In these strange times, as lockdown enforces us to live in smaller and smaller islands of humanity, we are finding unexpected opportunities to realise some personal goals.

These are strange times. A year ago, I felt nearer birth than death, but now I am not so sure. A life that skipped across the globe, sampling a remarkable variety of adventures and cultures seems to have been snatched away. In its place, a life at home. Home, not just as a place to live, but a country to be tethered to.

In 2016 Teresa May the British Prime Minister stated, ‘If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’. What rubbish, I thought. For I truly believed I was a citizen of the world. My holidays were in far flung lands, my friends spread across continents, my family the other side of the globe. At any moment I could pack my bags, head to the airport and leave Britain for somewhere new, somewhere more exciting. 

Yet sitting in our London flat, largely locked down, it appears I am no longer a ‘citizen of the world’ but a ‘citizen of somewhere’, and that somewhere is the United Kingdom. Who knew that the country that one happens to live in (or more likely just happens to be born in) would become such a force in our lives.

A SHRINKING WORLD

Perhaps even a country is too broad. As lockdown tightens I find myself a citizen of not the United Kingdom, but of England, then London and perhaps soon the borough of Westminster. The world is shrinking fast. Walls and borders that for years have been collapsing, are rapidly encroaching on our lives. The sphere in which we live tightening and tightening, creating smaller and smaller islands of humanity.

It is not just space that is shrinking but time. As travel bloggers, our calendar used to contain plans within plans reaching out for months if not years. Places to go, experiences to curate, cultures to understand. Now it sits bare and forlorn, an eerie chasm of silence that used to be the future.

As plans disappear so do the dreams they lead to. Three years ago we set sail to explore and write about the world. We were bloggers trying to bring new destinations and exotic cultures into our reader’s consciousness; writing travel content that challenge people about the lives they lead and the journeys they undertake. This dream, once so close to our grasp, now shimmers; a blurred fantasy in a fuzzy future.

And no doubt we are not alone. The publican serving last drinks, the restauranteur ushering out the last dish, or the travel operator booking their last trip, all face the same challenge: how should they shape the next stage of their lives when so much is uncertain? What dreams should they hang onto and which should be abandoned?

THE CHANGING ISLANDS OF LONDON

For the time being we are hanging onto our dreams but changing the canvas upon which we paint. As lockdown began, our life was lived between four walls. A tiny island with technology our only connection to the outside world.

But as lockdown eased we began to venture out into our home city: London. The underground, which for all my life has whisked Londoners to the far reaches of this vast metropolis, was out of bounds except for essential travel. So instead of a series of islands stretched along colourful lines, London shrank to our immediate vicinity, existing only as far as we could walk.

Yet this shrinking has brought benefits. Picking up groceries and exercising every day in our local area has opened our eyes to what was always there but we never quite saw. A community we had somehow missed. Less atomised and more friendly; the island around our front door has become bigger and more of a home than it has ever been before.

EXPLORING THE UK: OUR ISLAND COUNTRY

For years we have been jumping on a plane to far off destinations with only the odd weekend spent on our own shores. But as travel corridors closed and quarantine days stretched before us, we got into our car and ventured out to discover places that should have been familiar but weren’t. And what joy we found.

Glorious days canoeing down scenic valleys; sunsets over incredible coastlines; lazy evenings wild swimming in lakes and rivers; heart-stopping scrambles along knife-edged ridges. Rich experiences in our own backyard. Each one fuelled by local craft ales, Britain’s burgeoning coffee scene, the dry wit of the English and the pride of the Welsh.

In our new island world, we learnt something simple: if we put as much effort into having great experiences in the UK as we did leaving it, we could have remarkable adventures. And in just a few months, an island we had overlooked for so long, became not a country to be tethered to, but a land bursting with travel opportunities.

GRASPING DREAMS IN A WORLD OF SHRINKING OPPORTUNITIES

It is not just the lens through which we viewed the UK that has changed, but also how we viewed ourselves. In 2014 I took a philosophy course to try to understand what was valuable in the world. It convinced me that being vegetarian is the right thing to do. But for 6 years I did nothing.

Quite frankly I found it too hard and our travelling lifestyle made it no easier. Sampling foreign cuisine is one of the joys of travel, but it is often a meat-driven encounter. In Argentina it’s served medium rare with a glass of Malbec, in South Africa it sizzles on the braai, and Switzerland its stuffed into a sausage.

But lockdown provided an opportunity for change. More time to peruse recipes, more time to think about what we’re eating. More time to cook. The vegetarian goal that nagged at our conscience for too long, had become a little easier to grasp. At a time where opportunities seemed to be shrinking, we found one that had opened up.

It’s not always been easy. As lockdown eased and we headed into the English countryside, finding vegetarian options became harder again. Yet as we researched more we began to find little gems lurking where you might least expect to find them.

Deep in the Great Langdale Valley in the heart of the Lake District, Sticklebarn, run by the National Trust, has developed a menu based on minimising their impact on the environment. Four vegetarian meals appeared alongside two local lamb dishes with their respective CO2 footprint (the veggies won). If an ageing institution like the National Trust can change, so can two ageing bloggers. 

WHERE NEXT?

At the end of each of our articles, we include a Where Next section. The aim is to lead our readers towards their next great adventure. A 4×4 road trip into the Iceland Highlands, a self-drive safari across the plains of Namibia or a hiking escapade in the Drakensberg

But grandiose concepts like “where next” are not of this time. Instead, until life returns to some kind of normal and we can travel again with ease, we will continue to look deeper at our own islands, the local area that has become home and the country for which we are truly a citizen.

And while our dream of travel blogging shimmers in the distance, we will continue to strive for personal goals, that not long ago, seemed well beyond our reach.


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Throughout lockdown, we were lucky to be able to explore a lot of the country. Read all writing on our Britain page.

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