I live in a tiny four-season resort community on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada (about an hour’s drive north of Winnipeg.) There has been one confirmed COVID-19 case in our general area, and only 75 confirmed cases (as of today) in the entire province of Manitoba. But all Canadian provinces have declared a state of emergency and many of us are self-isolating until the curve is flattened. Most non-essential services are closed for the time being, and it is doubtful they or schools will reopen before the summer break.  

Life Without Travel is a series of first-person accounts from the Getting On Travel team. Each post offers a personal glimpse into the lives of our travel writers and bloggers apropos of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Pulling back

I’ve cancelled all travel plans for the next several months. So, that puts an end to doing more research for my upcoming chocolate travel book. That’s okay, as I really should get down to finishing the writing anyway. But, I’m really sad about having to cancel three chocolate tasting events I’d had booked for April and May. That represents a considerable loss of income for me.

I’ve also noticed that travel-writing assignments have come to a stop, as many publications are reducing the number of pages in their print editions, and some have even folded due to lack of advertising revenue. These are scary times for self-employed writers!

Doreen hosting a chocolate tasting on her deck at home in Manitoba

Doreen hosting a chocolate tasting on her deck at home in Manitoba

I have pulled back a bit from both social media and blogging. All my writing is experiential and passion-driven, and it’s pretty hard to feel passionate about travel when we have no idea if and when we’ll be able to travel again. Because there is a strong educational component to much of the writing I do about the world of chocolate and cacao, I will focus more on that in my upcoming posts versus writing about travel that does not have a clear and meaningful purpose.

Exploring new directions

During this period of self isolation, I’m taking advantage of the myriad of free classes available online, including a number of online cooking classes, as well as participating in the Women’s Publishing Summit and other webinars aimed at self-published authors and anyone else wanting to expand their knowledge of book marketing and distribution. 

Learning a language or taking cooking classes online is a great way to feed our yearning for travel and the exotic. I also love watching programs about travel as they truly feed my adventurous spirit and give me hope that we once again will be able to travel and experience the world. 

What I really love online is the playful spirit people are trying to transmit in their Facebook and other posts to give us a laugh or at least a smile. I love the little video of the raccoon washing his hands in a kiddie’s pool. And it’s super cool that so many museums have uploaded virtual tours of their facilities and exhibits. Armchair travel at its best! 

Getting personal

One thing that really does concern me about the COVID-19 pandemic is the defiance of so many people who ignore recommendations to self isolate when returning from any travel outside the province (or their place of residence.) We have a lot of snowbirds living in our area, and many of them were coming home from abroad and then going out shopping to get stocked up! The Canadian government has now made the protocol very clear, and anyone who is not voluntarily complying with 14 days of self isolation will be heavily fined and, perhaps, even jailed.  

I’m hoping that the enhanced recommendations for thorough hand-washing will stick with us. And that travel providers (airlines, trains, bus carriers) will permanently implement better cleaning practices into their protocols. I think we’ve all experienced horror stories about filthy washrooms inflight. With any luck, those will be a thing of the past. 

View from Doreen's office in Manitoba

Manitoba usually has snow from November to early April, so May through October is the best time to visit unless you enjoy snow and winter activities

Guilty pleasures of a chocolate enthusiast

With regard to books I am reading, I’ve never been a reader of fiction. I write and read non-fiction. I love travel books. But right now, my spirituality has taken the forefront, and I’ve been listening to audio books and YouTube videos like Oprah’s Super Soul Series. Through that, I’ve discovered some authors I’ve not previously heard of, like Gabrielle Bernstein and Ainslie Macleod. 

I admit to loving the Women’s Network (W Channel). I love the movies that bring a tear to your eye as they’re filled with love, hope and good will. I also enjoy reality shows like The Voice as they show you the journey that the contestants have embarked on to get them onto the stage in front of the judges. I love most series that focus on travel, like Rick Steves and House Hunters International. And programs about wine, exotic food and, of course — chocolate.  

Somehow or other, chocolate enters every day of my life. Whether it’s writing about the places where cacao is grown, the places making the best chocolate, or amazing chocolate experiences I have had around the world. And on days when I’m not writing about it, you can bet I’m eating it! Pure dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao/cocoa, filled with nutrients that releases serotonin and dopamine into the body to give us a natural high. What could be better than that? The only thing that could be better is if you’d join me at chocolatour.net and search out some of the posts on my blog that might interest you. There are nearly 11 years worth of posts, with hopefully, something for every travel-loving chocolate enthusiast to savor.   

GOT Contributor Doreen Pendgracs 

Doreen is an expert in the niche of chocolate travel at “Chocolatour.” She has been dedicated to experiencing the most amazing chocolate experiences around the world since 2009, and published volume I in her award-winning book series, Chocolatour, in 2013. Doreen is currently working on the second volume, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures. Doreen has written freelance stories for numerous publications including National Geographic Traveler, Westjet Magazine, CAA Magazine, Canadian Geographic and Groups Today. She hosts chocolate tours, organizes events and offers keynote talks about chocolate and cacao.