It’s a strange time to start writing a travel column. In some ways, we have brought this new reality upon ourselves. Travel, for pleasure and business, had become more of a necessity than a luxury; a lifestyle need, not just a choice. While we globalised and became economically flatter, we also globalised local diseases.
The world, as we know it, is undergoing a metamorphosis. The unbarred access that we have experienced in the past few decades has transformed within weeks into prison-like confinement. Our carefree attitude is now laced with fear. No doubt that the post-COVID world will look different. Not only the travel industry, but the nature of travel will also change.
What will not change though is the force that propels us travellers forward: curiosity. We travel for we wish to learn; we travel for we understand there are differences in the world out there, and recognising them will make us more respectful of the same. That’s why, irrespective of confined movements, we will continue exploring. We will discover new worlds in books. Or, in the unstepped corners of our homes where ants have started nesting. Or, in the musty local library, or the coffee shop next door.
I live in Sweden. On a day off, I would usually cross the Oresund Bridge into neighbouring Denmark to sip coffee amid Copenhagen’s brightly painted neighbourhood of Nyhavn. On a long weekend, I would take a flight across Europe to explore Modena’s eateries, or hike in the Swiss Alps, or watch a club cricket match at Lord’s in London.
Given the current pandemic, the Danes have shuttered the bridge, and other European countries have restricted inflow from Sweden. Sweden itself has not introduced a lockdown though, which means that I travel still. My wings are clipped, and I cannot explore all corners of Europe as freely as I did once. However, once my initial frustration ebbed, I stepped out into the glorious Swedish summer to explore the parks and trails off the city of Malmö, where I live. For the first time in many years, I am making the most of Sweden’s famous Allmanrätt, one that gives everyone a right to freely walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private space.
While I am doing so, I am learning that, yes, the freedom to travel we must all have, but it’s not always necessary that with each journey we step across boundaries. Sometimes a journey is about stopping still, and pausing to reflect and explore our very surroundings.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining. This new facet of travelling is the silver that I found in the current pandemic.