2020, our year of Covid. How has life changed?

by | Travel Tales and Musings | 17 comments

As I write, it is almost the end of the 2020 and it is strange to look back and think that this time last year, we had no idea what was in store for us. This time last year, we had not heard of Coronavirus or Covid. A Pandemic was still the stuff of Hollywood films or Board Games for most of us. And then it wasn’t. It was real and it was now.

Our Covid year: from a personal perspective

Early days

Our year started much as our years had started for several previous years: we set off in early January for the US and picked up our RV from where we had left it in storage. On this occasion, it was in Phoenix, Arizona.  From there we headed up to Colorado to our favourite winter campsite, Tiger Run, in Colorado. We had a wonderful ski season and took in fourteen different ski mountains in three different states. I wrote about this in RV Ski Tripping!

Skiing view early in our covid year

 

In the early days we were unconcerned about the news reports which were trickling through about a new virus. It was in a distant country in a province whose name we could not then pronounce. Then it was on cruise ships and then in some holiday resorts. Experts seemed to be worried and sounded warnings, but again we were largely unaffected. The word “pandemic” was bandied around, but the WHO held off officially declaring a pandemic (until 11th March).  Nevertheless, the virus seemed to be spreading exponentially. We carried on skiing, but I do recall thinking at our last resort, Jackson Hole, as we crammed shoulder to shoulder into the aerial tram with a 100 other souls, that if anyone on board actually did have this virus, we all did. Still, it seemed all very distant.

At this point, our eldest daughter was working as a ski instructor in Hokkaido, Japan. A state of emergency was declared in there. What should she do? There was no work as the resort had closed. Our advice was simple: Get out whilst you can. Go home. By this time the virus was ramping up and whilst we were not particularly concerned, we did not want her to be stranded in a country so far away. Thankfully she had no problem at this point organising transport and flying home.

Our journey home

We brought forward our own flight back to the UK to early March. As we put the RV into storage, we joked that it would be absolutely fine there, even if we could not return for a whole year. At this point we actually thought there was a good chance we would be taking a return flight in the middle of May ready for our road trip to Alaska. How naïve were we!

By this time, the situation was getting more serious and the journey home was not easy. Our first flight was cancelled and it took nearly 3 hours of standing in line to organise another. The second flight was on time, we boarded, took our seats and awaited take off.  The pilot announced that they would be closing the doors in about 5 minutes. Phew! And then people started shuffling and there was some concern in the cabin. It transpired that Trump had just announced that he was closing American airspace in two days’ time. It was unclear at this point whether Americans on the flight would be able to return if they left. People started leaving the plane. We did not take off as scheduled. The captain eventually announced that if anyone else wanted to leave the plane they needed to do so within the next ten minutes. About half the plane emptied off. We stayed put, worried that the flight would be cancelled. It wasn’t, but it was another two and a half hours before we finally took off as all the luggage from those who had decided not to fly had to be off-loaded.

Our connecting flight from Amsterdam was delayed fortunately so we managed to catch it. Landing back in Manchester, we were thankful to be back on home soil. A week later, the UK followed several other countries into a national lockdown.

 

Lockdown

Lockdown for us, dare I say it, was actually quite pleasant. We were untouched by the health ravages of Covid 19. I am acutely aware that this was not the same for everyone and that it was for many a very stressful time. An awful time. However, we had two of our adult children at home. We live in a beautiful part of the UK and it was easy to get out into the open countryside. We had wonderful weather, the best spring weather in living memory. We hiked and we biked and generally enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Hiking in lockdown. View over the langdales

Hiking and biking every day

Local shops were reasonably well stocked. We shopped for several people who were shielding on a weekly basis so felt we were being useful.

View over Windermere in lockdown

Nothing moved on Windermere during lockdown

It was strange though. It was so quiet it was unreal: no cars on the road (at one point we cycled around the lake, all 26 miles. We saw two cars and a tractor – and about 20 cyclists – the whole way); there were no people in the village; nothing moved. It was like a ghost town.

The middle of Bowness in the year of Covid

Bowness is usually a hive of activity. Not in lockdown

Centre of Keswick in lockdown

Keswick is normally bustling with people. Not in lockdown

 

And then we acquired a dog

It was Peter who suggested that we might get a dog when we first returned from the US. This was something we had discussed in a fairy tale sort of way for some time in the future. Perhaps now was the time? It took me by surprise, and my own reaction surprised me more because once it was a real possibility, I was completely sold on the idea. I think the prospect of lockdown did something to our psyche!  And then Peter hesitated – perhaps it was not such a good idea after all? I was having none of it. He had sown the seed and it had taken root in my brain, so I told the kids. Yes, I know that was quite a Machiavellian move on my part; he would have been the dad from hell had he reneged at this point. I prevailed.

Jasper, border collie, born in our year of Covid

Jasper was born in March and arrived to us in the middle of May, a tiny ball of fur. He was incredibly fluffy! He settled in straight away and the home now revolves around him. Our lives had changed for ever and not just because of Covid! Jasper, a border collie, is an absolute delight and we love how he is developing. He is very cute, very friendly and very smart. Everyone falls in love with him. He is also very much Peter’s dog. You know that old notion of the bond between the dad and the dog he did not want? That is Peter and Jasper!

Jasper and Peter asleep

An afternoon siesta

Jasper with Peter in the Covid year

One man and his dog

Our lives now consist of hiking with Jasper, training Jasper, playing with Jasper. He recently went for his first sheepdog training session. He was a natural, of course!

There are lots more puppy pictures, by the way, over on my Instagram account! The link is in the sidebar.

 

Our Covid Year: a wider perspective – how has life changed across the world?

The lives of many people across the world have changed because of the way Covid 19 has ravaged health and the economy, but our daily lives have changed in many other ways too.

Language

Our language has changed. “Coronavirus” and “covid”, words never uttered by anyone other than medics pre-pandemic, have now entered our everyday lexicon. “Bubble” and “tier” have new connotations. “Lockdown” has a new significance. We talk about “social distancing” and “self-isolation” as if they were normal. For more on this it is worth consulting this blog article by the Oxford English Dictionary.

Masks

A year ago, masks were an amusing quirk of people from different countries; now we all wear them, have to wear them. I leave the house: keys? Check. Purse? Check. Phone? Check. Mask? Check. I have a mask in every pocket and every bag. There is a box of disposables by the door. Not only that, masks are becoming fashion accessories. On her Christmas list my youngest daughter had “Face mask with pretty design”.

Social distancing

In the past, it would have felt rude to have given people a wide berth whilst on the pavement; now it is expected and a courtesy. We stand apart from people, no reaching across in the shops. No handshakes. No hugging anyone except those with whom we live.

We cannot visit relatives in care homes or hospitals any more for fear of infecting them. No more hugs. No comfort.

We stand in line to enter the supermarket. We squirt the sanitiser on our way in and wipe down the trollies. We stand on clearly defined markers when waiting to pay.

Online life

Our online life has gone into overdrive. More of us are ordering groceries over the internet and there is competition for delivery slots. With non-essential shops closed for much of the year, shopping online has become more essential than it was pre-pandemic. Meetings, gym sessions and get togethers on Zoom are now common. And much of education, at every level, is now conducted online. Even medical examinations are conducted via a video link.

Working from home

Working from home became much more prevalent during the Covid year. People who were able to work from home were encouraged to do so and employers were urged to facilitate this.

Travel

The message in the early part of the year was “stay at home” and most people did. When the situation eased a little over the summer, some people travelled – and then had to quarantine upon return when the rules changed. Travel generally has become much more difficult. (Hence, my travel blog has diversified!)

 

Will life ever return to “normal”?

I do not think so. I know vaccines are on the way and that the time will hopefully come when we no longer have to fear Covid. But new habits and mindsets have been formed and are now firmly entrenched.

Will we shake hands?

Flesh on flesh, with complete strangers? I doubt it. In the new normal, after all the hand sanitiser and the ever-present mantra “wash your hands”, this will feel unhygienic.

Will we stop wearing masks?

Yes and no. I suspect that we will not wear them all the time, but now that we are accustomed to them, we will possibly choose to wear them if we have a snuffle or a cold. Masks will no longer be the quirk of strangers.

Will all those barriers in supermarkets and shops come down?

No, why would they? They were expensive to erect and afford the people who serve us a level of protection. (Peter disagrees with me on this!)

Will we revert to highstreet shopping rather than browsing online?

Yes, but not entirely. Covid has expedited the shift to online shopping.

Will we resume gym sessions in gym and have house parties again?

Yes, but Zoom and other such virtual meeting places are here to stay.

Will international travel resume?

Yes, but probably less so than in the past. Whether passengers will be packed like sardines into economy class seats remains to be seen.

Will we continue to work from home?

Yes. More so than before at any rate. It has been shown to be possible and efficient through necessity this year, so why not?

What about education?

This is one aspect of our Covid Year which I find particularly worrying. Young people have suffered incredibly because of the lack of in-person teaching. I fear that this is going to have long-lasting consequences and I sincerely hope that schools and universities resume business as normal as soon as possible. That does not mean to say that I think there is no place for online learning; there absolutely is. However, it should never take the place of classroom learning.

 

A Year of Covid: what do you think?

2020 has been a year of change in so many ways. I have not even touched upon politics, economics, world events, climate change ………all of which have played a part in bringing about changes which will affect life going forward.  However, I believe that the effect of Covid on society, lifestyle, mindset, outlook, and education, as well as on health and the economy, will have a deep-seated and lasting impact.  I do not mean this to be pessimistic in any way. For many, the pandemic has been the trigger to re-boot, take stock and reassess priorities. People are remarkably resilient and I am sure will make the best of the “new normal”.

What do you think? What have I omitted? Have I got it wrong? How was your year of Covid? I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Jane! Loved hearing about your year and everything that transpired. While reading your post, I found myself wondering where I was when you and your husband were storing your RV, flying back to the UK. It was an interesting year for sure!

    For me, I’m hopeful that one result of the pandemic is that we as a society are more cohesive and respectful. We never knew that grocery store workers would be considered essential or that older folks would experience challenges going shopping or feeling lonely. I hope we don’t forget how much we’ve helped each other this year. ❤️

    Reply
    • Yes, very well said. I agree completely. Perhaps one of the positives going forward will be that health workers, care assistants, delivery drivers and shop workers etc will be valued and appreciated rather more by society.

      Reply
  2. What a fantastic read Jane. I really enjoyed hearing your version of events surrounding covid. That was great advice you gave your daughter, she could have been stranded in Japan! Like you, we’ve had it very easy in Western Australia. No lockdowns, shops have been fully stocked (for the most part), and we are still able to see friends and family. However, we have only just been allowed to leave WA for the rest of Australia and no international travel is allowed. It’s rumoured that we won’t be able to travel out of Australia without a vaccine.
    As Lannie mentioned, I think covid has had some positives. To be more respectful of each other, help out in the community, and be appreciative.
    I must say that Jasper is such a cutie and I’ve loved watching him grow.

    Reply
    • Yes, you are right Wendy: there have been many positives emerging from this situation and hopefully they will continue to influence life going forward. International travel still seems a long way off for us and I wonder how it will feel getting on an aeroplane for the first time? Roll out those vaccines!

      Reply
  3. This year has been the most challenging in my life. Reading your post made me think about my own journey this year and having to adapt to the changes. I agree with you that things will not go back to normal. I miss hugging my family and friends, but even after the vaccine, I’ll still be paranoid!

    Reply
  4. A very well observed summary, Jane. It has been a year like no other and I find myself, still, being surprised by societal reaction; both good and bad. You got a dog …we got married! Who’d have thought?! Can’t claim to have been unaffected by Covid, even though we have remained in good health. I have been perplexed and distressed for friends who have lost loved ones. I feel a bit guilty that my Covid lockdown has been, positive. I’ve had my daughters with us; there was the whole wedding thing; it’s like I was given precious time to review life; perhaps that’s what the world has done …reviewing our political and ethical positions on valuing our workforce and environment? I do like the mask as fashion statement! Aren’t we odd creatures to need to normalise such an alien accessory! Stay safe and well …

    Reply
    • Indeed Anne: a year like no other. I think at this time of year we are always tempted to look back and think “this time last year”, which was what inspired me to write this piece. We never saw it coming and there has been such remarkable changed on both a personal and the global level. I am with you on the feelings of guilt too. So much suffering and yet for us it has been a chance to sit back and re-assess. Let’s be grateful. Stay safe.xxx

      Reply
  5. The whole of 2020 seems pretty surreal. In March I was on a train from Rome to Sicily and the next day I was flying out of the country as all of Italy shut its borders. It was such a strange experience. We definitely thought things would be sorted out by fall, but that didn’t happen. And Jasper is so cute!

    Reply
    • Surreal just about sums it up. We could never have predicted just how much life would change.

      Reply
  6. Definitely an interesting year. Glad Jasper was a happy introduction to your lives though, helps when you’ve got to spend so much time at home 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes, it has been interesting in a novel sort of way, but despite the fact that we have been fortunate, I shall be glad to look back on it. Jasper has been a godsend for us.

      Reply
  7. Hi Jane, an interesting reflection on a unique year. You’ve been fortunate in living where you do, but our concern for our offspring is always important. Given I ‘raced ‘ the virus from East to West from China / Australia to Scotland.. I had a perspective on what was coming. The shambles that has resulted I did not foresee. Everyone will come out the other side with a salutary lesson…nature will survive…mankind? Stay safe…and enjoy Christmas…we will meet for conversation and wine in 2021.

    Reply
    • My main worry in all of this, John, is for young people and how they are being affected. The impact on education, mental health and life chances will have far reaching consequences. Let’s meet as soon as we can in 2021. We need to put the world to rights. Wine will help!

      Reply
  8. What a great post and what a year it’s been! I had just returned from Portugal (a trip that was originally planned for Thailand and Cambodia until we decided that that part of the world might not be safe) when Covid became a reality here as well. We were home less than two weeks when things shut down here in Canada and as you said…lockdown became the new norm. I remember thinking oh this will all be over by the summer. Boy was I wrong!
    I do like to think, or perhaps hope, that as a world we have become more empathetic and understanding of each other. This is a global concern and it will take all of us to overcome it.
    A very safe and happy holiday season to you and your family!

    Reply
    • Thanks Linda. Know exactly how you feel. We too thought it would all be over by summer, but here we are and Christmas has just been cancelled in the UK. I think you right though: there has been a shift in values and we have become more empathetic. Hope that this is the legacy of the year.

      Reply
  9. Great summary, Jane. I realise Ellie & I were luckier than many, but you guys really seem to have made the best out of it.

    Family partially reunited, lots of hiking, and Jasper looked even cuter when he was just a few weeks old.

    I also remember you tweeting about that flight back from the U.S., rather dramatic.

    Ellie & I enjoyed meeting you and Peter & Jasper for a coffee over summer.

    About the future? I’ve pretty much given up speculating. The only thing I focus on these days is when will lockdown be over, Brexit situation clear, and when will the market pick up again.

    Reply
    • Same here Stefan and with the rollout of vaccines it seemed the end was in sight. With this new strain of Covid, however, we seem to be taking a step back. Just cannot wait for some semblance of normality to return and the way ahead to be clear. In the meantime, take care. Sure we will be able to meet up again before too long.

      Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

We gave up work in order to travel and do all the things we were not able to do in our careers. We know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do this.

We are quite active and love skiing, hiking, biking, exploring etc, but we also enjoy history, art, music, science…..and good food and wine! In this blog, you will find articles on all of these subjects as we discover them on our travels.

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