A few days before we were set to fly, the Australian government announced what they claim is ‘necessary’ to stop the spread of Coronavirus here. Every international arrival is sent into forced quarantine – somewhere, like maybe a hotel, motel, student accommodation or caravan.
We’ve found it interesting that family and friends think this is fine. No questions asked.
“It’ll probably be a hotel”.
“You’ll be right – it’s meant to be 5-star.”
“I assume you’ll have internet.” [for not just fun, but we work for ourselves!]
Interesting, that so many have an attitude about it being ‘fine’ – as long as we’re back on ‘Aussie soil’.
If only we could touch that soil. If only we could get some fresh air during this Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine. And what is in the food that I’m eating, since I do have allergies?
An unacceptable lack of information
This policy rolled-out all too quickly, allegedly because “80% of the Coronavirus cases in Australia have come from abroad”.
Funny, we now know six people in Brisbane who believe they have had Coronavirus (experiencing everything from very mild to very bad symptoms). None of them were tested. One of them had been overseas. Some went to work and grocery shopping across the space of a couple of weeks.
Many countries have already enforced strict ‘stay at home’ policies. That’s absolutely not the case yet in Australia. The response to target incoming travellers would be reasonable, if everyone was treated the same here. It’s not happening – and we know how this works. It’s our third Coronavirus quarantine in five weeks. Aussies have no idea what lock down really means, and consistently disregard the rules.
The government’s response here, typically, is to target anyone stepping off a boat or a plane. Keeping in mind these are all residents – with ‘rights’ – because no one else has been able to enter the country for weeks.
The policy announcements came with zero information on what incoming travellers should expect. On the plane there was no information on what to expect. Brisbane airport was FULL of federal police and the army, to ‘welcome’ a flight of just a few hundred who had boarded internationally. Everyone was silent. We filled in several forms and finally Cooper and I had confirmation that we wouldn’t be separated.
Then we were told to wait:
“…the police will pick you up soon”.
It was about two hours after all passengers had cleared immigration that we were all herded onto a bus. Still no confirmation on what was going on. Everyone diligently packed their suitcases under the bus, boarded, and finally our coach full of masked avengers left… to go somewhere.
After a 25 hour commute of two flights, and a three hour wait at the airport for everyone to be processed, Cooper and I were on the road again. We spotted the exit signs and figured we were headed to the Gold Coast, just over an hour from Brisbane.
Half way down the highway, one poor young woman begged the bus driver to pull over – she was desperate for the loo.
“We weren’t told anything at the airport, I assumed we were staying in Brisbane. I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t desperate – I can’t wait another half hour,” she pleaded.
So, our coach driver flashed his lights in the dark at our police escort in front (I know, really?!), and we were all happy to see that this poor chick wasn’t going to pee herself in the bus!
But that’s how little information we’ve been given. We’ve not even officially been told when check-out is.
Yet, most people we know think this is fine.
If it was your partner or your child in this situation, wouldn’t you want to know what the plan was for them?
Forgive me for being anxious and really pissed off about the whole thing.
Meanwhile, there was a lot of traffic on the road between the Gold Coast and Brisbane on this random Wednesday evening. Who exactly is prioritising staying at home then?
Basic human rights and the Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine
We ended up at the Voco Hotel on the Gold Coast. It’s nice enough and staff are doing their best. The windows don’t open though. And we’re confined in one room for the next 14 days. A legion of police and army were here to escort us to our rooms and ensure we didn’t run. For God’s sake – I would understand why someone would want to. And, we’ve heard reports of solo travellers threatening to self harm because of this isolation experiment.
Plenty of people still out and about in the street though, from what we can see out of our window.
Smokers here in quarantine are allowed to go out on an escorted break for ‘fresh air’. How ironic.
For those of you who say or Tweet, ‘”Oh wow, quit moaning, you get a free two week holiday”, find some empathy. And quit ignorant trolling!
Even if you’re self isolating – as we have been in England following getting caught in Italy’s lock down – we bet you’re in a place with more than one room. You’ve probably got a garden you can go out to, yes? Or a door or window to open for fresh air, right? You can go for a walk and choose the food you want – or need – for your own wellbeing.
Do you suffer asthma from air-conditioning like I do? We’ll be requesting time outside. Let’s see what they say.
Go shut yourself in your bedroom for 14 days, lock the windows and then tell me how reasonable this is. Tell me that’s good for your mental health and physical wellbeing, or that of your kids?
Since when did we become prisoners?
We’re not the only ones picking up on the problem with this rushed-through government policy.
Most of us aren’t even sick, and don’t have Coronavirus, let alone have criminal convictions.
This BBC video shows another recent arrival to Australia – she highlights really well that a ‘five star’ room isn’t any bigger than your bedroom, and since when should we have our basic rights like moving around (responsibly), fresh air and fresh food taken away in 2020?
What we’d say from this experience is please be careful what you’re consuming from the television and governments.
THINK about how others are impacted before saying, “you’ll be right”, or posting how great you think a free holiday would be, or how much you love working from home (when you’re not really working from home). Someone you know is having a tough time because of this world crises.
Live from Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine
We’ll do our best, and we’re refocusing every day, using tools like yoga, gratitude and keeping in touch with family and friends. We know this is far from the worst situation anyone could find themselves in, but at this difficult time, we expected more consideration from those in charge.
If you’re struggling with Coronavirus anxiety, especially if you’re travelling or a digital nomad, our key tips on dealing with all of it are here.
We genuinely hope Australia – and the world – can get on top of this quickly, so we can all get on with our lives. But this Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine policy for residents entering the country feels very narrow minded, and like something that serves as more of a ‘popular vote’ for the prime minister, than anything that takes proper care of Australian citizens. All of them. Would it not have been cheaper simply to test us for the disease?
The Australian Red Cross is now involved in liaising with state health bodies, like Queensland Health, to lobby for better conditions for thousands of returning travellers like us. A representative made contact with us yesterday (8 April) on rounds calling all people in hotels on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. They confirmed that there is a serious issue with people not being allowed fresh air, exercise and fresh food. In some cases, the government has been required to make changes at hotels because the food being provided was of ‘unacceptable quality’. Maybe people coming ‘home’ from now on will be housed in accommodation where windows at least open – that would be a good start, and it’s reasonable to expect in Australia.
Always happy to hear your stories or perspective though – drop us a line in the comments. And please – wherever you are – stay inside and stop the spread!
👉Subscribe on Youtube and Facebook … you don’t want to miss us going live from our ‘free holiday’ 😆
It’s with a heavy heart that this proud expat blogger writes one of her last posts from our adopted home of England. London has been such a wonderful adventure. It’s not been without ups and downs, laughter, tears and lessons.
But, we’ve lived our motto here: life is about experiences.
Expat blogger – future uncertainty
I had wanted so very much to settle in England. We’ve produced plenty of blogs for expats and travellers here on Travel Live Learn. And as a reader on this site – to you I say thank you 🙏 I am grateful.
As an ‘expert’ expat blogger, I started out getting together guides on living and working in London. Cooper developed our videos too, that showcase fun, travel and tips. We’ve been lucky to be recognised for content on this site with a couple of awards, and have covered wonderful destinations while living over here.
As I look over it all now, I have to admit to fighting back tears. It’s hard to let go of one life and go back to another – or start yet again. That’s risk we take though, forging a space for ourselves in a new country. You either get to stay or one day must leave. But we must not forget: life is about experiences.
Difficult decisions for expats all over the world
We’re at the end of March 2020 and as I type, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the face of the planet. It was completely unexpected, and it certainly is not discriminating in who is impacted. The world has been dealing with this public health crisis since January, although then most people outside of China where the disease originated, never predicted the impact that’s unfolding.
I type this while on ‘self-isolation’ in the English countryside. We were lucky to get out of Italy when things shifted from ‘manageable’ to ‘catastrophic’ overnight on 10 March. Cooper and I found it very difficult to get a flight out to leave.
Just as we made it back to England though, lock-downs and strict measures were imposed. With the threat of airline closures and restricted international flights, it feels like we’re heading back to the days where travel was far less accessible and much more expensive. The UK has already seen one major airline go into receivership over the past week. Which other airlines will follow?
As we come to the end of our work sabbatical which was covered in major media, I fear our story about inspired action is turning into one of retreat, back to ‘our’ official corner of the world. We are set to renew visas for the UK in July, but with so much uncertainty around the future, I am sad to say it seems like that that dream will no longer become a reality. As these shocking events continue to sweep the globe, I doubt very much we are the only travellers, digital nomads and expats forced to reconsider our paths. Borders are closing. People are worried. The tourism industry and way we travel will look different on the other side.
How it feels to leave ‘home’
As I type this I remember the little things about life in the UK. Old church bells chiming. Work bus commutes when I’d to listen to new music that would become the soundtrack to special moments. My favourite walk around London Fields where I’d feel so happy sometimes I’d almost burst. Dog spotting on the tube; identifying wonderful old buildings amongst innovative new ones. Swifty at Wembley! Swifty at BST Hyde Park, for that matter 💕
I remember ‘stairwell lunches’ with my friends when we’d laugh so much and be told off for being too jovial; and impromptu after-work pub runs that would last ’til 11:30pm mid-week, with the sun just down not long before that. Just ‘popping over’ to France, or Spain, or Italy on the train or plane. Pride, festivals, fairy lights and Christmas markets, dining in igloos by the Thames, fireworks night, bank holidays spent in the park and at the loveliest markets in the world.
Only in London.
There were moments I helped people get through tough times. They became my good friends. And other times when people here would show up for me, just as I needed them. I call them too, my best friends. Sunny park days in summer – oh the joy of sunshine 😀! And snow days of course – always gleeful for an Aussie in London. We made a mark, got a special invite to Buckingham Palace, covered royal weddings, and mostly just enjoyed life in the big, mad, historical, beautiful, wonderful city that London is. I’m sad [understatement] to leave. This has been our home. It is a home of ours.
But after six years, and because of this pandemic and situation, the best version of a ‘goodbye’ we could do with all our friends – our UK family – was on WhatsApp.
What to do when the world is ending
Maybe a bit dramatic, but you’d agree if you saw Heathrow as we did today – like an eerie mall, all closed down, lifeless – another planet. As an expat blogger who now needs to find a new niche and start another life, you get where I’m coming from, I hope. Everyone has been impacted by this, and will be for months, if not years to come.
But we’ve been hit hard.
Our life as we embraced it was ripped away today.
We’re working on new projects already though, like this venture into wellness travel (podcast launching soon); but when can those who value travel, safely and freely travel again?
We left here once before and I consoled myself with the idea of bringing adventure back home. I’d spoken to another expat friend too and discovered there is a mourning process around leaving somewhere you love, somewhere you’ve invested heart and soul into. Having two homes – I’ve always maintained – is a blessing and a curse.
Coming to terms with change
This time when we leave the UK, I don’t know, maybe it’s for good? That’s not how we feel right now though. This is a ‘trial’ separation 😉
We know we’re lucky to have options, and family and friends who are happy to see us (and we to see them). But, I’m only at a ‘2’ on the change curve, which you can probably guess from the tone of this post – in a state of disruption I’m feeling anger and fear.
It all goes too quickly, is the old lesson. Wasn’t it just yesterday we arrived back mid-2014, to pick up where we left off in 2011? Isn’t it all so delicate, just hanging by a thin thread that can break at any time. Like now.
If you’re impacted by the fallout of borders closing or difficult circumstances brought about by being based in another country, being a digital nomad, or the change that’s been thrust upon you now, let us know about your experience in the comments. We’d also love for you to join us in our Facebook group – come say hi today!
Have you ever wanted to go home after a holiday? Nah, us either, except for this past week when the Coronavirus Italy lock-down was announced without warning. We had legitimate fears we’d be stuck in Sicily for the month to come. Maybe longer, the way things are looking now! Things have been anxious and stressful, to say the least. And as I reflect on the events that unfolded, I’m sad to say things have only gotten worse.
Just a year ago, we were on one of the best trips of our lives. We enjoyed a train journey across the country, taking in Milan, Lake Como, Verona and Venice.
It was magical, and I hope to return again soon.
Coronavirus Italy lock-down
For now, Italy has been hit HARD by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the country is a no-go zone. Usually it’s teeming with tourists. On the morning of 10 March, we woke up in our Airbnb in Catania, Sicily, at 6am to discover that late the evening before, the government had announced extreme measures – all of Italy was on lock-down. A terrible way to start your day!
Coronavirus – an infectious disease that attacks lungs and airways as well as other vital organs if you’re suffering from underlining health conditions – had been sweeping through the north of Italy. When we chose to continue with our trip to the south of Italy – Sicily – that area was clear. Several major centres in the north had already been quarantined which had been the strategy for China where COVID-19 originated. But just a few days before when we stepped onto a plane, our destination was fine.
Certainly, there were signs of trouble on 8 March. Our flight was only about a quarter full. But we had nowhere else to be that week, and figured we would go catch up with some friends who were also headed to Catania – a few ‘TBEX survivors’ who still turned up for a travel media conference that has been (at time of publishing) postponed.
Panic response vs managing a crisis
If we’d only seen the messaging the evening before, we might have got out on a flight to the UK easily on Tuesday 10 March. It had been our back-up plan – if things escalated, we’d just get on a flight straight away. But from 6am until 6pm both Cooper and I were on our computers and on phones, trying to get out.
Things looked bright around 8am when we finally got a flight from Catania to neighbouring Malta. We figured Malta was a good choice, we know the place well. I transferred our Easyjet flight from Catania (set for Saturday 14 March) to take us from Malta to London the next day. We incurred some hefty fees but that was ok, it was time to leave.
Something told me to keep an eye on the Catania airport departures board. It felt like the response from our accommodation on the ground in Malta was fearful. Malta is close to Italy, and it’s a small island. If Coronavirus infiltrates, they’d find it hard to manage. I was liaising with the manager of the airport accommodation on WhatsApp when I spotted about 9.30am: our flight status had gone from grey (‘scheduled’) to red – cancelled.
Distress kicked in from that point. Everything was cancelled, more and more as the minutes went by. We love travel. But the feeling of being trapped is unnerving. Our family in Australia were getting worried too. They called and tried to help – which was appreciated, but added to our anxiety.
In my view, with so many people trying to urgently get back to their country of residence, governments and airlines in the area made bad decisions – panicked choices that amplified the problems and the region’s collective fears.
Bad practice by airlines in a time of heightened anxiety
After this, we spent the day trying to book flights on numerous airlines to many different destinations. The threats from the media and government warnings kept mounting: we would be locked in and all flights grounded within 48 hours. Although, many, many flights were simply cancelled that same day. Countries were closing their borders to anyone coming from Italy. It felt like we didn’t have a chance!
BUT, airfares continued to sell. Oh, and many airlines simply shut off their customer service call lines and social media messaging function too. No contact, many charges and much stress. We’d get to the payment section and the bill would tally on our credit card – our flight tickets wouldn’t process though. We encountered ‘errors’. Only to try again and discover the flight prices had been hiked up significantly. Very bad practice in a time of much stress. Some university students we met later on told us stories of how they simply had no more credit to keep booking under these circumstances, and they’re still in Italy.
It seems that if you continued to book, you eventually won a lottery seat on a flight out – but he/she who paid the highest price won a spot on the escape route. By 5pm I was in tears, Cooper was stressed (he’s NEVER stressed), and we didn’t know what to do.
Small gestures and good people
Through all of this though, our encounters with kindness were amplified. The manager of this small airport hotel in Malta was ever so kind, assuring me he’d not hesitate to issue a refund, despite booking.com stating the fee was non-refundable. He stuck to his word, and the money came back.
Similarly, our Catania Airbnb host made us feel safe and offered help to contact embassies and get food. He also told us that he’d help us with accommodation if we got stuck.
These gestures – from operators who will suffer financially as part of this global disaster – were really appreciated in stressful times.
We were also in contact with our house sit in England – one we were returning to after sitting for them in Bedfordshire last year. (They run a beautiful B&B here too, if you want to visit when things are back to normal!) 👇
Due to the unprecedented situation, we suggested they might want to look for last-minute sitters. Instead of doing this though, our host spent time looking for flights that might just get us out of Italy and back to the UK via a European destination.
We’d tried a few of these routes, but Andy at our house sit found one on Ryanair via a cool city in the Netherlands that we’d never heard of, Eindhoven.
As it turned out, Andy’s suggestion that we chose to book (despite the stress of mounting credit card fees and the necessity of an overnight connection stay) totally saved us. This flight was one of the last two flights out of Sicily on 12 March. Nothing is set to leave until mid-April, or beyond. When we landed in Eindhoven, everyone cheered!
Lock-down in Catania
We were really lucky to get out after a couple of days. Wow, were those days fraught with anxiety. To get groceries or necessities, we had to line up one at a time outside stores. Lock-down got crazy and scary. Masks and gloves were essential. The image above is from an area near us in Catania – deserted. The feature image at the top is from Catania’s famous and usually thriving fish markets. Again, now all closed indefinitely.
One shop after another gradually closed, store-owners aware they were shutting their doors indefinitely. How will they pay the bills? Can this country recover? Life’s already tough for many.
Sleep was hard because each hour the rules changed, not just in Italy but around Europe and the world. Borders closed, transport was restricted and people started hoarding food.
There was no guarantee our flight would depart. Every half hour on the 12th, we obsessively checked but it remained green: good to go at 5:15pm.
Travellers in Catania worried about whether they should try to leave and risk potentially spreading the virus at home or passing on to ‘at risk’ relatives. We would face a 14 day self quarantine if we got into the UK, but that was ok by us – we were headed to a regional area anyway. As residents in England, we chose to pursue a location where we can access healthcare (although perhaps a dubious notion now that hospitals are overwhelmed).
We worried for friends (like Jason and his mum 👇) who appeared to be entirely stuck in Catania. They were even asked to leave their Airbnb with nowhere to go!
I had transferred our original Easyjet tickets back to the Saturday flight out (at more expense), but it was cancelled too.
We felt sick, despite the sunny days in Catania which would otherwise be a joy. Our time was spent indoors except for going out to get a bit of food. The streets were dead. A few cafes were open, but not for many more days, I’d guess. The experience took me to the height of anxiety. We’re still waiting for refunds from airlines that I’m not sure will come – perhaps they’ll go into receivership before processing. I never imagined I’d want to leave Italy, ever! But during those days, we very much did want to get out, back to a ‘home’ base.
Since we left Italy, thousands of people have died due to COVID-19, and thousands more are ill, without access to oxygen or healthcare. The situation there is now worse than it is in China. The system in Italy is not coping. Other European nations are in a similar situation, and the UK harbours legitimate concerns about the future too.
Conversations have moved from ‘this is just a flu’, to, ‘you really should talk about final arrangements with your family should the worst happen’.
They say there’s reasons to find hope within this chaos. This is how things unfolded in Sicily and elsewhere 👇🙌
Now we are on lock-down in the UK (but so far virus free 🤞). We’re trying our best to deal with the anxiety associated with an uncertain future – here’s our personal tips on that.
I don’t know if things are ok though, or what’s around the corner.
“You know I love a London boy, I enjoy nights in Brixton, Shoreditch in the afternoon…”
It’s no secret Cooper and I are Swifties (the collective term for ‘fans of Taylor Swift’). He might not like me mentioning it too much in public, but trust me, he is. Cooper’s up there dancing with the best of them at her shows 😁
You’re likely to know by now that she’s released a new album – the 7th studio album. Taylor Swift London Boy – we love this track on Lover! Don’t get your hopes up about running into her in the UK capital though. The song tells a story about where she spends time with her ‘London Boy’ Joe Alwyn. And they’re known for not advertising where they are.
But you can still take a wander around places that are obviously close to her heart. If you’re a super fan, you might have heard about this odd theory that her lyrics actually map out a heart around London.
Must say, I’ve read some rather cynical accounts of Swifty’s London Boy guide to the city. But, as someone who is also rather in love with London, I kinda like her guide.
Taylor Swift London Boy city guide
We’ve compiled some travel info for any of you other Swifty fans. It’s a great way to take in the experiences and areas she’s mentioned.
In Taylor Swift’s London Boy she mentions “Camden Market in the afternoon”. So Camden is pretty cool and you’ll find a lot of things at the market. If you get tired of big crowds, don’t go in the afternoon.
We’d suggest going later at night, or early in the morning. Camden Market is well worth a look, but time it so you don’t get trampled!
FEST is also a nice spot that decorates according to the season. Nice to go for a drink away from the crowds.
Highgate and Hampstead Heath
Taylor’s spent a bit of time in the suburbs of North London. It’s known to be a bit affluent, posh even. Granted, we like it. We house sat in Crouch End recently. We also enjoyed a house sit near beautiful Hampstead Heath. It boasts miles of parkland walks, lakes and stunning views across London.
There’s a number of number of tubes/Overground will take you right up to one of the entrances to Hampstead Heath.
Leafy Highgate is best known for its cemetery. It’s an old one, and also the final resting place for many well-known figures including another music fave, George Michael.
Like Camden, it gets very very crowded. But there’s some cool experiences to be had here. Most of ours include food 😆
Sketch, pictured above, is pretty special (don’t miss going to the bathrooms – just trust us). For a bit of craziness in Soho, you’ll find us digging for an afternoon drink deal at Bar Soho. (Swifty mentions ‘drinking in the afternoon’… sure, it’s a thing on a sunny day 🌞). There’s plenty of food joints, bars and pubs in the vicinity of Bar Soho, if you can get yourself down that way.
And when you need a snack (yup, you know what I’m talking about), go here:
Hackney, Shoreditch and the east end
Aww, our ‘London home’ side of the city. For a large part of the last century the east end struggled. Much of it was badly hit during WWII, and the poorest Londoners resided here.
A lot has happened in recent years. Shoreditch and neighbouring Dalston are arguably ‘trendy’. No doubt there’s a cool energy, lots of boutique stores, arty experiences and a surprising side of London to see.
Taylor Swift in London Boy mentions Hackney as a place to explore, over “Louis V on Bond Street”. Agreed.
Broadway Market is our absolute favourite experience in the east. Head over there early on Saturday for one of the best, loveliest local markets in the city. Around the corner is a fabulous bar/restaurant/pop-up store space called Mare Street Market. Highly recommended. Then, take your foodie treats, sit in London Fields (park) and people watch.
You can view east London in all its glory from this excellent rooftop venue:
High tea in London Boy
I read a news item saying that ‘purists’ will be upset with Taylor Swift for calling ‘afternoon tea’ ‘high tea’. Weird – that’s how I know it. And that’s how it’s marketed. All tastes the same 😋
Top London travel tip: before coming to London, sign up for a discount site like LivingSocial or Groupon. There’s plenty of awesome deals on high tea or afternoon tea! Buy one ahead of your trip and indulge.
Brixton and south London
Down to south London now. Brixton is famous for music, cool markets and lots of new fun things opening all the time.
Jump on the Victoria line and head on over to this side of the city. Culture Trip‘s published a helpful guide on things to do in Brixton.
“Stick with me, I’m your Queen…”
Ok so you’re coming to the capital. You’ve seen The Crown, Victoria… Get amongst some Royal action while you’re in town. Why not.
In London Boy, Taylor Swift mentions ‘Louis V’ (the store), but implies exploring the rest of London outside of the glitz is just as fun (true).
You do need to explore central London though. Why? Because it is lovely!
From the historical buildings in Bloomsbury to stunning St Paul’s and Thames walks – find out why people, including us and Swifty, fall in love with this place.
Bonus: get yourself to a good old fashioned English pub
A quintessential London experience: the pub. They’re different in England than pubs in other places. Cosy, chilled, good times.
Careful in London that you don’t get dragged into a touristy pub – nothing wrong with them, but they’re often more expensive and lack the authentic charm that your local neighbourhood pubs have.
One of our favourites is in Angel, east London. Take a look.
So you see, Taylor Swift views the city like many of us do. For those who don’t like it, tough. The visitor numbers can’t be denied, nor our fabulous city’s millions of fans all over the world. I’ll take my rose-tinted view whenever I can 🌈
Please do add your tips or questions in the comments below. See you in London!
Taylor Swift London Boy, image: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19
As this tale goes, in March 2017 Ashley Bush received a photo from a friend. The pic featured an adorable little dog called Chester who was ‘one of the team’ greeting guests in the lobby of a Florida hotel, the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown.
Chester was a rescue dog, recruited as part of the hotel’s foster dog program.
Curiosity got the better of Ashley. That’s how she ended up stopping in to meet Chester.
The Leon County Humane Society had placed the Pekingise/Chihuahua cutie at Aloft for his effervescence and abundant cuteness. They also figured he had a unique ability to thrive in the busy environment of a hotel lobby. If he got tired, they’d set him up with his own doghouse, a custom-built replica of the hotel.
Ashley said she felt an immediate connection with Chester (pictured below).
“I put him on a leash and took him around. He jumped up on the sofa next to me, very curious and sweet. Chester seemed very well-adjusted.”
Travel + dogs
Ashley and her partner, Walter, ended up adopting Chester
How many of us are likely to book a local hotel staycation, and leave with a furry friend? Cooper and I probably would!
Chester was the third dog adopted from the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown as part of their foster pet program. This excellent initiative was started by the Aloft Asheville Downtown and it’s spread to some of the group’s other hotels in America.
Each hotel partners with a top local animal rescue facility and hundreds of rescue dogs have found new homes through the collective program.
Where did the idea come from?
Seems serendipity was at play. Emma Ledbetter, director of food and beverage at Aloft Asheville, was flying to interview for her current job. She sat next to a man who worked at an animal rescue facility. They got to talking, and coincidentally ended up sitting next to each other on the flight back. That’s when she had an idea…
After securing her job, she brainstormed with the hotel’s general manager about having an ‘ambassador dog’ that would ultimately be adopted.
The first canine guest, Gabriel, was housed in the back office and it took just three days to find him a new home. Staff then moved their foster dogs into a contained area in the lobby, and had the custom dog house built.
“Even associates who aren’t really dog people got excited and helped make the program a success,” Emma says. “And the guests love it. It’s so fun to see businessmen come in and the first thing they do is greet the dog.”
Corporate culture and man’s best friend
Ingrained in McKibbon Hospitality’s corporate culture is the opportunity for teams to undertake projects that will enhance the guest experience, lift employee enthusiasm and do good in the community.
“The foster dog project is a perfect example of how these factors converge,” says Randy Hassen, President of McKibbon Hospitality. “It checks all the boxes. And it’s a great example of innovative thinking about how to run a successful hotel. We’re not surprised that three of our other Aloft properties started their own programs.”
Chester is still living happily with Ashley and Walter. But, his new family haven’t forgotten where he came from. They frequently take him for visits. His hotel family still loves him too.
Daniel Brown shares five of his best tips for the adventurous lone traveller. If you’re heading off on a solo journey soon, read on. Here we cover trip planning, keeping your important documents and valuables safe, battery power and tech, dining solo and more…
Even though the trend of solo travelling is becoming more popular, it is agreeable that venturing alone without a companion is daunting. Luckily, there are clever tricks anyone yearning to be a lone traveller can make use of to feel more comfortable along the way.
I believe everyone can benefit from trying on the ‘lone traveller’ hat at some point in life.
Many swear that travelling solo can be likened to experiencing religious enlightenment!
Not only are you able to fully rely on your own judgements and ideas, but as a lone traveller, you can do whatever you please all throughout your journey.
A pretty liberating thought!
Of course, with all the freedoms of being a lone traveller, come the drawbacks. Some of these, concern safety and overall wellbeing.
To make things easier, following are my practical tips which will empower you to book your solo trip.
You might also enjoy our feature in Get it Magazine on how to choose your own solo adventure, including interviews with two of our fave bloggers. Read it here
The very first tip after you have decided to venture out solo, is to remember to take some time and extra effort to plan the whole trip as thoroughly as possible.
Spontaneous travel is great, but when a co-pilot is not there to help you out, you will want to have a plan to fall back on.
Make a list of all the must-have items you cannot travel without. But remember, you’ll need to pack light. Heavy bags and luggage will slow you down, and it may be uncomfortable to carry extra through a crowded airport or bus station.
Next, double check the bookings, such as the taxi, the means of transportation and accommodation.
Something I was taught is to try and memorise maps as accurately as possible. It’s helpful so you don’t have to be reading a map in public (potentially looking lost), or if Google Maps fails, as sometimes it does.
Plan, book, and get ready for the time of your life. You inevitably make friends, whether you’re heading off on long term travel, a wellbeing retreat or city tours.
Make copies of your documents
The most important thing you should bring with you when travelling is a case which contains all your personal documents. These will include your passport and photo ID. It is certain that there is nothing as stressful as getting your documents lost or stolen.
To make sure that your most important documents are safe and easily accessible, it is recommended to scan them before leaving home. The best way to do this is to make copies and store them online, for example, in Dropbox. Make sure your connections are safe though. In another article we talk about using a VPN to make sure your privacy is protected when travelling, surfing the web and accessing personal files.
If you know where document back-ups are, you can rest assured that in the worst-case, there is a quick solution to save the day.
It’s important to invest in quality equipment to keep you connected and safe on your journey. Don’t forget local power adaptors for the places your’e visiting, a portable WiFi hub can be helpful, and back-up battery power is essential.
A new favourite of ours is the slim and sleek Zippo HeatBank that doubles as a hand warmer in cold weather. Pretty neat, and lasts for ages (choose three or six hour packs).
Keep your valuables safe
Another common fear when travelling alone is getting your belongings stolen. No one can fully relax and enjoy time swimming, for example, without letting go of the fear that a stranger will slip away with your personal possessions.
You could carry with you quality waterproof containers that can go into water. These double as food containers when you’re travelling and saving on buying out all the time. Alternatively, you can leave your money and valuables in the hotel room, but use a safety deposit box if possible.
With hotels, it is important to take extra precautions. It is not uncommon for things to be lost even when they are in the drawers, seemingly safe. A smart tip to ward off thieves from your room is to hang up a “do not disturb” sign after leaving your room.
Also, by leaving the television turned on, anyone is able to trick potential thieves into thinking that you have not left in the first place.
The best bet to keep your money and fancy jewellery safe is to only carry enough money with you for food, taxi, accommodation and tours. Leave all the luxurious bling-bling behind.
As a matter of fact, it is best to not put on fancy necklaces, rings and earrings. Don’t attract unnecessary attention – better safe than sorry.
Do not be afraid of solo dining
Many people are anxious to dine alone. It’s common to feel like sitting solo in a restaurant makes you seem desperate or ‘sad’. But, it’s not uncommon to witness people sitting by themselves, enjoying a coffee or a meal and reading a book.
Welcome! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London. We like to inspire on how to travel for longer and to live and work from anywhere. Our most popular content here is about seeing the world with your pet, remote working & digital nomadism, and house + pet sitting. Create a global life of your dreams at any age! Subscribe to find out more :)
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