Kingston Upon Thames -Credit Katie Owen

Travelling in a pandemic

In general, travelling is scary. Add a pandemic, and it becomes ten times scarier.

Last weekend I travelled to Kingston Upon Thames Via London Victoria armed with nothing but my fully vaccinated body, a few masks and a large bottle of hand sanitiser.

The first train I took, was from Canterbury West to London Victoria. For the majority of the journey, the train was nearing empty and I had a large table to myself for the whole journey.

Train ride – Credit Katie Owen

The journey was smooth sailing until I had to jump the first hurdle upon arriving at London Victoria.

Since social distancing and face-covering restrictions had been dropped earlier this month, it seemed that everyone had forgotten the meaning of personal space. I had elbows, hands, feet and suitcases pushed into me on either side whilst I was trying to figure out what platform my next train was on.

I personally chose to keep my mask on, but as I looked around the station to gather my bearings, I could see different shaped noses popping out of masks along with multiple bare faces.

This surprised me. I didn’t expect the busy city of London to be mask-less, especially since it is is one of the many Covid hotspots in England.

To get to Kingston I had to travel from London Victoria to Clapham Junction and then to Kingston. I had chosen this route over the underground, mainly with hopes that I could avoid crowds and so I could be sure that my risk of catching Covid was lower.

The train journeys to Clapham Junction and to Kingston were pretty much the same as the journey to London Victoria.

Whilst on the train, I never once felt like my personal space was being intruded. However, on the platform and in the train station at Clapham Junction, it felt the opposite.

Clapham Junction Train station – Credit Katie Owen

When I was changing trains at Clapham Junction I felt as if I was in the middle of a stampede of buffalo. It seemed as if the travellers did not have a single worry about the people around them, just themselves and their next destination. This was when I started to think and wonder if the commute would have been any different earlier in the month, with the restriction of socially distancing still applying, or if the restrictions would have been completely ignored.

On the upside, my stay in Kingston was great. The town is beautiful with so many things to see and so many little pubs to visit.

In between writing articles and completing interviews, I visited some of the tourist attractions such as Kew Gardens and Richmond park with my camera.

During my weekend in Kingston, I spoke to Sophie Payne, a 25-year-old freelance model & actress living in Kent.

She was commuting to London for a modelling role so I asked her about this, and if she felt safe:

The train its self was empty. We came early on Sunday morning. The underground was crowded but it wasn’t bad, people were so used to keeping a distance it was kind of second nature. We had protection through our masks and hand sanitiser. I’ve always known the underground to be crowded so that aspect didn’t surprise me. There were still signs up around so it wasn’t as if they had just given up on us. There were one way systems too which were nice. I felt as safe as I could feel in a crowded place.

Sophie Payne

Whilst staying in Kingston, I used the trains and underground regularly whilst meeting up with friends.

The underground experience was very weird. There was at least half a meter between myself and anyone else. I’m not sure if that’s because I made it that way or if people were – like Sophie said – so used to keeping their distance.

London Underground – Credit Katie Owen

My journey home was the same as the journey to Kingston, I had a large table to myself on all three trains back.

My next experience in London Victoria wasn’t the same as the first, it was the opposite of what I experienced the first time around.

I think this was because I was expecting it – I knew that people weren’t going to keep their distance and that they wouldn’t be wearing masks. Having that knowledge meant that I was able to prepare myself and take action to keep myself safe.

I feel as if I will be making this trip again. I felt as safe as I could feel during a pandemic. I was shocked with London Victoria but I wasn’t scared, as I knew I was protecting myself by keeping my mask on, and that is what really matters.

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