We're all grounded these days, but an online initiative may provide inspiration for the trips we will take in the future when travel restrictions and lockdowns are lifted.
Travel editor with the Irish Independent, Pól Ó Conghaile, was inspired to start the #WhenWeTravelAgain hashtag on Twitter, because people in Ireland can only engage in outdoor exercise within 2km of their homes at present. "I've been finding it hard to see the wood for the trees on screens, and am overwhelmed - like everybody else - by the cascade of COVID-19 news," he says. "I took a walk to clear my head and started thinking about where I'd like to go when this all goes away. It made me feel good, so I decided to share the idea.
To start off the initiative, Pól posted an image of a surfer stretching on a deserted beach in Dunfanaghy in Donegal. He chose this image as it signifies freedom, which we lack now but travel can provide in the future. There has been a huge response so far, and while people can follow the #WhenWeTravelAgain hashtag to see where other people plan to go, Pól is choosing one to share daily at 8pm GMT.
"There have been hundreds of photos posted so far, ranging from the Sydney Opera House to cafés in Paris, and from lighthouses on the Wild Atlantic Way to sugary sands in the Algarve," he says. "It's sad that these suddenly feel out of reach, but it's inspirational to see them too."
According to Pól, the overriding theme that has emerged so far is that we all miss travel. "The world has shrunk awfully quickly," he points out. "There are other themes too, and lots of seaside and ocean pictures have been posted. I think views of the ocean are restful and calm, and are a tonic in these times. I am seeing big moments like safari photos, but also small ones, like walks close to home. There's no one way to travel."
Now that we are all temporarily grounded, Pól feels that people are realising that we almost took our freedom to travel for granted, and are wondering what will change when borders re-open and planes take to the skies again? "Of course, we travel for so many reasons, such as for business and to move people and goods, but also to lie on beaches, taste foreign food and spring from our 9-to-5 lives," he says. "A few weeks ago, that was as easy as a €19.99 ($22.33) Ryanair fare, and now it's impossible. We're all recalibrating."
Pól says that when he can travel again, he hopes to visit the Indian Ocean, but only after he has a fix of his favourite destination - Ireland. One trip that was special to him was when visited the Blasket Islands in 2018. He shared the beach with around 200 seals and describes the islands as "haunting and breathtaking."
For the moment, memories of his worldwide travels are sustaining him. One treasured moment that he looks back on fondly was diving to capture an image of a manta ray fish in the Maldives. Then there's his favourite European destination, the Greek Islands, which he loves visiting for its food and clear water as well as its myths and legends.
"Travel writing has its delays, disruption and deadlines, but it has magic moments too," he says. "We may be grounded at present, but I'm being inspired around future trips thanks to the fantastic images being shared on the #WhenWeTravelAgain hashtag."