Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with travel writer Tim Richards

This week, we caught up with freelance travel writer and author of Heading South: Far North Queensland to Western Australia by Rail, Tim Richards, to find out how he’s been faring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are you reading?

Lotharingia, a centuries-long history of the countries wedged between France and Germany. It’s a detailed and occasionally very funny mix of history and travel memoir by British author Simon Winder.

What are you watching?

I’ve just finished watching Solos on Amazon Prime, a fascinating series of mostly one-actor dramas set in the future. One episode is about a woman who refuses to leave her safe house 20 years after a pandemic, so it’s very relevant.

What are you listening to?

When life was getting me down the other day, I played the soundtrack from a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, an absurd comic opera that instantly cheers me up.

What are you cooking?

We’re vegetarian at home, so my go-to is a good veggie burger in Turkish bread with hummus and lots of salad vegetables. And sambal, which always peps things up.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

Random lockdowns have made it hard to stick to a gym routine, so instead I’ve been trying to take at least one long weekly walk on whatever weekday has the best weather, from my Melbourne CBD apartment through a park to an inner-city neighbourhood.

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

I like how cafés have revealed themselves as modern-day community hubs; it meant a lot to us that they kept operating through lockdowns and their baristas worked on, cheering us up as well as serving us coffee.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

My skill at future planning is of limited use in an era when things keep changing dramatically: sometimes paying off, sometimes leaving me devastated. I need to somehow become more stoic in the face of setbacks.

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

Be as flexible and agile as you can in these crazy days, but cut yourself some slack too. No one is coping well with this; it’s okay for you to have off days or feel it’s too much to manage. Do what you can.

Where is your favourite domestic travel destination?

I have a soft spot for Fremantle, where I lived in the 1990s. Whenever I return there, I wonder why I left. It has such a great combination of heritage buildings, good food and a lively community vibe.

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

I’ve been having dreams about my overseas travels – strange replays of places and events. In 2019, I spent a marvellous fortnight in the UK catching sleeper trains from Penzance to London, then on to the Scottish Highlands, staying in a log cabin outside Inverness which deer wandered past in the twilight. That was a special trip.

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

In 2020, I cancelled a big rail trek through the Balkans, which would have started in Athens and passed through four countries before reaching Istanbul. Set that up again!


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