The pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of people who loved their work. Take the job away and what’s left?
I’ve always felt it important to share the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to my life as a travel blogger. Well, I guess over the last year things took a turn for the ugly. I think the title of this blog describes exactly how I’m feeling right now.
In one of my most recent personal updates (My 2020 Blogging Appraisal) I delved into some of the gory details of how the pandemic has affected my life, plans and of course my business which is firmly rooted in the travel industry. However, I didn’t really address a key detail.
I’ve been toying with writing about this for a while. Essentially, what happens when you remove the ability for someone to be able to do their job or follow their passion? What is that person left with?
First things first, this isn’t a blog to say I’m depressed or desperately unhappy. I’m not… I’m plodding along just fine! I just think there are some interesting factors to come out of a year of staying still.
I’m not the only one
I know I’m not the only one feeling like this either. Millions of people have had their daily lives stripped back to the barest forms. We’ve all been forced to adjust, adapt, pivot… but in general that’s been a way to stay afloat rather than to achieve fulfilment.
There’s the personal trainer who loved working in a busy gym, helping clients achieve their goals, who is now hosting online workouts, swapping the pleasure of real-life interactions for less-rewarding virtual ones.
How about the classical musicians who got their kicks performing in concert halls every evening to passionate music lovers? They’re now unable to breathe the same air as their colleagues, and let’s face it those Zoom concerts were fun the first few times, but nothing beats the feeling of taking a bow at the end of a concert to rapturous applause.
What about the wedding planners who adored putting together what most couples would describe as the ‘best day of their life’. From 24th March 2020 onwards, weddings in the UK were cancelled, and while a few smaller events have taken place since then, nothing on the scale that would require a wedding planner.
In fact, the entire wedding industry has been frozen out for the best part of a year. Think of the florists, wedding venues, wedding bands, make-up artists and caterers – they’ve all pivoted as best they can, but many started their businesses because they adored being involved with weddings! They loved being a crucial part of a couple’s celebration. With no weddings to attend, where’s the personal reward?
Delving into the unknown
As for me, I started my travel blog because of my love of travel. I love delving into the unknown, experiencing new things, tasting different cuisines and gaining a greater understanding of all the tiny cogs that slot together to make up our amazing planet.
I created this online space to share what I learned, with mammoth travel guides and useful tips about destinations around the world. My day to day life revolved around travel and most of my income came from the travel industry. When I had time off, it often involved travel for personal enjoyment too. I was all in.
I didn’t start a travel blog because I loved blogging, it was because I loved travel. I’m also one of those people who had done the dangerous thing of turning my passion into my job. I feel like when I was younger I was warned about doing this – “what if doing it as a job makes you hate it”. Nope, didn’t listen to that voice in my head!
Travel was/is my identity
Is travelling merely something I do for a living? Or is it a part of who I am? While this may sound dramatic, I think travel became a big part of my identity.
I’ve always been someone who throw themselves in 100%. Previously I worked in the radio industry and was exactly the same. Can you eat, sleep and breathe your job? I definitely did in radio, and I think I do with my work in travel too.
As for so many, the pandemic has stripped a huge chunk of my life away. Is a musician who no longer performs in concert halls, still a musician? Is a personal trainer who can’t personally train people, still a personal trainer? And in that case, is a travel blogger who doesn’t travel, still a travel blogger?
I think so… but it’s fair to say I’ve had a few wobbles.
Is this an identity crisis?
Psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term ‘identity crisis’ describing it as a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. He also said that identity is something that shifts and grows throughout life as people confront new challenges and tackle different experiences.
I’d say I’m definitely suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. A year ago, Macca and I had just returned from a four-day trip to Nuremberg for the German tourist board. We were contracted to create a video promoting the romantic side of the city, as well as blog and social media posts.
We edited the video straight away, but it’s never seen the light of day as it didn’t feel appropriate to promote visiting, when travel was off the cards.
The week before we squeezed in two trips for Visit England, promoting quirky experience-based trips to the South Downs and the city of Norwich. Little did we know these would be the only trips we’d squeeze in before our lives ground to a halt.
A love of social interactions
Being at home has made me even more aware of why I love these types of job and how intertwined my identity is with my profession. I love the social interactions – meeting people, learning about cultures, speaking to locals, chefs, hotel managers, tour guides. I thrive on energy in social situations. I’ve definitely felt flatter over the past year as a result of being cooped up at home.
A few friends have joked about future gatherings, “I feel like I’ll have forgotten how to communicate in a group dynamic.” I also wonder how those first baby steps will feel as we venture out of our cocoons, but I can’t wait to share stories and enjoy a few laughs again!
I also miss the unstructured lifestyle. In lockdown I’ve started to feel like a robot, with my repetitive daily routine of eating, working, exercising, watching TV and sleeping.
When I was travelling, every single day would be different, and I loved that about it! Early flights, late dinners, interesting day tours, quirky night time activities. The variety kept me on my toes, but take that away and yet again, I’m feeling a bit flat.
A desire to inspire people
One of the most rewarding parts about travel blogging has been inspiring people to follow in my footsteps. Along with seeing the stats showing the number of people reading my blog posts, I also receive lovely messages from readers saying they visited x place because I recommended it. I’ve suggested countless restaurants, hotels and experiences over the years.
Strip back the ability to travel and all of those rewarding moments dissolve too. I miss those moments. Those emails, those DMs on Instagram. Sometimes people visit specific spots I’ve recommended and recreate photos I’ve taken, then send them to me. I get goose bumps every single time!
I love my job
I know many people work to live. They spend 40-hours per week doing something that they neither love nor hate, just to earn money to afford a life they enjoy.
In many ways I am the opposite. I really adore what I do (but wouldn’t say it’s for the money!) and when I can’t do it in its fullest form, I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself. I know so many others who are complaining of this right now too. For lots of us, life, work and happiness are all intertwined.
Is time slipping away?
There are days when I acknowledge the passing of time, and others when I’m in total denial that almost a year has passed.
When I think back to memorable moments from previous years they involved social occasions (weddings, birthdays, parties), holidays or big work achievements. A year without those feels like a year that wasn’t truly lived.
What challenges us helps us grow
Life looks very different right now to a year ago, but I’m a firm believer that things that challenge us also help us grow. I hope that as travel resumes, my energy and excitement comes back in abundance.
I still get giddy thinking about how it’ll feel to step foot in an airport, check into a hotel, or be so immersed in another culture that I forget the hardships the past year has brought.
I also feel excited about making up for lost time. Surely after this, we’ll all be living life to the full? As for all those missed birthdays, weddings and celebrations… no doubt it’ll be a struggle to fit everything into our packed social calendars!
Can you relate to any of what I’ve said? Have you felt like you’ve been suffering from an identity crisis? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It’s been therapeutic to get these feelings down in a blog post. Hopefully it’s something that hits home for you too.