Grounded: Just why are millennials finding 2020's lack of travel so difficult?
My last holiday was a trip to London.
There we walked the streets of Camden mask-less, visiting friends, eating out, and existing in crowded places. On my last day I rushed to the airport, for the first time in my life late for a flight.
There were queues going in no direction, passive aggressive skipping, and a lot of hand sanitiser. “Stansted’s mad today,” I messaged my friend. “Covid related?” she replied.
A few days later, I arrived into work and was told to go home. Crowded around the TV, we watched as then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar informed the nation that schools, colleges, and childcare facilities would be closing. People should work from home if they could, he said. Those travelling should restrict their movements.
We considered this news in the likeliest of places: the pub. I made a mental list of upcoming events that could potentially be affected by coronavirus: my solo break in Hamburg, my spin up North, my week long holiday in Rome All of them travel related. All of them, it would soon transpire, gone.
Growing up I rarely went anywhere, but in recent years my love for travel has soared. Solo trips, city breaks, and two weeks in the sun – you name it and chances are I’ve done it, multiple times a year if I can manage it.
But I’m not the only one. Give millennials a whisper of annual leave and we’re straight on Skyscanner, desperately seeking the cheapest route to anywhere. Travel expert Sarah Slattery says that given the accessibility of travel now (2020 excluded), it’s no surprise that we’re spending all our time doing it.
“Years ago we went on maybe one holiday a year, and there was a handful of airlines operating from Irish airports,” she tells Her. “In 2019 there were almost 50 airlines flying to 190 destinations from Dublin airport alone.
"Our population is much more diverse now too. Millennials are more aware of different cultures and want to travel to learn about them. We try new experiences, learn new things, and meet new people. Whether you like a destination or not, travel is never boring.”
It makes sense that almost a year without travel has been tough for a lot of people. We’re used to the excitement, the change of scenery, and the experience. Take those away suddenly, and it’s no surprise that we’re feeling deflated as the year draws to a close. “Travel broadens the mind and, in most cases, brings happiness,” Sarah says.
“We find time to reconnect with loved ones, take time off work and lower our stress levels. We also tend to exercise more when we travel. We walk, swim, and hike – and exercise is proven to be good for mental health.”
Dublin-born Cathy* knows all too well the struggle of a year at home. An avid traveller, she was dismayed back in March when all of her plans were thrown into disarray. What’s more is her partner was based in England, stuck in the London suburbs while flight capacity dwindled and Covid cases continued to rise.
Ordinarily, Cathy would travel to the UK every month or so. Other times, she and her partner would meet in a European city, using their love of travel as an excuse to get away, but also to see each other.
“We had met up in London a few weeks before the pandemic hit,” she says. “We were planning when we were going to see each other again and then, boom – everything shut down.”
Cathy, like the rest of the country, went into panic mode. Stay or go? Flee or not? Soon she became aware that she didn’t really have an option. Covid had arrived and travel had been taken away – and with it, her ability to see her partner.
“We relied on travel to see each other,” she says. “We’ve spent some of our best times together abroad. It was like a double blow, losing my freedom to get away and not being able to see him. Thankfully once things eased up we got to see each other a few times.
"I’m hoping to move to the UK next year too – mainly to avoid this happening again.”
*Some names have been changed.