it’s good for us to take a break from work from time to time. Who has been saving theirs up? Guilty as charged. There is a flaw in the plan, though, well a couple.

If everyone saves all of their annual leave so that when we can travel again, we can use it then, there will be entire companies all wanting to take their annual leave at the same time. I strongly suspect that most companies will politely decline.

The other point that is important to consider is that we have all just been through one of the most bizarre and stressful years we have ever lived. So to try to get through all of it without taking a break from work is a pretty terrible idea. It has taken a toll on everyone, and more than ever; people need to take care of themselves better, part of this is rest and respite.


So I hope these little snippets might go some way to helping others that are finding it hard to stay still.

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