It's six months since lockdown first began. Six months since I was in the office, took a flight, hugged a friend or went out for a pint. Six months that have both flown by and felt like six years.
When I think about what's changed, within me and the world, one word repeats: spontaneity.
My instincts feel dulled.
Let's invite people over! But wait, what are the latest rules? Have they been properly social distancing? What's the etiquette with loos?
Let's go to the pub! But wait, most are closed. And there's that 105-minute business. And who will babysit?
Let's take a short break! But wait, are safety charters in place? What about crowds, face coverings, distancing?
Everything seems to say: "Stay home. Be in your bubble." It's draining.
Of course, public health comes first. Such restrictions are a small price to pay for suppressing the virus and saving lives. But when I say I miss 'spontaneity', I don't mean reckless impulsivity, joining the Oireachtas Golf Society or diving head-first into a house party (though, honestly, who hasn't felt that urge?)
What I miss is an unplanned pint, a spur-of-the-moment gig, a random night away. Winging it every now and then zaps stress. It's life-affirming. The armchair psychologist in me reckons its good for creativity and confidence, too.
Spontaneity means more mojo, less 'meh'. In stripping that from us, Covid-19 has stripped away yet another little bit of our souls.
But what's all this got to do with holidays? Well, one of the reasons I think travel is so restorative is that it's perfectly set up for spontaneity. Freed from work, habit and household structure, we can let go a little. Let's sleep in! Let's eat out! Let's try oysters, or go-karting! We can give routine the slip, and tap back into who we really are.
Yes, we can still staycation. But have you noticed a cloying sense of 'control' seeping into trips - from wanting to travel in our own cars to self-catering sell-outs, in trends towards late bookings and shorter breaks - reflecting both our general uncertainty, I think, and the fact that we don't want to 'get stuck' anywhere. I travelled all over Ireland this summer, but I still feel strangely clammed up.
Now I'm looking to the next six months, trying to find a guiding light. It feels weird having to plan 'impromptu' activities, but maybe that's the way forward for now.
Our tourist industry needs us; our mental health is suffering. Safety is No. 1, but the best travel often comes from a mix of smart scheduling and leaving space to go with the flow - the best of life, too.
That's what I'll keep trying, even if it is in 105-minute increments.
A little less 'meh', a little more mojo.
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