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Home and Away

In March 2020 Britain went into national lockdown, along with much of the rest of the world. Together with many other Covid restrictions, the various modes of travel and leisure to which people had become accustomed were suddenly no longer possible. From visiting family and friends in another part of the country to booking a last-minute city break in a foreign capital, things people took for granted were no longer grantable. 'Lockdowns', 'quarantine', 'social distancing', 'bubbles', 'track and trace', 'eat out to help out', 'mask mandates', 'vaccine passports' and 'Staycationing' became familiar parts of the lexicon. The latter refers to Britons finding ways to continue to vacation at home without breaking the new rules on travel and association. Access to nature, officially for only an hour of daily exercise during the early stages of lockdown, became particularly valuable.

As an island nation Britain has always felt itself to be separate and distinct from its neighbours across the sea in the rest of Europe. And, prior to the 1960s, foreign travel for leisure was more the reserve of the middle and upper classes. Working class Brits tended to vacation at British seaside resorts long before the word staycation had been coined. That all changed with the advent of cheap air fares and charter flights. But Britain’s sense of otherness and isolation took a giant leap backward (or forward depending on your political perspective) with Brexit, as a slim majority of the country voted to cut ties with the rest of Europe, ostensibly out of fear of too many foreigners in the country and too much foreign influence from outside.

Then, just as people were getting their heads around having to change their red EU passports for blue British ones, along came Covid. In a national turn inwards, families of all classes started rediscovering Britain's traditional holiday destinations they may have previously overlooked for more exotic (and warmer) foreign ones. But one downside of this discovery (or re-discovery) has been that 'getting away from it all' inside the U.K. now requires a lot more effort and forethought, when lots of other people are having the same thought.

As a dual British-American citizen with both an insider and outsider's point of view, Robert Wallis has photographed what has become known as staycationing on assignments and personal trips before and during the Covid era, from the Scilly Isles off the south-west tip of Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to Londoners escaping lockdown in the outdoor spaces that make the city unique. Whether staycationing becomes less popular again whenever Covid eventually wears itself out with people returning to long-haul flying en masse, or whether a concern over the carbon footprint of foreign travel becomes a factor in keeping more people closer to home, this series celebrates Britain's varied landscapes and the people who visit them.
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