Apocalypse has been the watchword in the world of travel for many years now. Climate change research has reminded us that every crossing of the planet inches us closer to the destruction of our race. Streets are so deadlocked that Elon Musk has begun building tunnels under American cities. In Kyoto, near which I live, the 88 million who visited in 2019 came to 33 times the number of people actually living in the area. Walk down a narrow lane to a quiet temple, and all you could see were selfie-sticks and the backs of other visitors.
Now, all of a sudden, the pandemic has added to that sense of doom, but in the opposite direction, by emptying roads that were previously full. Overnight, the cruise-ships that used to look like luxury hotels crossed with amusement parks came to resemble floating cauldrons of contagion. Not only were borders sealed and flights cancelled, but the skeleton staffs that remained sounded entirely at sea: calling my regular airline to book a flight for my wife in 2020, I was reminded that it would cost more than $4,000 for the cheapest Economy seat, even though the same seat, on exactly the same flight, together with a return leg, could be had for $1,200. Every day has become a blackout date, with no end in sight, as long-awaited holidays, business trips, family reunions get postponed again and again, then again.