A Snapshot in Time: Thoughts From a Quarantined Traveler

A Snapshot in Time: Thoughts From a Quarantined Traveler

For many would-be workers, time has effectively frozen in place.

The streets are empty, restaurants are barren, community events have been canceled, and the budding excitement of spring has instead fizzled out into various forms of covert and quiet contemplations. It seems that the whole world is in a daze.

Everyone I know is sequestered into situational introspection, waiting on standby as the seasons sequentially slip forward.

Instead of getting together to celebrate the pleasantries of warmer weather, we’re sitting back on our sofas and watching the world through digital devices, while governments and citizens all around the world attempt to manage the spread of a deadly contagion.

It’s difficult sometimes to believe that any of this is real.

For as far as we can tell into the foreseeable future, we’ll be dealing with these extreme social distancing measures. The charm of our families and friends will have to be kept at bay for months, only to be cherished in photographs. Our neighbors will stay concealed behind surgical masks.

And not to mention the fact that we’re going to have to find a way to climb out from one of the worst economic downturns in history, as well as the strict advisories against all non-essential travel.

Talk about a perfect storm.

It’s amusing how leaden the hand of progress seems to be moving these days. It is as if the world was soaring at millions of miles an hour and then unexpectedly ran out of rocket fuel. And although we’re still drifting forward ever so slightly, in comparison to our former momentum, it seems as though we’ve breached a new form of suspended animation.

Insert something smart about the theory of relativity here.

But for would-be travelers, the picture is, perhaps, even more bleak.

All of this is highly unprecedented. Plans to travel abroad have been rerouted, income streams have started to dwindle, and whereas most full-time travelers will have already been accustomed to staying in contact with family through video conferencing apps, somehow it just doesn’t seem the same in forced isolation.

To put it rather plainly, no one is traveling anywhere anytime soon.

train tracks going off into the distance

Adjusting the Depth of Field

Although some sense of loneliness is likely inevitable during these times of solitude, finding ways to humor yourself is probably one of the best applied medicines.

Take, for example, the concept of running a travel blog.

It’s actually a pretty humorous that tons of travel blogs right now are having to resort to sharing old photos, or even worse, have instead gone off the grid altogether. It seems that without the ability to visit a new destination every couple of weeks, the concept of a travel blog largely dries up. There just isn’t any fodder available.

And yet, here you are, reading through an article by a self-proclaimed travel writer.

I guess I should thank you for that.

You see, I’ve been living my life on the move for a year and a half now, and my intentions were hardly anticipated to fall short of continuing to do so. Travel is, for me, a way of finding new tiers of heightened fulfillment. I’ve learned to grow and revel in each passing environment, and once any given place no longer suits my interests, I generally try to make my plans to move to a new destination.

And 2020, in effect, was supposed to be a big year for me. I had savings in the bank, a freshly minted passport, and all the tools a traveler could want for navigating in new countries.

Who would have thought that a global pandemic could so easily spoil the act of traveling for the thrill it?

So if you’ve been feeling cooped up lately and would really rather be doing things around your town, around the country, or legitimately anywhere else other than within the confines of your home, I can assure you, I’m right there with you.

Right now there’s a million and one places I’d love to be exploring.

Like wading through shallow turquoise waters, tasting some new and novel ethnic cuisine, hiking through antiquated jungles, climbing down into rocky amphitheaters, or riding a motorbike across country roads, global expeditions just have so much to offer. It’s no wonder so many people have taken to creating travel accounts—oftentimes, the content meant to sustain them are made up of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

But what does this say about the way our culture utilizes social media?

Why do people actually follow travelers and travel-related content online?

Once all of this blows over, surely, travel blogs will continue to exist.

Thank goodness.

But somewhere in this is a point to be made about how we look to travel blogs to satisfy our craving for content. There is something to be said about how the composition of these resources are made up.

To put it as an analogy, some of the finest photography around can generally be classified into one of two categories: portraits and landscapes. The depth of field in a portrait shot is much closer, meaning that the background is blurred and the subject comes into focus. Landscape photography, on the other hand, has a much further depth of field, so the environment instead becomes the focus of the image.

The goal of a travel blog is to find that perfect medium between being about the individual, just as much as it is about the environment. Too much of one over the other and it’s no longer about the story as much as it is about desperately trying to attract followers.

In my opinion, transformational journeys are the best kind of content.

We don’t necessarily need more accounts sharing photos of beautiful places to envy and ogle over. We also don’t need more social media influencers to sway the purchasing decisions of their followers.

In a solid sense, what we need more of are those motivational individuals who inspire others toward discovery as they share their own process of self-transformation and healing through traveling.

In fact, one of the greatest privileges I’ve had was in sharing how I learned to treat my own depression through traveling.

Not to toot my own horn or anything.

I just believe that what’s genuine will really come out during this time spent in quarantine. Sure, it’s been somewhat painstaking lately not being able to listen the voice of my own nomadic tendencies, but what’s meaningful is making itself known in other ways. Traveling isn’t the only means for finding fulfillment.

These days are more of an opportunity for portraits, rather than broad landscape shots.

black and white portrait of me sitting in front of old house

When the Flashbulb Popped

Do you remember where you were when you first heard about the spread of COVID-19?

As if someone suddenly stopped you on the street and took your picture, the current situation in quarantine is sort of like the processing of that image prior to the coronavirus outbreak. All of this time truly seems to be allowing people to look at themselves more objectively, in our own daily attire, with our current beliefs, mindsets, and motives.

Instantaneously, as though the flash was there to wake us from a dream, we have more time to think about the uniqueness of our lives and how that is playing out in handling this crisis.

It makes me wonder what the plot was that we were following before any of this.

When is the last time you stopped and thought,

“How did I come to be what I am today in this vast ocean of chaos?”

Have you clarified what your priorities are? And are you remaining true to keeping them prioritized?

Now may be an ideal time to start, if not.

Personally, I have learned a good deal about myself in recent weeks. Despite my good fortune of being able to travel all around the country in 2019, I recognized that I was inadvertently leaving some of my closer connections on the back burner. Perhaps it was the thrill of new environments, or just the general business of working and travel planning, but I let conversation with my friends and family fall to the wayside.

In retrospect, this quarantine has definitely given me the opportunity to build a foundation for better relationships with them, and I hope to continue that long after restrictions are lifted.

I guess that in the absence of seeing people in person, I’ve started to understand a lot more about how much we decidedly live our lives in the context of others. Human connection is genuinely important to me.

However, though this impulse is strong in a lot of people, I’ve also realized that there’s a good side and a bad side to it, and they both meet on the playing field of social networking. I mean, why else do you think social media usage has skyrocketed during these times of isolation?

We all just want to be witnessed, so that no matter whether it is a friend or family member, we can feel the rush of someone acknowledging that we exist—that we are relevant.

And yet, oftentimes, we find it all-too-easy to watch the lives of our friends and family idly from a computer screen without fully feeling connected with them. If that sensation is there, I’m saying that now is the time to establish those relationships you’ve been pining for.

Of course, though I’m often disgruntled with social media these days, primarily for the way it has devolved into a framework of re-sharing insubstantial content, either way, the measure of sanity it’s bringing during these times is crucial. I’m hardly trying to be cynical about any of it.

People are keeping in touch, superficially or not, and I see that largely as a good thing.

budding flowers on a tree

Framed like Wallflowers

Our beings are like dynamic portraits encased against the backdrop of cyberspace.

The frame enclosing the glass of our digital devices is like the picture hanging on the wall—it encompasses a particular scene triggering certain emotions and ideas. The only difference is that the portrait on the wall is static. It cannot reinvent itself.

There is every opportunity right now to improve on the things you are good at, and mend where you are faltering. For most of us, that may mean further expressing a creative ability, researching something you’d like to know more about, building a fitness routine, or otherwise just relaxing into a newfound sense of being at peace with yourself.

Right now, there is all the time in the world to be what you naturally want to be.

I’m not necessarily claiming that you have to be productive during any of this though.

Capitalism has largely indoctrinated our belief that time has to be commoditized into either being more productive, or finding new ways to make money. It seems to me that one is in good company if he or she wishes to rewrite some of that programming infringed on us by society. You don’t necessarily need to be recording that long overdue album, or writing the next great novel.

For instance, you may have seen some mention lately that Shakespeare allegedly wrote King Lear during the bubonic plague epidemic. Barring any mention of the differences between the bubonic plague and COVID-19, I don’t think it’s proper to be fundamentally comparing our productivity (or lack thereof) to the unique situation of a masterful 16th century playwright.

Even then, what most probably don’t know is that Shakespeare was considerably well-off in his later years when he wrote King Lear. Some of us are just trying to figure out how we’re going to weather one of the worst financial storms of our lives.

In other words, it’s okay if you don’t come out of this with a new skillset, collection of exciting hobbies, or a cluster of knowledge. No one is pressuring you into the belief that you need to do so any more than you are yourself.

Now that the world is frozen, it’s possible to see that conquering guilt starts from within.

However, with that being said, if you’ve had something on the back burner for a long while now, and you currently have the spare time, then I’m definitely encouraging you to crank that up to start stirring the pot. Challenge yourself. Learn what you’re actually capable of.

I recently published some of my poetry online and I’m proud to say that it’s currently available in e-book format and as a physical copy. I’ve also had my finger on the pulse of a science-fiction novel for a while now, which I’ve just now started to work on, but that’s still a long way from being finished.

Either way, everything is still becoming, we just have more time now to tend toward what we’ve willed.

But the bottom line is, we certainly don’t need to shame each other, or even ourselves for that matter, if we’ve been using this time to binge-watch movies and sleep-in every day.

We’re just living pictures of ourselves right now, keep that in mind.

picture of a camera

Widening the Aperture

I’m going to confess something here that might warrant the concern of my mother.

I go to bed at around a quarter to four most nights. That is, a quarter to four in the morning. Some nights, it’s even later. I’ve frisked with five, swindled from seven, and even knocked on the doorstep of nine.

What can I say? I like the stillness that the midnight hours bring, the quiet chemistry of thoughts tingling through my brain. I like the way the outside world disappears beneath the absence of a blaring sun. I like the way my introspection is sustained on the nectar of sleeplessness.

It seems that in times like these, many of us have tended toward the way of the night owl, or have at least loosened up on our sleeping schedules. Barring any predisposed sense of guilt, the objective of becoming flexible in how we measure time and how we fill the passing hours is ours for the choosing.

Quarantine does not necessarily need to be seen as a burden.

You can virtually do anything you want—you just can’t go in public.

The freedom I’ve had with my time as of late remind me of the summers of my youth. Oftentimes, they opened up into an exhibition of low-pressured late night musings. There were no burdens of accountability then. No one was scheduling me for the morning shift. And beside the occasional scheduled family vacation, my parents generally let me sleep in and freely go about the days as I pleased.

With so much at the moment being indeterminate in how we organize our days, it begs a number of questions.

What is it that we lose when we finally decide to become responsible?

Is it freedom? Our spontaneity? Or the blissful ignorance that time is fleeting, where we paradoxically give up on the laxity of the present by trying to make better futures for ourselves?

Among the hundreds of thousands of deaths from the coronavirus, what good is there in any of this?

Time is frozen, and we’re all able to think about where we’re going to go from here.

That, at least, is how I’m plotting during my time spent in quarantine.

I hope that you too will find some resourcefulness during this strange and uncertain time in our lives.

As always, thank you for reading.

Shane

Photo Credit: Heather Reynolds – follow her on Instagram @heathermarrie12 

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