Wanderlusting in Lockdown: How COVID-19 Gave Me the Travel Bug

Ciara Phelan

Ciara Phelan

27th of January 2022

Emigration has become an intrinsic element of Irish culture, with an estimated 10 million Irish natives emigrating since the 1700s. When the going gets tough here, it’s commonplace for the Irish to “get up and go”. Throughout the recession and post-recession periods, we all grew used to emigration being a viable safety valve, with many unemployed Irish whisked away to other countries dreaming of better jobs and a higher standard of living.

Even as a child, I grew so accustomed to relatives moving and neighbours leaving that I simply assumed that it was a step that everyone had to take. Post-pandemic, however, this norm was totally flipped on its head, with unemployment at an all-time high – even higher than the post-recession peaks – but with international borders shut. For the first time in a long time in Irish society, emigration could not be the default option.

However, I feel our hereditary travel bug is still alive and well, perhaps more so than ever. With restrictions easing, the Irish are making up for the lost time by travelling now. As borders reopened, I had the opportunity to move to Canada and complete some of my studies here. This opportunity has made my travel bug grow exponentially, and I have learned to appreciate the short trips as much as the longer ones.

Without COVID, I feel as though I would have taken this opportunity for granted – but now I have grabbed the bull by the horns, and I am so ready to throw myself into everything I can. Trips to Toronto and Niagara Falls have somehow become a norm for me, but after being cooped up in my bedroom for a year and a half, I have learned to appreciate every little thing.

During COVID, I wasted my time online shopping for clothes I didn’t have an excuse to wear, and I know I wasn’t the only one who used this as an unhealthy coping mechanism. With the opening of the world once again, we no longer feel guilty spending money on experiences. I learned that there is no living in existing. As someone in her early 20s with the world at her feet, I want to see, do, experience, explore and make the most of life that I have.

Travel has become such a fundamental part of the human experience. With the continued global lockdowns and restrictions, even the most straightforward interactions feel monumental – visiting a neighbour, going to the cinema, catching the bus to work, driving to see family. There is no life in just living, and I think that be it a short trip next store, or long-term emigration, the best way to explore is to travel.


This article was supported by: Opinion Editor Olivia and STAND News and Communications Intern Elaine


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