coronavirus pandemic up-date
I hope the public heath situation is improving wherever you are. I forget what phase we are in now, as Spain continues to deescalate from total home confinement during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. We might be back to some kind of “normal” as on July 1st borders re-opened with EU countries and 14 others: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
Even so I haven’t seen any tourists about my city and some businesses are still reducing hours and we are still distancing ourselves physically and wearing masks.
But it is summer and just this week friends (also living in Spain) started talking to us about summer vacation plans. They are proposing staying here and meeting up somewhere.
We haven’t decided to go, or not, or if yes, where. One consideration, you may not be surprised, is the coronavirus pandemic and public health here at home. Even now that it’s cautiously “over” here in Spain, it still touches our lives, and will continue to do so because deadly diseases don’t disappear over night or even after a few months.
travel these days
So this week I’ve been thinking a lot about the pandemic and travel. I love discovering new areas and watching people. Near and far. Whether that’s a new corner of the neighborhood or a nearby little town on Sunday afternoon or places further afield. Since moving to Spain, by choice I have done less international travel, and now it seems in the post-coronavirus world that choice will also be made with consideration of trip risk and public health.
Travel and health concerns have crossed my radar screen in the past but not like today.
I am reminded that change is the only constant in the world. And change and nostalgia for one way over another can contribute to a person feeling “old” and out of touch, or at least that’s how I feel, as I sift through the eras and reflect on my travel passion.
obsessed with foreign cultures and languages
My understanding of the world, other cultures and travel began with books and imagination. And it was simple. Child’s play. Maybe yours did too.
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with foreign countries and languages. My favorite children’s books were the “Madeline” series, about the little girl living in the boarding school in Paris and “Heidi” the story of another girl living in the Swiss Alps with her grandfather.
I remember going through a phase, at about 8 or 9 when I played at speaking in different “foreign languages”, usually French and German. The languages were invented solely with sounds, imaginary words and a few real words of French and German that I may have picked up from television or pop culture.
I’m not sure where this impetus originates really, except that I am from one of those small towns with little cultural diversity and where things don’t seem to change much from generation to generation. I was probably born starved for difference.
Some people find comfort in security in routine and sameness, for others it feels like a straitjacket. I remember finding a book of proverbs and idiomatic expressions from other cultures in the library when I was a kid. One, I think it was Chinese, has stuck with me: “Don’t believe everything you hear. Go and see for yourself.”
stay a while and look around
As soon as I could, I started down that road of going and seeing for myself.
It turned out that without trying too hard I became a “settled nomad” instead of the wandering variety, which has been enormously helpful in deepening my understanding of places. Ten years in London, six in Mexico, eight in Japan and a year or so lots of places in between.
“Seeing” a new culture as it is with our own eyes after all means allowing time for our lenses to adjust according to the light, colors and details of the new place.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
good bye Lonely Planet
Another helpful resource for navigating new cultures has always been the Lonely Planet guidebooks, which last week I read is downsizing to minimal staff and suspending publication of new titles.
This news left me with confused feelings. Personally there was a time when Lonely Planet books were proud titles on my bookshelf but over the past ten years or I have also became aware of them as belongings of climate criminals. In fact when we left London, we left most of ours, and on our shelf now is Lonely Planet “Spain”, “Morocco” and the city guide to “Lisbon”.
I empathize with everyone at Lonely Planet losing their jobs as well as everyone in the tourism sector hit by the pandemic. At the same time I am happy for the planet, people, places and creatures that suffer from our careless and polluting visits to their habitats.
And while I feel sad too for the younger generation that have the dream of travelling, something alive within us across generations, I trust some road, some way will be made for people to continue travelling safely. Curiosity and openness to new things has always prompted people to move about is part of our cultural heritage. It’s what people do and how we become who we are.
So there’s load of emotions and there’s grief as well, for Lonely Planet and a time gone by. While that wasn’t a sustainable or fair model, inexpensive accessible international travel has created incredible experiences – including my life, my identity – for me. And that old me, who believed in her ability and right to get on a plane any time she wanted and go nearly anywhere without too much hassle, that era is over.
At the same time, I remind myself it’s the end of a cycle, beginning of a new one. Economic models, stars, trees, humans, we all go through it. Birth, life, death.
Rest in peace, old ways of inexpensive, unsustainable, unjust ways of doing tourism. I’m sorry planet, I didn’t entirely understand my impact. I will do better from now on.
learn more about my travels
colombia – where this travel bug expanded to include international territories
hole – reflections on what next and what has been, year nine in London
South Sudan – learn more about how I have supported peace-building work in this young democracy
What about you?
Is there a trip in your life that has had a big impact? Or trips? Leave a comment below and tell me about.
Thanks for reading and see you again soon.