The end of Polkadot Passport as you know it…

I need to admit something. Pre-2020, I was beginning to take travelling for granted. I never wanted this to be the case. I always tried so hard to be grateful for every experience I was blessed with. However, for the better part of my twenties, I had the ability to jump on a plane and go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The world was my oyster, and I was literally getting paid to explore it.

Of course, in 2020, all of this changed. The COVID pandemic hit and borders around the world closed. All of a sudden, my travel privilege was gone. Simultaneously, the travel blogging career I had spent the past six years building disappeared before my eyes. Now, here is the ironic part. In the year preceding the pandemic, I was really starting to crave more stability in my life.

After years of relentless jet setting, travelling was starting to lose its effervescence. In fact, I was starting to get more excited to get home from a trip then to pack my bags and leave on another one. I know this could come across as being someone who is awfully entitled but let me explain. I would dare to say that at a point in most people’s careers, burn-out becomes a reality. Even when that career is one you love dearly. I knew travelling so frequently was influencing both my mental and physical health. I craved having a consistent community around. I craved a balanced routine of sleep, exercise and eating. I craved being in one place for longer than a month.

During this time, I also felt my passion and creativity flatlining. I felt like I was going through the motions when it came to travel blogging and photography. That photo of a figure looking out at a beautiful vista in a straw hat which once felt revolutionary was starting to feel VERY repetitive. The travel blogging/ Instagram space was also becoming more and more competitive, and I felt myself starting to get left behind.

Taking a step back from travel blogging

In 2019, I started experiencing anxiety in way I hadn’t before. I knew this was a sign that I had to slow myself down. I reduced the number of trips I was saying yes to. I reduced the amount of content I was posting on my blog and social media. Then I started to feel a little lost. I didn’t want to give up entirely on Polkadot Passport, but I also knew I couldn’t carry on exactly how I had been. Halfway through the year, I ended up feeling a strong calling to move over to a little beach town in Australia called Coffs Harbour. I took up that call and volunteered at a YWAM base for six months. This happened to be where I met my now husband James (I’ll save that story for another blog post!).

My time in Coffs Harbour came to an end in March 2020, just as the COVID pandemic was beginning to rear its ugly head. By sheer luck, I arrived back in Auckland literally just before sh*t really hit the fan. The day after I landed, quarantine rules were introduced. A week later, the borders were closing completely. The next thing we knew, we were thrust into a strict 6-week lockdown. It took a few weeks for the reality of the situation to set in. Borders were no longer open. Travelling was no longer on the cards. I no longer had a job.

New Zealand South Island Road Trip

Be careful what you wish for…

The old saying goes be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Well, that is exactly what happened to me. At the very time in my life I wished for stability and something to shift me in a new direction, that is what I got. Except, now that all the control was out of my hands, I didn’t seem to want these things anymore. Like so many people around the world, COVID had ripped my career out of my hands. My job heavily relied on being able to jump on a plan and travel overseas, the one thing I could no longer do. I started to feel very, very lost.

As time went on, I saw travel bloggers doing an amazing job of repurposing content or finding inventive ways keep their audience engaged. However, I could not find the motivation to do the same. Posting a single Instagram post began to feel like the biggest task in the world. There are only so many travel flashbacks you can do before things feel a little repetitive.

Funnily enough, day to day life went back to normal in New Zealand pretty quickly as we managed to “eliminate” COVID. While other countries battled with restrictions and lockdowns, we got on with our lives. However, the biggest restriction of my career remained- not being able to get on a plane and travel overseas. As New Zealand’s strategy was to keep COVID out, that meant a hard border closure. As time went on, life went back to normal in other countries, with borders opening, friends and family being reunited and travelling kicking off again. Not in New Zealand. I was still separated from my family in Australia. If I wanted to travel overseas, I’d had to pay $4000 for 2 weeks of quarantine on returning. Also, spaces in quarantine were so limited that they were almost impossible to attain- you literally had to apply through a lottery system.

At this point, I knew it was time to pivot. Like many people during lockdown, I started to spend a lot more time in the kitchen. I have always loved food and it’s played a big role in my travels. However, when presented this time to cook in the kitchen at a leisurely pace, I started to realize just how passionate I was about food and cooking. At the time, I was living with my best friend Floss, who shares my love of food more than anyone I have ever met. She is also a fantastic cook. We spent our time in lockdowns cooking non-stop, trying out new recipes and experimenting with cooking techniques.

The moment that inspiration struck

We had just entered our third round of lockdown in Auckland and in a bid to make the time pass more quickly, we started doing themed cooking nights at our flat. We would research and cook a random cuisine, decorating the house and dressing accordingly. On one particular night, I decided to try my hand at making South Indian masala dosa. I was running to the local shops to grab some fenugreek for the recipe when I had a brainwave.

I was deeply missing the excitement of travelling to different countries and trying the local cuisine. With travelling off the cards, it was looking like it would be a long time before I would be able to do so again. However, that didn’t have to stop me from experiencing cuisines from around the world.

What if I were to make one dish from every country in the world? If I couldn’t physically travel the world, I could still travel the world from my kitchen.

I excitedly ran back home, found Floss and asked if she’d be up for a challenge. Without hesitation, she agreed. Over the course of the next year, we cooked 196 different dishes, one from every country in the world. It was a fantastic, stressful, crazy and enlightening experience. We photographed every dish and wrote down every recipe. I created a food blog, Gourmet Vegetarians, and we started sharing the recipes on there. I had always wanted to start a food blog, but as I was travelling so frequently, I never seemed to have the time. Now, I could finally pour all my time and energy into this new endeavour. Meanwhile, I was continuing to leave Polkadot Passport in the dark, not knowing what the future (or even, if there was a feature) for my travel blog.

A new era for Polkadot Passport

We are now in March 2022, exactly two years since the pandemic first broke out. The day has FINALLY come and New Zealand has opened up its borders. Travel is FINALLY on the cards again. As I have spent the past few months anticipating this day, I really started to think about what this next chapter holds. I’ve loved cooking dishes from around the world. I’ve loved creating a food blog. I’ve loved developing and shooting recipes for clients. But I also miss travelling more than I can express, and my soul is aching to start exploring again.

My heart started to feel split in two directions. My love for food and my love for travel. I knew realistically I couldn’t focus my energy on the two as separate entities and do them both justice. So I started to dream about what it would look like if I were to combine both. Travelling has always been a big part of my life. But over the past two years, cooking has become an equally big part of my life.

For the past few months, I have been working tirelessly to turn Polkadot Passport into a space that is not only for those who want to get out and explore the world, but also for those who want to explore the world from their kitchen. I will be taking you along on my journey to explore every cuisine in the world, sharing recipe blog post and cooking videos along the way. I want to use this as a way to connect with those of you who may not be able to physically travel but still want to experience cuisines from around the world.

Rest assured, I will still be sharing plenty of travel content across my platforms. Moving forward, my travels will just be done with a stronger culinary focus. This will mean seeking out the absolute best street foods to try or exploring the top restaurants to visit in a destination. It will also mean going to local cooking classes to learn new recipes and techniques to share with you.

I realize that this shift in direction for Polkadot Passport is not going to appeal to everyone. However, for those that this does resonate with, here’s where to follow along with the journey and what you can expect on each platform:

A final BIG announcement

By the way…That wasn’t the only big announcement I have to make. I am very excited to let you know that next month, James and I are packing up our life in New Zealand and moving overseas! As sad as we are to leave our life in Auckland, this move has been a long time coming and we are so ready for the next chapter… AKA a chapter that is going to be filled with A LOT more travel. You’ll have to stay tuned in the coming weeks to find out where exactly we are moving to ;)

Can’t wait to take you all on the journey!

Nicola x

Nicola Easterby Bio Image

HEY THERE, I'M NICOLA!

I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

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