From Our Homes to Yours
COVID-19 has brought about global changes and many of us have had to quickly adapt to being at home and isolated from others. Our co-founders, Rupa and Claire, have drawn on their experiences of being alone for reasons related to disability and travel. We hope that their personal experiences help make this a bit easier to navigate or make you feel less alone during these challenging times. We are also sharing some tips from experts about how to deal with these sudden changes.
Rupa: I’ve dealt with isolation before for health-related reasons, and both then and now one of the things that really helps me is to read a lot. Reading novels can be a form of travel, it takes your brain to a different place and time. I also enjoy it because it is productive leisure, and it makes me feel good while still serving as an escape. For multiple reasons related to my disabilities, I haven’t been able to read a physical book for years, but I’m obsessed with audiobooks. Right now, Audible has added many free books available for readers of all ages.
Claire: I agree, but I personally can struggle with reading for pleasure. When I actually get into a book I enjoy it, but it’s hard to shut my brain off. I can read the same paragraph five times and still not have taken it in, which gets frustrating. NPR had a great story about this with some tips for people who find it hard to read. I’ve really enjoyed doing Netflix parties and watching shows with my friends virtually. It’s nice to have a shared experience even if you can’t physically be together. For me it helps to turn my brain off by escaping through tv shows or movies, whether that's alone or with friends.
Rupa: During times where I’ve had to be home for long periods, connecting over the phone has been incredibly important. Over the last month, phone calls and video chats have become an important part of my life once again. One of the surprising things is that we’ve connected with people who we usually don’t. It has been a silver lining to catch up with family and friends and make time for real conversations. A couple weeks ago we had a happy hour with family from all over. It’s something I hope that we keep as a habit when things get back to some semblance of normal.
Claire: I have had a very similar experience and connected with a lot of friends and family who I don’t normally have video calls with. But social media has also played a big role for me. My friends and I send each other a lot of memes and jokes (humor is an important coping mechanism of mine), but I try to balance it with connections off of social media as well, like phone and video calls. Social media has also changed the world of travel. I have been able to keep in touch with friends around the world and get to enjoy their throwback travel photos. These pictures are a nice way to transport me back to some of my favorite destinations.
Rupa: Over the years I’ve learned to change my expectations during times of isolation. Early on it was really difficult for me to accept that I couldn’t do the things I had planned, and see the people I was hoping to see. Once I changed my expectations and adjusted to a “new normal” I was able to keep myself from feeling constantly disappointed. This doesn’t happen immediately and the transition can be really hard, but eventually you do find ways to adjust. Instead of trying to still achieve your previous goals you can focus on new opportunities. Everything around us has changed, and it’s important to acknowledge that and adapt to it. You may find that there are opportunities to do things that you don’t normally have time for. For me, I had often wanted to start meditating, but it wasn’t until I had hours upon hours on my own that I actually made it a practice. Also, it’s ok if your goals don’t look like anyone else’s or if they change over time.
Claire: You and I have also talked about how this has some overlap with skills you learn while traveling. As we all know travel rarely goes exactly as planned. You have to be willing to change your expectations and be adaptive. I was just recently talking with some friends about travel mishaps, and although those were stressful times, they are also some of the most memorable. One example that stands out was when I got on the wrong bus and then had to hitchhike my way across France to catch my flight. It was stressful, I went to the bathroom and cried, and then I picked myself back up and decided to make a plan and adjust to my situation (and yes after two rounds of hitchhiking I made my way to the airport in time for my flight). I can be very stubborn and travel definitely made me force myself to roll with punches. It can be easy to keep that as a separate travel mindset, but I’m trying to be conscious of bringing that into my daily life--especially now.
Rupa: The last thing that helped when I had my concussion was getting handwritten letters from friends and family. Knowing that people were thinking of me was lovely and made me feel less alone. In times like these reaching out and knowing how to support others is important. Some people may not be comfortable with video chats and technology, so a phone call or a handwritten letter could make a big difference.
Claire: I’ve found that supporting people has been a good way for me to feel like I’m doing something important. Whether that is adding a donation for free meals on takeout orders, listening to local musicians’ livestreams, or volunteering. I think whatever it is that helps make you feel both connected to and supportive of your community is good for your community and for your own mental health.
In addition to Rupa and Claire’s personal experiences, we also want to share advice from experts. There’s a plethora of advice out there, but briefly here are a few of our favorites. Scott Kelly, an astronaut who previously served as the commander on the International Space Station, wrote an op-ed with tips based on his experience. One of the things he recommends that wasn’t possible while on the International Space Station is to get outside (while maintaining proper distancing). Another important piece of advice is to listen to experts, which brings us to the American Psychological Association and Help Guide. These two resources provide great details about coping with the stress of COVID-19 and managing mental health. All of these experts recommend staying informed, but limiting news intake and sticking to reliable news sources. In addition to your regular news outlets, several news providers have removed the paywall for COVID-19 content, a list of these can be found here.
As Blue Trunk also adjusts to a world where travel outside the home is not recommended, we are finding new ways to bring travel to you. Beginning next month, we will be pulling together virtual travel packages for a variety of destinations. We will share ways to access museums, performances, and other tourist attractions virtually and will include accessibility information for these sites. We’ll also recommend other ways to experience a destination, such as books, movies, shows, and recipes. Stay tuned!