The travel experience may feel and look different once the world begins to reopen
The travel experience may feel and look different once the world begins to reopen (Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin via Unsplash)
Just like the rest of the world, we are not travelling during this COVID-19 pandemic, but we hope you turn to Zafigo as a source of inspiration for your future travels. Please stay safe and adhere to any quarantine and movement control orders that have been imposed in your country.

The last thing anybody expected for 2020 was for the entire world to be on lockdown because of a deadly virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken such a toll on the world with numerous business and economic sectors hit extremely hard. As a team that travels heavily for both business and pleasure, travel suspensions have been particularly sad for us here at Zafigo, but we know that it is necessary so that we to may return to what is now known as the ‘new normal’.

Here, we share our thoughts on how we think travel will be different for us from here on out.

Marina in Patagonia

Marina Mahathir, Zafigo Founder

It seems unimaginable that for someone who loves and needs to travel every few months, I am now forced to pause and think about how travel will affect me in the future. On one hand, I have already been to some of my dream destinations, like Bhutan and Patagonia. On the other, there are still many more places I would love to visit.

That future is one I face with trepidation. With the global travel industry facing decimation, what would be my options? What airlines will survive and at what price? And where would I stay, given that Airbnb is getting a massive shakeout because so many people had invested in houses and apartments to rent, only to find that there’s nobody to rent to.

I think I will be more calculative of my travel spend. Previously I had more choices to suit my budget, and could afford to pay for comfort, but now I have to weigh my options more carefully. I don’t think I would turn into a backpacker, but I will probably take fewer trips for leisure just to maintain the same level of comfort.

At the same time, with the curtailment of so much during this lockdown, my mind has begun to appreciate the question, “If not now, when?” I am eternally grateful that in the past few years I took the time to do the things I really wanted to do. In addition to visiting Bhutan and Patagonia, I did a walking holiday in Japan, and a one-year Masters degree in the UK. Imagine if I had hesitated then, the opportunities may never have come around again.

So despite an understandable wariness about getting onto an airplane and going to places full of strangers, I think I would grab any opportunity I am given to go somewhere new. Perhaps to see how, during the pandemic when the sky turned blue and the rivers and forests green again, the earth renewed itself. And perhaps I will be renewed too.

Xin in Iloilo, Philippines

Lee Xin Xin, Head of Design

I grew up with my uncle and aunt who love travelling. They passed on the travel bug to me as a little girl. About once a year when I was younger, they would take me on local or overseas trips. After getting married, my husband and I also attempt to go somewhere at least once a year. It could be a local trip to hunt for delectable Malaysian food, or an overseas trip to somewhere with cold weather. It is just to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and to catch a break.

For me personally, I think I will be putting a stop to overseas travel for a while as I have a young toddler. Perhaps for about a year? We will vet the situation again when the time comes. I do not want to put her life at risk by travelling. Even though I had grand plans (or maybe not so grand because I was just toying with the idea) to travel to Phu Quoc for a family beach holiday. Making sandcastles with the golden sand, watching the waves collide against the rocks, and enjoying a drink during sunset will all have to be put on a back burner.

James at The Rose Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey

James Chong, Director of Strategy & Development

Discovering, learning and experiencing things outside my comfort zone has always been an essential part of my growth, and travel is my gateway. The more I travel, the more I meet and listen to new people, and the more it helps me to be less judgmental, and more mindful and connected to life. Travel is self-care for me.

What the current pandemic has shown very clearly is that none of us can take for granted what we have and what we understand the world to be. Future trips that I have been putting off, the experiences I wanted to have, may no longer be the same or even exist now. Partying at Mardi Gras, dancing at Tomorrowland, walking through crowded souks in Morocco, or being a part of the Halloween parade in New York will all be different, and not as accessible as before. The possibility of a second or third wave, or any of us being asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, will always be at the back of our minds. We will shake hands less, and masks, sanitisers, and liquid soap will be travel essentials.

Post-COVID-19, I will most likely prioritise experiences that are more skewed to outdoors, nature, and open spaces; destinations that have better and more affordable healthcare facilities, accommodations that are not as crowded, transportation options that allow for social distancing, and off-season periods where the crowds are smaller. My cost of travel will likely increase, and travel health insurance will be an essential part of my budget. This means I will need to be much more selective, and I will need to learn, plan, research in advance before I travel again, and I definitely will.

Tengku Zai with her husband at the Tasman Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Tengku Zai, Sub-editor

For over a decade, there wasn’t a time where I didn’t have an upcoming trip to look forward to. Whether it was business or leisure, there was always lots of time for pleasure on any and all of my travels. At the peak of my travelling days, I was at the airport every other week and I absolutely loved it! All that’s changed, and not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of a baby.

You see, becoming a mom has already caused my world to change. Since the birth of my daughter in late 2018, my husband (my best friend and most favourite person to adventure with) hardly travel anymore. While some parents swear an oath to not let a child change their globe-trotting ways, we did the opposite and grounded ourselves. Now, if and when we do travel, it’s hardly together and even more rarely with our daughter. But times are changing.

Call me an optimist, but I believe in the resilience of the human spirit. We will all travel again very soon (in fact, we’re already pulling together ideas of where we can go together once the dust settles a bit). My little family and I will be more than ready to face the world. And from now on, it’ll be together.

A year ago, in conjunction with Mother’s Day, #teamZafigo shared about destinations we’d love to travel to with our mothers: Where We’d Travel To With Our Mothers
Tercia with her sister in Firenze, Italy

Tercia Goh, Head of Content Marketing

I never thought it would take a pandemic to curb my footloose, jet-setting ways. The thought that it might take years before I can comfortably take to the skies again, is a hard pill to swallow.

Anticipating higher flight fares and more stringent border controls, I will be looking towards domestic travels and staycations to satiate my appetite for wanderlust. I confess that I’ve always considered overseas travel to be more exciting, but I see this as a great opportunity to discover my own backyard – a much-neglected option that never made its way into my travel list.

My passport will be replaced by hand sanitiser, and a face mask will be on my packing list – at least until the world returns to its halcyon days of carefree travel. I foresee a mix of local getaways, such as interstate road trips, outdoor glamping, and hotel spa stays. Aside from this being a more convenient and cost-conscious option, it is also motivated by a sense of patriotic responsibility to help rebuild Malaysia’s economy by supporting local businesses.

I always thought that pushing myself out of my comfort zone would reap more meaningful experiences but sometimes, we need to be pushed back into our safe haven to experience a different kind of adventure. My sense of adventure might be more grounded, but when the time comes, I will take to it with a deeper sense of gratitude and gusto!

Maggie in Belitung, Indonesia

Maggie De souza, Head of Events

The eager optimist in me gets excited at the thought of things returning to normal and can’t wait to start replanning vacations (2020 is still the year I plan to travel more), but the realist interrupts my daydreams and giggles at my naivety. Things are probably not going back to normal anytime soon, or at least not until vaccines are readily available for the masses, and even then, ‘normal’ will not be what ‘normal’ was.

I see myself becoming a more cautious and vigilant traveller. Travelling has never been a completely stress-free experience for me. The nagging feeling that I forgot something or left something on at home, going through multiple security checks, or even just making sure to get to the airport or train station on time all contribute to the anxieties of travel. And now as we collectively become more prudent, I’ll be adding on to an ever-growing checklist of things to panic about keep in mind in terms of personal safety and hygiene.

I definitely see myself questioning what I do more – did I pack enough sanitiser and alcohol wipes? Is it okay to eat the moo ping from this stall? Should we really be standing this close to one another at this Brockhampton show? Did this person really just sneeze onto the back of my head? Neuroses aside, I see myself also trying to become a more conscious traveller, making more eco-friendly and ethical choices when it comes to the activities I do while on vacation.

Rathika in the UK for her best friend’s wedding

Rathika Sheila, Content & Marketing Manager

I’m a happy homebody. When I travel, it’s usually to attend festivals, or to visit friends — I know, I’m not your typical travel writer — so, I didn’t think I would be too affected by the logistics of travelling post-COVID19.

The reality is that I will be; if we’re going to “go back out into the world” in phases in our own countries, it’s likely that travelling for leisure will not be the first priority which means cost for travelling may increase, and my plans to visit my best friend in the UK next year is on hold until the world has its next steps. It’s out of my control but that doesn’t make it less discouraging. Being unable to plan is painful; I find happiness in creating lists, and ticking things off of it.

I’m more concerned, and curious as to how countries will thrive without depending heavily on tourism. Have we started thinking about what structures we need to be sustainable yet? I’m sure we’ll be allowed to travel soon enough, but I don’t think the volume will be the same until there’s an available vaccine — and that’s not a terrible idea either.

Eliza in Joshua Tree, California, USA

Eliza Thomas, Editor

Almost halfway through what was supposed to a great year of travel for me has been reduced to nothing. While I understand that movement restrictions, travel bans, and the like are for the greater good, my heart can’t help but feel heavy because one of my travel plans was to go see my best friend and my other half who both live some 8,000 miles away.

I have a flight ticket waiting for me to travel to go see them when it is (somewhat) safe again, but when will that be? How can I mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 with being on a plane for 20+ hours? How many pairs of gloves and face masks do I bring? How much sanitiser and disinfectant am I allowed to carry onboard? I’ll let you in on a secret… I even have a disinfection plan. It involves throwing out the clothes I wear on each leg, and thoroughly showering at both my layover and destination airports, because I don’t want to possibly carry the virus and infect anyone around me.

The gist of it is that COVID-19 has forced me to be more aware of my habits, conduct, and interactions during travel. Being thoughtful, considerate, discerning, vigilant, and safe are now travel requirements. I’ve never had to put so much thought, what more devise an entire plan, into making sure that I – and everybody else who comes into contact with me on my journey – stay safe from infection. Travel, which has always been about me, myself, and I, is now about ‘we’.

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