Cork travel blogger: Holidays of the future will be very different

After her 40-hour journey home to Cork, SANDRA QUINN catches up with travel blogger Aimee Stephens to talk about why she decided to return to Leeside
Cork travel blogger: Holidays of the future will be very different

Aimee Stephens, who runs the Snap Happy Travel blog, in Queenstown, New Zealand

A CORK travel blogger who hadn’t lived in the Rebel County since 2011 decided in the midst of the pandemic to cross the world in a 40 hour trip, to put down roots in her home county again.

Aimee Stephens, who runs the Snap Happy Travel blog, left Cork for Australia back in 2011.

Between then and now, she has lived in Oz, Canada and most recently New Zealand with her husband Paul.

With Aimee doing the writing and Paul taking the spectacular photographs, they travelled the world together, writing about their adventures and giving tips and hints for other fellow travellers.

Like many, Aimee’s life was seriously affected by the outbreak of Covid-19.

“Luckily, travel blogging isn’t my primary job — I’ve worked in luxury hotels in Queenstown, New Zealand for the past three years,” she said. “An industry which, you can imagine, took a massive hit during Covid.

Aimee Stephens in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Aimee Stephens in Milford Sound, New Zealand

“My hotel closed its doors on March 25 and hasn’t re-opened yet. Thankfully, I was eligible for the wage subsidy scheme up until I left New Zealand, which provided me with much-needed income to pay for things like rent, bills and groceries.”

She said that page views on the travel blog had fallen by about a quarter, as people weren’t travelling or researching holidays.

“I’ve worked hard on the website over the past number of years and to see all the work dwindle to pretty much nothing was tough. We had also planned to take a trip to Fiji for our wedding anniversary, which didn’t happen, but sure, hopefully we’ll get to visit another time in the future.”

As an avid traveller herself, Aimee said that the pandemic will most likely have a lasting affect on how people travel.

“I think travel will move towards slower, more sustainable travel — spending a month in one country to really get a feel for the place.

“I think flights will be more expensive than pre-Covid, so people will save up their holiday days and take one big trip every year.

Aimee Stephens with husband Paul
Aimee Stephens with husband Paul

“People may also move towards booking those bucket-list holidays, like a safari in Africa. We’ve all been through a tough 2020, so people will be looking to treat themselves to that once in a lifetime holiday.

“A rise in staycation type holidays may also stay on the upward trend, I think the past summer has forced Irish people to really open their eyes to the beauty of our own little island.”

As well as the impact that Covid had on Aimee’s job and her travel blog, it is also the thing which gave her the push to come back home and leave New Zealand.

“Despite it being a very safe country right now with its low infection rates, the job prospects there have become pretty much non-existent for non-citizens. We lived in Queenstown, a gorgeously stunning town, which relied heavliy on tourism.

“I worked in a hotel, which still hasn’t reopened, so the uncertainty there with jobs and renewing visas forced us to make a quick move home to Ireland.

“I’m also pregnant, so we didn’t want any uncertainty with a new baby on the way.”

Travelling such a vast distance from New Zealand to Cork during a pandemic was no walk in the park either and their flights were cancelled a number of times, before they were finally homeward bound.

“I’m a very experienced traveller, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about the 40 hour journey to Ireland. New Zealand has very strict border measures in place so we had few options to get out.

“The flight we chose was via Singapore and Heathrow and was not ideal, but our other option was to go via Los Angeles.

“The flights went OK — although not as socially distanced as we would have liked. Heathrow was a bit of a joke, we had quite a long layover there and ended up sitting outside in the car park with our luggage trolleys to avoid the crowds.”

Aimee was 30 weeks pregnant at the time of travelling, which added further stress to the situation. She has since given birth to a baby girl, in September, and named her Summer, as a nod to their search for an eternal summer with their globe-trotting.

Aimee Stephens at Mount Cook, New Zealand
Aimee Stephens at Mount Cook, New Zealand

It took almost a decade and 40 hours of travel for this Cork girl to make her way home, but it was all worth it in the end: “I’ve spent almost 10 years away from Leeside. Despite all the globe-trotting I think I always knew in my heart of hearts that I’d like to give raising a family in Cork a shot. We’re seeing the move home as a new adventure rather than ‘just a move home’.

“We’ve rented a lovely house by the water in Currabinny, so we are very much looking forward to spending some quality time with friends and family. We’ve lived abroad for almost a decade, so as you can imagine they are very excited to have us home.”

Despite all the globe- trotting I always knew in my heart of hearts that I’d like to give raising a family in Cork a shot. We’re seeing the move home as a new adventure.

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