Coronavirus has left millennials with time to think and reflect, and to realise how lucky we have been to experience so much of the world
It always seemed unfair to me that avocados bore the brunt of the rampage against millennials. This humble, though pricey, fruit just wanted to get smashed and hang out on toast, and yet it took the blame for myriad things. Not least the fact that we couldn’t afford to own a house.
But the avocado stands for a lot more. It represents the life expectations of my peer group – from dining out each week and new clothes, to the latest iPhone and, most importantly, travelling the world. Scan the social media accounts of my generation and you’ll see there’s one thing that binds us together: that as often as we can (when work and budget allows), we get on a plane or train and experience somewhere new.
So much so that we began to take it for granted that we could pop to Mexico at the last minute to feast on tacos, or island hop in Greece, when we needed sunshine in our lives. To some extent, our parents did, too, but we are a generation that has grown up expecting not just a summer holiday, but multiple trips a year. Yes, it all sounds very middle class, but an obsession with travel often transcends backgrounds. Holidays have become cheaper than ever (at great cost to the environment, of course) and stories of city breaks and long-haul adventures were the currency of our communication. Somehow, travel morphed from a privilege to a right.
That poor avocado also shows how the world has changed for everyone, though. We live on a planet better connected than ever, with different cultures criss-crossed all over the map. Even if you don’t travel, you find evidence of this in your own supermarkets, shops and restaurants. We are a closer global community, and all the better for it – even if it has left us more exposed. Then the coronavirus arrived, and borders were slammed shut, aeroplanes grounded and the FCO began advising all Britons to remain at home.
Many of my friends joke that they don’t like to return from a holiday without knowing when the next one is, so this is a truly strange experience. I know our elders will call us selfish, because that is the default adjective for millennials, but I don’t think that’s fair. We’re lost, not angry. I’ve seen my peers mourn cancelled forthcoming trips, just like thousands of others of different ages, but nobody has thrown a tantrum. We understand the situation’s severity and that for now a new kind of normal must be adopted.
However, while we may have less of many different things, there is something we have a whole lot more of: time. Time to think and reflect. Which has made me realise how lucky we have been to experience so much of the world. Also that by allowing travel to become such a normal part of my life, perhaps it had lost a bit of its sparkle. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy holidays before – they naturally form some of my favourite memories – but I wasn’t always 100 per cent in the moment. They had become so regular, so last-minute and so normal, that I could get caught up in sending an email as we whizzed past the remarkable mountains of Colombia, or find myself scrolling social feeds on a park bench in Budapest instead of listening to the birds flying above me.
Books, films and theatre are beautiful windows into other worlds, but they cannot and will never replace the feeling of that hot slap of air as you step off the plane, the heady smell of a spice you haven’t encountered before, or the dusty pink of the sky as the sun sets into a slice of the ocean you’ve just discovered.
This pandemic is a major wake-up call: the ability to visit both near and faraway places is a gift that deserves more of our attention. If anything, the current travel bans will only improve how I holiday in future. Above all, it will encourage me to make smarter and better choices for where I go, how my money is spent and what I do there.
None of us know when normal life will resume, and I’m sure travel will be changed forever. It will be impossible not to think of the world as pre- and post-coronavirus. However, I’m sure that you can’t press pause on the world forever. The industry will rebuild one way or another and, when it does, I hope that I remember how lucky I am to be able to roam freely, enriching my life in all corners of the globe. It’s not goodbye, but see you soon.