Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with Designer Journeys’ Belinda Ward

This week, Travel Weekly caught up with Belinda Ward, who was recently appointed as head of sales at Designer Journeys, to find out how she’s been faring since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

What are you reading?

I just finished The Shadow Sister, which is part of a series by Lucinda Riley. I love her writing.

What are you watching?

The AFL and NRL seasons are over, so I’ve turned to Billions (love it) and waiting for Yellowstone and a huge summer of cricket. The Aussie women are in fine form already.

What are you listening to?

I listen to a few podcasts. Real Footy (are you sensing a theme?), Mamamia Out Loud, and if you haven’t listened to the No Filter interview with Stuart Diver, you should. Otherwise, it’s non-stop 80s on Spotify.

What are you cooking?

Not one of my favourite pastimes, but I am in charge of dinner on Wednesday nights, and my greatest successes (according to my partner, who is a chef) have been Vietnamese prawn salad and lamb souvlaki.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

I love interval training classes, and I also love walking. During COVID, I have reverted back to my aerobics instructor days and have been doing step workouts from YouTube.

My mental health benefits from exercise and chatting to my friends and family on the phone.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

The number of people who were reaching out just to see if you were okay. Whether they were past colleagues, competitors, someone you had a drink with once a year at a conference – people were reaching out to make sure we all got through. I’ve had some really uplifting conversations during this time.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

I’ve prioritised being happy. I had a break from the travel industry and started working on a cellar door up in the Hunter Valley, which I love. I am really fortunate to be back working in travel with Designer Journeys, and they have allowed me the flexibility to keep working on the cellar door one day a week, as the interaction with people energises me. Plus, I get to talk about wine!

What’s your advice for others in the industry on coping with the crisis?

Be kind to yourself and take time each day to do something you really love – even if it’s for 10 minutes. And don’t be afraid to ask for help – I’ve done it many, many times during this crisis from both people in the industry and people outside it.

What is your favourite domestic travel destination?

During COVID, I moved up to the Hunter Valley and I love it. I had never really spent any time here (I’m from Melbourne), so my current favourite is right at my doorstep – 140 cellar doors to discover!

There are a few places I’d like to visit when borders allow, Kangaroo Island being one.

What is the one international travel memory keeping you going through this time?

I’ve told countless stories about the time myself and five girlfriends hired a canal boat and spent seven days travelling through Burgundy. It was the six of us and our female driver Jenny and I have never laughed so much in my life – nor eaten so much cheese. I would say I’ve never drunk so much wine, but that would be a lie – we’ve all been to travel conferences. I’ve spoken about it so much that my partner insists we need to go back and do it together.

Where do you want to travel to once international travel restrictions ease up?

I have been invited to a wedding in London in June 2022, which is a reunion of so many fabulous people I’ve met and befriended in the travel industry – can’t wait! I’d combine it with a trip to Iceland, as it’s such a magical destination.


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