March 2020: Travel Summary and Statistics

Lauren and Dave wearing face masks at Doha Airport

Hey all you cool cats and kittens.

Yes, if March was a person it would be goddamn Carole Baskin down in Florida. 

If you haven’t watched Tiger King yet, you’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind. 

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’re probably aware that I did a long time ago. 

This is a bit of an odd monthly summary, but I’ve got a ton of exciting announcements at the end.

Lauren and Dave wearing face masks at Doha Airport
Masked-up on our flight out of Melbourne! I bought a bunch of N95 masks back in November to handle the pollution in India, but they ended up being quite the excellent purchase when March rolled around.

I’d love to start off this post by saying wow, I couldn’t have predicted what happened in March. 

Except, I kind of predicted it all. 

Let me tell you a little bit about what it’s like to have anxiety. The definition of this disorder is persistent, irrational thoughts.

I was panicking about the coronavirus in mid-January. When Wuhan went into lockdown, I was announcing to Dave that the whole world would be next; that this would wipe out the boomers; that this was going to destroy our businesses. I joined the coronavirus subreddit when it had just 3,000 members and I absorbed as much information as I could. I was convinced that this was the big one; this was going to change the world and it was going to kill so many people. 

I don’t identify as having an anxiety disorder anymore — I haven’t had symptoms for years — but this situation made me feel like I was 18 and catastrophising again.

But here’s the thing about suffering from anxiety: those fears never, ever come true. 

It’s why travel cured me of my disorder. Every single day while I was on the road, I’d wake up and fill my mind with concerns: was I going to have an allergic reaction to the unfamiliar breakfast at this hostel? Was I going to be kidnapped and raped as I explored this city alone? Was I going to get lost and never find my way back to this dorm room? Would I say something weird in the hostel common room and have everybody hate me? Would a reader spot me while I was exploring and think I was stuck-up because I’m reserved and quiet? Would somebody mug me for my expensive camera? Would my website get hacked while I was out exploring for the day? 

Yeah, it was exhausting. 

And none of those things ever happened.

So, when your brain is continually filling itself to the brim with very irrational fears and those fears are never proven to actually happen, eventually you stop having those thoughts. It really was the main cure for my anxiety: flinging myself out into the world with a head full of worries, learning none of them were rational, then no longer creating them. 

And then coronavirus happened. 

Me: “It’s going to wipe out everybody’s parents! We need to cancel all of our travel plans and hide away for a year! We need to get your family to stay inside!”

Dave: “Lauren, it hasn’t even travelled outside of China. Only 20 people are dead.”

Me: “People you know are going to die!”

Dave: “…”

Me: “The mainstream media is underreacting! Nobody is taking this seriously!”

In mid-January, I cancelled my travel plans.

I never really announced it publicly because I was still convinced I was experiencing an anxiety flare-up that was filling my mind with impossible outcomes. I didn’t want to seem like I was being dramatic, especially when every travel blogger I knew and respected was still travelling and writing updates about how everyone should calm down and keep their travel plans. 

From February, I was supposed to road trip around Western Australia for two weeks, head to Singapore for a week, meet a friend in Vietnam and hang out on the beach in Da Nang for two weeks, jet to a new Thai island for a couple of weeks, head back to India to wander around the south, and then fly to the U.K. sometime around mid-April. 

Instead, Dave and I decided to spend February in Melbourne to try to figure out what to do.

Beach at St Kilda
St Kilda in Australia, roughly a week before things started to get scary

It was one of the harder decisions of my life. We could stay in Melbourne, fly back to the U.K., or head for the calming shores of New Zealand. 

I felt that flying back to the U.K. made the most amount of sense. We have a house in Bristol that we pay rent on and that’s full of our belongings. We could live there indefinitely. We’re in the healthcare system.

The downside was that the U.K. was most likely to be hit hardest by COVID-19. A month ago, cases were starting to skyrocket in Europe while remaining fairly low-key in Oceania. Was it a really stupid decision to return to a country that was about to go into lockdown for months and have hundreds of thousands of cases? 

So, should we stay in Melbourne, where we have the greatest number of friends and family? The disadvantage to this was knowing we had already travelled for three months while paying rent on our place back in Bristol. If this lasted for a year, we’d be spending so much money on a house we weren’t living in while making little income. And plus, I had already used one month of my three-month tourist visa — what would happen in two months when my visa ran out? I didn’t want to get deported from the country on a coronavirus-filled flight or chucked out to Christmas Island.

The main benefit to staying in Australia was not having to board a plane and travel when that was the last thing I wanted to do. It felt so risky. 

But of course, New Zealand was an option. Safe, wonderful New Zealand. I could get a six month visa on arrival, we could live in the family holiday home in peaceful Hanmer Springs, the country was taking it seriously, and was widely believed to be one of the best countries to wait out an apocalypse. There had only been a handful of cases in the country at that time, and it felt like a sensible place to be. But there was still the question of rent — with Dave and I no longer making much money from our sites, how could we justify spending so much on rent in Bristol while we weren’t there? 

We even considered separating. I wanted to head to the U.K. while Dave was leaning more towards to New Zealand. The big fear was that, if this ended up lasting for something like 18 months, would we have to go that long without seeing each other again? That was a scary prospect. 

In the end, we decided to go back to the U.K. together. 

Even though it felt like flying into the eye of the storm, we bought a plane ticket and rushed back home. 

I think it was the right decision. 

One of the rare times I left the house: I decided to walk around North Bristol to soak up the springtime sunshine while staying two metres away from everyone else. 

So, how does it feel to have my predictions come true?

Kind of awful? Kind of terrible? Kind of weird? Kind of unbelievable?

Yup, all four. 

In fact, it’s been infuriating, because I’ve felt like the girl who cried danger. Back in early-March, I simply could not get my parents to take me seriously as I begged and pleaded with them to stop leaving the house. They’ve dealt with 20 years of my histrionics — how could I convince them that this time it’s really, really serious and not just my anxiety speaking?

For the most part, though, I’m calm.

I practice gratitude, I get my work done, I read books, I cook meals from my travels, I meditate, I workout. Occasionally, the magnitude of the situation hits me and I feel like I’m living in a movie. Occasionally, I freak out over my family’s safety because I can’t control them. I feel a deep, aching sadness for the lives that have been lost.

magnet board with travel souvenirs

I’m trying to view the isolation as a gift — the least gift-like gift — as an opportunity to pursue creative outlets, to focus on things I never have the time to justify working on. 

I finally hung up my magnet board above my desk and arranged all of my travel magnets on it. I’ve been collecting magnets from the countries I visit for the past three years, from places like Rwanda, Borneo, Tonga, Namibia, Ukraine, Lichtenstein, Japan, Tanzania… It serves as excellent motivation when I sit at my desk and reminisce about the incredible places I’ve travelled to. 

cochinita pibil tacos

Chicken tamales

I’m also cooking all of my favourite meals from my travels!

I’ve been talking about recreating all of my favourite dishes from my trips for years, but never really got around to putting my dream into action. This feels like the perfect time! So far, I’ve made cochinita pibil tacos and chicken tinga tamales! They were both so good and surprisingly easy to make. As an added bonus, our kitchen smelled like Mexico for the entire day. 

Houseplants in a car
Our car was mostly filled with my houseplants as we tackled the drive from London back to Bristol!

Houseplants are my everything, and filling my home with them brings me so much joy. For Christmas, my family treated me to a bunch of gift cards for plant stores, but I immediately went travelling so wasn’t able to use them. 

It was the perfect way to lift my spirits after I returned to the U.K.! I especially love my new banana plant, as it reminds me of scootering around the Philippines and taking photos of the thousands that blanket the islands. 

I’ve also — very randomly — been practicing the Wim Hof Method while I’ve been back. Primarily based around taking cold showers and breathing exercises, the benefits of the method include reduced levels of depression, decreased anxiety, greater mental resilience, and improved immunity. It’s kind of exactly what I need right now. 

And honestly? It’s been so enjoyable to do! It feels beneficial. 

I can’t believe I now take cold showers, but let me tell you, I feel so invigorated and energised by the end of them! And the resilience and mental strength it takes to shiver in the shower, turn the temperature dial to ice cold, and then stand there and take it? I can feel myself getting stronger every day. 

muddy feet
I went for a walk in the Wye Valley in Wales after a thunderstorm and, well, it was a little muddy

What I’m Doing to Give Back

When my income first started to plummet, I’ll confess I panicked like I had never panicked before.

I spiralled

I can’t even tell you how it feels to discover your traffic and income have dropped by 90% overnight. That the business you’ve poured your heart and soul into for a whole decade has fallen apart. That it may not recover for years. That your goals are no longer attainable. 

One morning in mid-March, I woke up and realised I had made less than $20 over the past 24 hours. I extrapolated that out to $600 a month in income and freaked out. That wouldn’t even cover my share of the rent, let alone bills and food.

Soon afterwards, I learned that the British government would be paying 80% of people’s salaries to the furloughed employed and self-employed, was filled with relief, then realised that as a company director, I wouldn’t qualify for anything. 

It took about a week for me to catch my breath.

Wow, talk about an inappropriate pun for the situation, Lauren.

Once the dust had settled, though, I was unexpectedly filled with gratitude. 

I’m luckier than most. 

I have savings. I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck before this happened. There’s little risk I’ll be made homeless.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve written newsletters and blog posts titled How You Can Help multiple times, but discarded them all. It felt tone deaf; it felt disingenuous. I’m going to be okay. Others, however, are not. 

So here’s what I’m doing about it. 

I’m supporting my favourite independent businesses in Bristol, for starters. I’m buying gift cards galore for my favourite plant stores, cafes, and restaurants in the city. I don’t expect to use them within the next year, but I’m hoping my investment in their businesses will help keep them afloat. If you live in Bristol, here’s an extensive list of spots selling gift vouchers for you to buy. 

I’m donating to charities, too. I’ve donated to the North Bristol Food Bank, Caring in Bristol — a charity for homeless people that is doing great things in the time of the coronavirus — and Changes Bristol — a mental health charity that’s currently running online support groups — to help protect the city’s most vulnerable humans. 

In lockdown, I’m spreading the positivity. I’m working my way through my bookshelf and leaving positive reviews for my favourite books. I’m publishing reviews for my favourite hotels in the world. I’m sharing how much I love my favourite cafes and restaurants on Google and TripAdvisor. I’m writing reviews for products I love on Amazon. When I can’t afford to financially support everybody in the world, this feels like the next best thing. 

Travel map for March 2020

Highlights of the Month

Having the freedom to take control: I feel so lucky to work from home and to be able to choose to isolate myself from the moment I realised this pandemic was something I didn’t want to expose myself to. At a time when both of my parents have been identified as key workers — my mum as a freaking office administrator in a school — I realise my situation could be far worse and a lot scarier. 

Celebrating my dad’s birthday: When the cheapest flight out of Melbourne happened to coincide with my dad’s birthday, it felt like fate. And even though Dave and I were exhausted, it was so wonderful to celebrate the occasion with my family. I even managed to pick up some souvenirs from my travels to bring home for him! 

Lowlights of the Month

Discovering I don’t qualify for a COVID-19 grant: In the U.K., self-employed and regularly employed people, for the most part, are having 80% of their salary paid by the government to cover them through this challenging period. Directors of limited companies? Nothing! Unfortunately, I belong to that last group. 

It’s a little frustrating to realise that if I’d stayed self-employed, rather than starting a company, I’d be in a far better financial situation over the coming months!

The fear that this might destroy my business: I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. So, I’m concerned. My worst-case scenario is regular lockdowns of the world for the next two years, with very little travel taking place. I would then expect it to take three or four years for my traffic and income to return to its previous levels. In this situation, I would be pretty, uh, screwed. The environment, however, would probably be doing a lot better, let’s be honest.

So, I have to ponder whether I should start a new business entirely. Powering through with this site only for things to not get better would be a terrible financial decision.

But I have to have hope.

I have to believe that things will get better. And I don’t want to abandon you guys — my beloved readers and community — who helped give me this life that I treasure so much. I love the work I do here and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. 

But also, I can’t work for nothing for years on end. 

People used to ask me what my back-up plan was. What I would do if travel blogging disappeared. What my exit strategy was. 

Every single time, I would just shrug and shake my head. I didn’t want to do anything but this. 

For now, then, I’m sticking with the norm. My traffic has plateaued, my income is a little better than I’d expected, and isolation is giving me the perfect opportunity to churn out as much new content as possible. And I promise all new content will be light-hearted and have absolutely nothing to do with the coronavirus. 

The longest of flights: When I decided that I needed to leave Australia immediately to head back home, I looked for the quickest route back that I could find. That was a Qatar Airways flight from Melbourne to Doha to London. 

It was a flight that involved 25 hours of travel. Fifteen hours from Melbourne to Doha, a two hour layover, then seven hours to London. 

Wow, that was a challenge, both physically and mentally. 

girl on a plane being dramatic about covid
lmaooooooooooooo what am i doing

Incidents of the Month

So, yeah. I was determined not to catch coronavirus, and I decided the best way to do so was to cover every single transmission path for the majority of the flight. 

Yes, for 24 hours, this was mostly what I looked like. 

Still, at least, I wasn’t using my airplane eyemask for protection, like the lady beside me. 

Travel map for March 2020

The Next Month

A month ago, I was berating myself for being overdramatic about a situation that nobody seemed concerned about. 

And then March happened.

We don’t know what the future is going to hold for the world right now, but I’m fairly certain things are going to get worse in April.

In these times, I’m trying to do what I can to help others and practicing extreme self-care. I’m staying at home, obviously, but I’m still doing everything I listed above. Supporting artists, supporting the vulnerable, and trying to ensure this site remains a place of escapism, about the wonders of travel.

I’ve got lots of exciting blog post ideas for the coming months. 

How are you guys holding up? How dramatic was your March? 


  1. Danielle
    April 1, 2020

    Oh, I hope you share some of those recipes! Those tacos look fantastic.

  2. Scott
    April 2, 2020

    Do you still feel the cold when you shower, but now you can tolerate it? Or do you not really feel it at all? I’ve seen videos of him (and others), and they do the breathing method first, and then get into cold water and it’s no big deal!

    • April 2, 2020

      I definitely still feel it! But I do feel like I have a greater tolerance to it the more I do it. I don’t scream anymore, haha. Mindset makes a big difference, too — if I convince myself I’m excited about standing under cold water, I tend to enjoy it more.

  3. Jub
    April 2, 2020

    Love the idea of the review for places/books you love! I’m off to do a few right now :)

    • April 2, 2020

      Yay! It’s such a feel-good activity :-)

  4. Kirsty
    April 2, 2020

    It’s pretty scary for sure! I’m a kiwi whose been teaching English near Tokyo in Japan for almost three years now. I made the decision to ride this out here but I keep questioning whether it was the right choice.

    If you wanted a temporary pivot for income purposes I bet you could do something around the travel cooking you’re doing.

    • April 2, 2020

      It’s such a tough decision, isn’t it? I keep wondering what I would have done if I was still nomadic and didn’t have a logical home to return to.

      And yes, I’ve considered that! I can also write about anxiety, health, blogging, running a business, too. So lots of options!

  5. Melinda
    April 3, 2020

    Hi Lauren!
    Glad you’re doing okay. May I ask why you did decide to switch from self-employed to directing a limited company?

    • April 3, 2020

      My accountant advised me to when I was based in Portugal. Portuguese tax laws wouldn’t let me claim business expenses as a UK-registered sole trader (and as a travel blogger, my business expenses are all of my travel expenses, so are quite high). If I registered a company, I could claim them, so it made the most sense for my situation.

      I liked having my company income/expenses separate from my personal bank accounts, so when I left Portugal and moved back to the U.K., I just stayed registered as a company.

  6. Rachel
    April 3, 2020

    Hello Lauren,
    As I read your blog this morning while I enjoyed a hot toddy laced with a healthy dose of Jameson, I could feel the fear through your words. I’m ashamed to say that I was one of those people who thought that the media was overreacting just a month ago but now….
    I live just west of Seattle on Bainbridge Island, and this whole virus has completely turned life as I know it upside down. Face masks and gloves are a common sight as are curb-side services, (including the cannabis stores!) and there is a scary level of uncertainty in everyone’s eyes.
    I have followed you for years now, and always love reading your hilarious blogs but these are unrepresented times and the world is yearning for caring and love. Thank you for being generous and inspiring others to do the same. I, myself, am taking my new found time to also try new recipes, plant a herb garden and catch up on long awaited house projects, too.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts about how you are getting through these tough times. Please stay safe!
    xx Rachel

  7. Julie Cullis
    April 4, 2020

    Hi Lauren
    Really interesting post! I have just signed up to your Patreon – think all the positive things you are doing are fantastic. I’ve read your posts from the beginning (and read your book!) so look forward to reading more of your stories. Hope it all works out well for you! Wish I’d thought of collecting magnets from my travels -collected tea towels instead but they don’t last! :) Stay safe!

  8. April 6, 2020

    I’m so glad to hear you and Dave chose to stay together during this crisis! It’s not to know how long you would have to be apart.
    I’m sorry to hear about your business dropping so steep, but hey, when the coronavirus is defeated, people will eventually get itchy feet and go travel again!

    My boyfriend and I had such a corona drama in March!
    We were 8 months into what was supposed to be a full year of travel. Then corona happened…
    We saw how the world closed down within few days from our hostel in Bolivia. This is the time in all our travels where my anxiety was worst. I didn’t sleep or eat for days, I was so afraid to get stuck in Bolivia. We eventually made it to Brazil and bought a last-minute flight to Portugal. We are now at our third week in lovely Lisbon and my mental health is so much better! The only thing I can complain about is the loud peacocks (We live next to Sao Jorge castle), I think they have mating season. They sound like screaming cats haha.

    I also try to support the locals here, I already buy waaaaay too many Pastel de Nata … They’re good for the soul. Yummy. I think I’ll start doing more reviews online, you’ve inspired me. Thank you.

    Please take care and stay safe during this mean pandemic. Hang on to Neverendingfootsteps, we are many followers, who enjoy reading! I’ll send you some online hugs from Lisbon.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.