My travelling days are numbered. Just a few weeks ago, I was viewing a staycation in Ireland as a coronavirus consolation prize.
Today, amid the ever-evolving travel restrictions and social distancing advisories, suddenly a getaway to Ballybunion has never felt more bucket-list.
But you’d be forgiven for feeling a little muddled amid the current crisis. After all, there is a certain ambiguity now to the personal ethics behind a Sunday spin or the social faux pas tagged to a coastal stroll.
However, over the last two weeks, I’ve taken the decision to pull up the handbrake and hunker down. To mirror the verbage of Leo Varadkar’s St Patrick’s Day address, it’s time to show my love of travel, by simply not travelling at all.
Last weekend’s unprecedented chaos was the nexus to the sea change. As the sun broke out and the mercury hit double digits, there was a June bank holiday air to traffic flow as the whole country seem to have the idea to go for a stroll. Many of them to the same destination.
Scenes were surreal: A Garda in Ballycotton went viral for offering visiting motorists directions back to their homes, car parks in Glendalough had to be shut down, while a chipper in Howthappeared to enjoy one-day trading figures to make the Nasdaq drool. You can only imagine the scenes nationwide were it hot enough to buy a 99.
It would be unfair, however, to tar this as a simply Irish phenom as the whole world is descending upon the great outdoors to nuke cabin fever. This week, the governor of California called time on the park gates of Yosemite; Bondi Beach was closed to deter crowds in Sydney; while in Norway, the government has ordered second-home owners to return from their postcard boltholes in the wilds. The latter reflects a wider concern for rural communities, namely that the constant flow of day-trippers is spreading viral spores to their fringes.
Earlier this month, residents of Bere Island joined a number of remote communities requesting people to refrain from visiting their island. Our Céad Míle Fáilte has been pushed back in the foclóir for now, and it’s wholly understandable. I guess it all comes down to the debate of what makes a journey unnecessary? For me, it’s anything that involves awkwardly yielding to pedestrians along a thronged cliff path or having to fuel up more frequently at our petrol station. I’m lucky to live between a rustic patch of farmland and woodland in East Cork and anything beyond that seems a luxury.
That’s why for now, road trips are a thing of the past, I can kiss the coast goodbye, and the annual rhododendron blooms up the Vee seem as foreign as the cherry blossoms of Japan. But this too shall pass. Until then, I’ll just cocoon my wanderlust.
It’s the global greening we weren't expecting to see this March, where, as the coronavirus takes grip across the world,silver-linings are emerging for the planet. Carbon emissions are plummeting globally according to the World MeteorologicalOrganisation as airlines ground, vehicles lay parked and many industries lay idle.
In China, notorious pollution levels have tanked while in Italy’s industrial north, nitrogen dioxide in the air have almost halved.
There is a flip side to the travel lockdown, however. The resident macaques of Prang Sam Yot temple in Thailand, largely reliant on snacks from tourists, are now mass-brawling in the town of Lopburi.
The take-home lesson? Don’t feed the monkeys.
China in our Hands
China is bouncing back. Hubei, the Chinese province where Covid-19originated, has started to ease its lockdown restrictions with its 60m citizens now permitted to leave the region. Wuhan, the largest city in the province and famed for its Yellow Crane Tower, remains sealed but will reopen again from April. And there are promising signs for the tourism sector too, with the Great Wall of China reopening this week, too. It looks like China’s travel industry may well be the first in the world to recover from the pandemic. Now, isn’t that ironic?
Fancy some parks and recreation adventures, Irish style? While many walks in Ireland have now been closed due to social distancing concerns, Ireland’s national parks remain open for business. The six national treasures in Killarney, Connemara, Wicklow Mountains, the Burren, Glenveigh, CoDonegal and Ballycroy, Co Mayo are available to respectful trekkers and should dilute the masses intending to hike at other locations. If you’re looking for a little more inspiration, check out our coastal walks guide by Ciara McDonnell this week while irishtrails.ie lists scores of secret tracks and trails in your own county.