Take a peek inside their daily lives.

By Alisha Prakash
April 15, 2020
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Ask Andy R., a flight attendant for United Airlines, what he loves most about his job, and the answer is simple: “There is very little repetition,” he says. “My schedule is never the same. One day I could be working as a lead flight attendant or purser to San Francisco, and the next preparing an economy cabin galley for a 13-hour flight to Beijing.” For someone who spends anywhere between 230 and 250 days per year on the road, that’s a lot of variety. Or at least it was.

These days, Andy has stowed away his suitcase, trading his mobile lifestyle for a more grounded one — literally. “My company offered voluntary leave to all 25,000-plus flight attendants from anywhere between one and six months. I decided to take a two-month leave from April to May,” he said. His story is one of millions.

Since the novel coronavirus found its way into our daily conversation, it has driven careers of all stripes into disarray. Many have had to adjust to life under lockdown, turning their homes into offices and bedrooms into conference rooms, but plenty of others, including those in the travel industry, don’t have the luxury of working remotely. In fact, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, COVID-19 could leave as many as 50 million jobs at risk.

Courtesy of Classic Journeys

Some have been furloughed, and are now tethered to their homes, while others are still on the frontlines, performing essential duties, whether that means flying doctors and nurses to join the fight or opening hotel doors to healthcare workers. Some are on the 15th day of quarantine, while others are entering day 50. Some are based in hot spots, like New York and Italy, and others are located in places where death rates are slowing down and people are trickling out onto streets, one by one. Some have found solace in the solitude within their walls, while others are navigating a packed house, simultaneously playing the role of parent, teacher, entertainer, and sports coach to several children. We are, for a time, living a shared reality, across time zones and oceans. The barriers of culture, country, and career have all melted away.

But what is it really like to stay put when you’re constantly on the move? We asked a number of people who travel for a living — flight attendants, pilots, hotel owners, concierges, pastry chefs, tour guides, and more — to invite us into their everyday lives during the coronavirus pandemic. We also asked them to share what they’re looking forward to most once this is all but a distant memory. Their days may look different, but there’s one common thread that runs through each story: Hope and positivity prevail, no matter the location or circumstance.

As Niall Rochford, the general manager at Ashford Castle in Ireland, puts it: “This is an unprecedented situation worldwide, but the travel and hotel industry have proven to be very resilient in the past — and this too will end.”

Andy R., Flight Attendant for United Airlines 

How He’s Spending Time Now: 

“As someone who loves interacting with others on a daily basis, it has not been easy for me to stay home and obey the social distancing rules, but I find myself staying positive because I know, one day, this will all be over. I like to be active, so going for walks and jogs around my neighborhood every day helps with my physical and mental well-being. When I was flying, I took my camera with me on all my layovers, and now I finally have the time to go through and edit the thousands of photos I have from around the world. This also gives me a chance to ‘travel from home’ as I can relive the experiences through my photographs. Oh, and I cannot forget about the virtual happy hours and game nights I have with my family. There’s nothing like catching up on the latest gossip with my grandma over Zoom. All in all, you just have to make the best of the current situation because it’s only temporary, and it does no good to have a negative mindset.

I also do want to say that I believe United is doing a remarkable job keeping up with the fluidity of the pandemic and making necessary changes when needed. These are unprecedented times we are living in and the future is unclear, so I think keeping an open mind going forward is the best thing anyone can do. Having this time away from work, I have been able to do a lot of self-reflection and, while I'm still quite young and rather new to the industry, I know this is the job I want to do for the rest of my life, so I will do whatever I can to keep the airline industry soaring.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“Returning to my flight attendant family in the skies is what I most look forward to. The ‘familial’ bond flight attendants share — and the support we give one another — is all quite inspiring and is one of the reasons I love what I do. Also, not going to lie, I’m looking forward to getting back to the incredible cities I get to fly to. Who wouldn’t want to be sunbathing on a beach in Barcelona, or enjoying an Aperol spritz at a café in Rome? I sure would!”

Sylvie Gonin, Head Concierge at Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland

Courtesy of Beau-Rivage Palace

How She’s Spending Time Now: 

“I have been on temporary leave since March 20, which will hopefully only last till the end of April. First of all, it was not easy to realize that I would be at home for many weeks to come. To have so much time at my disposal is a brand-new experience. I have decided to forget the words ‘hurry up,’ to allow my brain to rest and slow down, and to take my time and be mindful when I do things. I am very lucky with this lockdown, as I live in the middle of the vineyards. I have a nice balcony and a garden overlooking the lake. Every day, early in the morning, I go for a long walk with my dog, and never cross anyone. I am very fortunate and thankful for that. I do some gardening, some sports, read a lot, listen to music, cook, and simply enjoy being by myself and having some time. I also help my elderly neighbors with their shopping.”

What She’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“I am looking forward to the reopening of our hotel, of course! I have been working there for 25 years and have always had the same feeling when crossing the hotel’s doorstep. The year 2020 is full of new adventures for the Beau-Rivage Palace, but some projects have been temporarily put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis. I am very excited to discover the newly renovated spa we have been waiting to open for six months. We did not have time to see the final touches. I believe this new place of serenity will be much appreciated after such a difficult period of time.”

Chris K., Regional Airline Pilot

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“I have not been furloughed as of now, but it is constantly on our minds. We have been offered voluntary leave from our company, which is on a month-to-month basis. Coronavirus has really impacted the aviation industry across the board. Personally, my schedule has been reduced to almost half of what it originally was, with more flights canceling each day. It does become difficult on layovers when it comes to finding food and staying active, since most restaurants and gyms are closed. I also commute to work, which requires me to ‘catch a ride’ to my base of operations from the city I live in. Since so many flights have been canceled, getting to work has gotten much more difficult.

When I'm home, I try and stay entertained, which is easier some days than others. I've been playing some video games, cooking, reading, and watching movies mostly. My girlfriend has fostered a dog from a local shelter, so he’s been great company. Taking care of and walking him has definitely helped ease the day-to-day boredom and given me a pal to hang out with. I have been trying to exercise and ride my bike, but I live in Detroit, so up until yesterday, the weather has been too cold for anything outdoors. I'm also a union volunteer at my company, so I’ve spent some time sending out emails and making phone calls for my committee in order to best protect and look after our pilots during this time.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“The thing I’m most looking forward to after this is all over is going back to the gym and being able to eat out again. Being cooped up at home was never my style, so it has taken some adjusting. I'm excited to see people going back to work, and for local businesses to reopen. My girlfriend and I have already made plans to go back to our favorite taco spot once it opens. Being in Detroit and seeing how far it has already come, I'm hoping to see it come back from this with the same tenacity I’ve seen over the past few years of being here.”

Ulisse Riccio, Tour Leader for Classic Journeys in Naples, Italy

Courtesy of Classic Journeys

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“I just became a father of my first child in September. He is a healthy boy named Lorenzo. I guess we could call him a ‘Corona Kid,’ — that generation of babies born in the last months of 2019 that have no idea what is going on. They are just so happy to have mom and dad at home all for themselves. So, that is what I am doing full time now: raising a son. During the rare moments when we are not reading nursery rhymes together or picking up toys that get thrown across the room Tom Brady-style, my wife and I like to cook. I think we are in the right country to nourish that passion, so our creativity is at a peak. Also, I found out that I like to write: I am sending Classic Journeys notes from the lockdown that they are publishing on their travel blog. In times like these, one ponders over so many things and it's good to share those thoughts with the world. You should check it out and tell me what you think.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“The lunch on day four of our Amalfi Coast and Capri tour. Barefoot, on the most exclusive beach on the isle of Capri, listening to the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, a plate of spaghetti with clams and a glass of chilled white wine in front of me, the sun is shining, and I am in heaven.”

Jacob N., Pilot for PSA Airlines, a Subsidiary of American Airlines

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“I have not been placed on furlough — we have reduced our flying, but we are still operating some flights. I left active duty in the Marine Corps last year and joined the Air Force Reserves, so I am fortunate that I can still work part-time for the military. Right now, most of us are teleworking at my squadron. It has afforded me a lot of time at home with the family, but it comes with its challenges. My wife teleworks as well, so both of us are trying to work and keep our three kids engaged and active with online school. It has been nice to spend extra time at home with the kids. We have been reading a lot of books, playing board games, and of course, watching new movies. We have been playing outside, too — bike rides with the kids help me keep the dad-bod away. We’ve been doing our part with social distancing and not going out unless absolutely necessary, so we keep busy at the house.” 

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Over:

“I do enjoy being at home with the family right now, but it will be nice for the kids to be in school again; they miss their teachers and friends. I love my job and I'm hopeful that life will return to normal. We look forward to traveling and going to the beach again.”

Philipp Vogel, Managing Director and Culinary Chef at Oriana.Berlin in Berlin, Germany

Courtesy of Orania.Berlin

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“We decided to close the restaurant before the official city lockdown to protect our team and potential guests. From April 1, the whole team is on short-time work; my wife, Jennifer, or I check the hotel daily and we have one operator on duty from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The kitchen team is in three days a week, and on these days, we prepare 300 to 400 meals for homeless people here in Berlin.

Jennifer and I are real workaholics, so it took some time to adjust to ‘normal life.’ Being home at 5 p.m. is a totally new situation for us: We organize dinner, watch all of the TV programs we never saw before, and try to stay fit by working out at home (this is very hard for me because there is no motivational coach or friends for a challenge). But we are slowly getting used to it. I started to build a bedside lamp, which I have wanted to do for the past three years — and believe me, I was so proud when I switched it on and there was light! Jennifer has become a great baker, too — we may just have to change her job description at the hotel after the lockdown.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“Maybe it sounds overdone, but we miss our guests at the hotel and restaurant. I am looking forward to being back in the open kitchen, listening to our live concerts, and having lots of happy guests eating our signature X-Berg Duck.”

Niall Rochford, General Manager at Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“The hotel is officially closed, but I am going in on a daily basis to ensure everything is in order. It is very eerie and surreal to be in the castle with so few of our team [members] and without any guests.

I have always had a passion for cooking, but never seemed to have the time. Now, however, my family is benefitting from my culinary skills. And like others, I am happily spending more quality time with my wife, Stella, and three children, Zoe, James, and Niall. I am also walking a lot around the picturesque village of Cong — of course, social distancing from others.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Over: 

“I look forward to returning to a wonderfully busy hotel, welcoming back our amazing team of 430 people on the Ashford Estate, between the castle and the lodge at Ashford Castle, as well as our wonderful guests from around the globe. This is an unprecedented situation worldwide, but the travel and hotel industry have proven to be very resilient in the past — and this too will end.”

Paula Stakelum, Executive Head Pastry Chef at Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

How She’s Spending Time Now: 

“In Ireland, we have very restrictive measures in place. Currently, we are asked to stay at home, only leave for essential work and food supplies, and stay within two kilometers of our homes when we exercise. I live with my husband and dog in quite a rural area. We are both very committed to our jobs, and time at home together is rare. We kept very busy the past two weeks; we have been painting the house. Being a pastry chef, I’m quite particular about straight lines, so I paint these parts and Owen does the other parts — we’re a good team! I love cycling and running. Every day, I’ll either run or cycle, and time trials using Strava within the two-kilometer radius. We also walk with our dog every day; getting fresh air daily is so important.

Up until last week, it would be true to say that I never cook at home. I’m really enjoying cooking, and sharing meals together at the kitchen table has become part of our day. I haven’t made anything sweet yet — probably because I haven’t run out of chocolate pralines! This week, I will make some short videos for our team at Ashford – easy recipes that people can make at home — as I’m sure everyone is missing the pastry 'off-cuts.' I listen to podcasts when I’m doing housework. And when all the painting is done, I’m looking forward to reading some books. Social media has also become an integral part of my day. I don’t intend to start cooking on my Instagram stories – I’m going to continue to share positive messaging and music — things that make people smile and inspire them.”

What She’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over: 

“The best thing about being a pastry chef is being able to create moments for people that they will cherish forever. Our guests may not remember what exactly they ate or what we created, but they will remember how they felt at that time. I’m looking forward to doing this every day with my Ashford family and friends.

I find it very useful to keep my routine as much as possible and adapt it where I can. Every Sunday, I would usually write a list and set goals to achieve in the week. I’m still doing this, although the list is changing slightly. We don’t turn on the TV until the evening most days. It was unintentional at first, but now we’re going to stick to it. Lastly, if you’re going to read one book at this time, I recommend 'The Green Platform' by Declan Coyle. Staying on the green platform and keeping a positive mindset is so incredibly important at this time. Use this time wisely, it will pass and we will come out stronger together at the other side.”

Atli Lydsson, Adventure and Nature Guide for Classic Journeys in Iceland

Courtesy of Classic Journeys

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“Being an adventure guide means a lot of time away from home. Now that I am suddenly home for an unusual extended period of time, I am working through a list of what I want to get done around the house, including projects on my home, maintaining my cars, and researching new ways that we can show guests Iceland when the travel restrictions are lifted. Also, I make it a point to go out into nature at least two hours a day for hiking, biking, and things like that. This is the most important thing for me to stay optimistic and sane.

I am also spending a lot of time reading travel blogs and researching interesting places in the world that I would like to visit. My wife and I enjoy watching nature and travel documentaries on TV.  It makes me feel close to the people who share the same passion I have for traveling and exploring, and it gets me prepared so we can get going when the gates open again.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“The thing I am looking forward to most is to hug and spend time with my parents, my friends, and all of the guests from Classic Journeys that come to Iceland. And then I want to go exploring again. I want to explore Iceland and the world. I cannot wait to get going again.”

Joseph Quispe Román, Regional Head Explorer Guide for Inkaterra in Cusco, Peru

Courtesy of Inkaterra Hotels

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“During these days, what gives me strength is spending time with my family. For example, I help my daughter with her homework from school. We also play games. Some of the things I love about my job is taking pictures of landscapes and people. With more time at home, I am practicing editing photos. I have some good ones. Another hobby of mine is guitar; I’ve been practicing and am improving my skills.” 

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“I hope that everything will return to normal soon, and that travelers who canceled their trips to Peru will reschedule them. I know it might be hard, since this is taking a major toll on the economy, but I'm sure that collectively, we will do our best to recover from it… I miss being at work, especially hearing the sounds of birds, the river, and nature.”

Lucy Hyslop, Curator at Heckfield Place in Hampshire, England

How She’s Spending Time Now:

“My focus has been on family, including the dog. I registered with the outstanding NHS as a volunteer to call up people for a chat and distribute food and flowers to elderly or unwell neighbors — at a safe distance. I’m also discovering online quizzes and the National Theatre’s free Thursday night shows, reading more, and observing the quiet, the blossoms, and the birdsongs while dreaming of family and friend gatherings, cocktails on Heckfield’s Marle restaurant terrace, and Skye Gyngell’s seasonal, nutrient-rich food.”

What She’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

Seeing family and friends in the flesh. Zoom is great, but there’s nothing like seeing your muckers face-to-face. Also capitalizing on the plethora of Pilates, yoga, strength, and dance classes online — and keeping up the fitness routine.”

Roberto E. Wirth, Owner and Managing Director at Hotel Hassler Roma

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“At home, in my apartment in Rome, I work most of the day. I read newspapers to keep an extra eye on up-to-date market information. Despite the situation being out of the ordinary, we have to be positive. It is a very difficult historical moment for everyone. Italy has been hit hard, but we will rise stronger than before. Being active is also more important than ever. I keep on training and exercising. Then, I read. It is always good to get lost in a good book. Every Sunday, I see my daughter and son, and we spend the entire day together. Sundays are special and precious for me. Furthermore, I stay home, on my terrace with my turtles — my favorite animals, a symbol of endurance and determination. Oh, I also have goldfish and take care of them.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

To immediately come back to the Hassler Roma, the lady of my life.”

Glenn Wappett, Cruise Director for Aqua Blu, Aqua Expeditions

How He’s Spending Time Now: 

Currently, Aqua Blu is completing her annual maintenance period in Singapore. However, due to the global crisis, the crew and myself are unable to fly to join her. Because of this, I have been working from my home in Bali, Indonesia.

I live alone in Bali; my family is safe at home in the UK. I spend my days working from my balcony overlooking tropical Bali, so I have no complaints. Living and working in confined spaces is not new to me, having served 10 years on Royal Navy ships and as a royal marine commando deployed on long missions at sea, as well as in areas such as Afghanistan. I engage in a routine revolving around work and home exercise. After my morning routine and cup of tea, I man my desk on the balcony while in regular communication with our chief of operations, Ms. Kim, to complete various projects.

Over lunch, I break out the exercise mat and weights for a home circuit before returning to work in the afternoon. I am finally getting to read all those books you're normally gifted for birthdays and Christmas, which otherwise would gather dust on the shelf. Here in Bali, there has not been a total lockdown enforced, so I occasionally take my motorbike on sunset rides for an hour or so, completing a round-trip back to my accommodations. As the roads are relatively empty, it is relaxing to cruise around the island.”

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over: 

“I'm most looking forward to having all our crew back together on board Aqua Blu. We have such a wonderful professional and friendly team. Getting back to sea and doing what we love together is something that I look forward to every day. I speak to the crew via WhatsApp on a regular basis — everyone is safe and healthy and committed to riding this crisis out together as team Aqua.”

Juan Pinto, Director of Safari Guides and Master Trackers for Royal Malewane in Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

How He’s Spending Time Now:

“While we don’t have any guests at the lodge itself, life in the African bush continues as usual. Because we are a private safari lodge in the greater Kruger National Park, many of the staff [members] live on the reserve itself — it’s their home. There has been a great deal for us to do in order to ensure that we can continue to provide employment, salaries, and medical aid for our team at this critical time. All the guides have remained on-site at Royal Malewane. Our patrols are now more important than ever in order to protect our precious wildlife. And of course, we need to maintain the lodge. So that we can keep in touch with our guests, we are also producing regular ‘Stay at Home Safaris,’ which we feature on our Instagram stories and YouTube channel. Viewers can follow our guides on their daily patrols.

Everyone is helping where they can. It has become commonplace to see a receptionist feeding fish in our koi pond, a ranger sweeping leaves around the spa, a chef assisting with security patrols, and a front-of-house manager doing a waste-removal run.” 

What He’s Looking Forward to When This Is Over:

“Welcoming our wonderful guests from all over the world to experience the magic of Royal Malewane and getting back to doing what we do best.”