london-red-phone-booth

This is only one viewpoint, but I wanted to answer the one question everyone seems to be asking each other: what’s it like where you are? I’ve done my best to avoid the news at all costs, but I’ve loved seeing the human stories around the world.

With friends and families around the world separated from each other, knowing what’s going on in other parts of the world can range from fun, to cathartic or depressing, and I wanted to weigh in on my viewpoint in the UK. Times are uncertain, but wonderful things are happening too…

Some of you may know that Laura and I recently brought a daughter into the world, and it’s a weird time to have an infant. As a travel blogger, it’s been weird bringing a daughter into a world without travel, and I hope with all of my heart that will change soon, whenever it’s deemed safe.

The news loves adding fear by the hour, but that’s just not the world I’m seeing here. To borrow the most cliche, but visibly true phrase in regards to the British public, people are just keeping calm and carrying on.

Obviously, not in regards to toilet paper shopping, but that’s another story.

And of course, Boris Johnson telling everyone not to flood into bars, restaurants and pubs last night, since it would be the last night they could, had the exact opposite effect; which wasn’t ideal either. But in a way,ย  it only goes to further the ‘keep calm carry on’ bit, even if it’s not medically advised.

As of today, restaurants, bars and most gathering places are closed until further notice, but I was surprised to see the local outdoor farmers market in full swing in my neighborhood today.

People are keeping their distance, pretty much all group gatherings from schools to classes and sporting events are cancelled but people are really enjoying the simple walks outdoors. I’ve never seen more happy people walking, jogging or cycling in the park.

It’s lovely.

We live near a park, and taking Olive for a stroll is the highlight in our daily life, but the community aspect has been incredible. For the first time I can ever remember, at least since 9/11, people really are banding together to support businesses, protect employees and help their neighbors.

If anything, just having outsiders to talk to seems to be doing a lot of good.

My friend Seb runs my local coffee shop, and since they’ve been forced to close the business as it usually runs, he’s been doing bicycle bean deliveries. They’ve got their own in house roaster, so it’s pretty much the only way to get genuinely fresh coffee these days.

It’s fun to see people get creative to find new ways to support themselves and keep life as calm and normal for people as possible. Freshly roasted, single origin beans ground to exacting specifications goes a long way for me.

I’m seeing similar things with local gyms offering online classes, people getting creative with deliveries and most importantly, many people helping elderly or at risk neighbors with groceries and other necessities.

My neighbor spent days searching for eggs, I found some, got him a pack and he couldn’t believe it. I’m nowhere near the nicest guy in the world and would never pretend to be, but the appreciation he showed really made me take pause and examine what a *little* bit of humanity and banding together can do in times like these.

Grand gestures are great, but little moves can be too. Whenever you see an opportunity, err on the side of good.

So how’s the panic level?

Whenever I see people – from a 2 meter, 6 foot distance, ideally in open air – there seems to be a common thread. Those that watch the news all day are losing it, and those that simply catch up on the big principles and daily changes from a reputable news site at the beginning and end, or either or, tend to be far better off.

Supermarkets have been open and other than dried pasta, wet wipes, toilet paper and the obvious bunker necessities, it’s been pretty easy to get a hold of things. Happily, local butchers, farmers and smaller establishments have seen upticks in business as locals flock in support.

It’s just not all doom and gloom.

Don’t mistake 24 hour news with altruism. The more theories, experts and tangents they go on, the more premium ads they sell, and the more it scares or confuses people who are already scared and confused.

For the sake of everyone, yourself included – read a book, build that thing you’ve always talked about, learn a language or do anything that makes you happy. Even just having the time to cook, and some random ingredients to cobble together into a decent meal is a fun, creative challenge.

And then there’s wine : )

I’m planning with great hope for fall trips and learning more about the places that are actually recovering during the slowdown in travel. There are silver linings everywhere, if you look for them. I love checking in via WhatsApp video, Skype or any other video platform to catch up with friends in different parts of the world, and it’s bonded many people in our world together.

Like that magical musical moment in Barcelona, we’ll get through this.

How it going where you are?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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4 Comments

  1. Unfortunately in the uk I’m seeing businesses panicking as people have stopped buying anything but toilet rolls. Being self employed my business is more than likely over and there is no support for the self employed in the uk, despite it making up 15% of businesses. For every act of kindness there seem to be many more acts of greed, to the point I wonder if humankind deserves this. I try to follow the principle of karma, do good things and good things happen in the world, but its hard. I hope the new world order that arises is better than the old one, but I very much doubt it. Keep up random acts of kindness people, we have to outweigh the greedy within us!

    Btw big thanks to Gilbert for keeping up interesting blogging during tough times to keep our mind off things!! Thanks mate.

  2. I’m in the UK and it is hard to generalise about the mood. There are great things happening with people coming forward as volunteers to go shopping and deliver groceries to older/vulnerable citizens. There’s also manic, obsessive greed and selfishness with a herd mentality stockpiling shortage items (soap, pasta, tinned veggies and since the pub closures beer, wine and spirits).
    People are seeing opportunities to do the stuff they usually never get round to (clearing out clutter, decorating and diy) and when I was out running yesterday, dog-walkers were observing the 2 metre distancing advice.
    While food retailing is enjoying a short and unsustainable boom, the rest of the economy is tanking and many people are fearing for their job security, their ability to pay their mortgages or rent and some of the predictions (up to 12 months of social distancing before a virus is available) are really chilling.

  3. Gilbert: I love reading your posts. When this all clears and you and family can travel my guest suite here on the edge of Napa and San Francisco will be available to you. And do I have some great wine! The best thing about Coronavirus is how it has pushed me to open these great bottles for as simple an event as a family meal together! This is WWIII And in honor of my English Springer spaniels “Sir Winston” and “Lily Belle” we are going to win it! This retired Army Officer is all in!

  4. Thanks for your persistence and continued hard work. Glad that you’re seeing and appreciating the British approach. Thursday evening was heartwarming as a way of showing all those caring, volunteering and supporting this societies efforts we’re grateful. Not original but certainly in my little neighborhood an incredible community spirit.

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