I sit back to reflect on what all happened in the bygone year and how that will change the nature of travel for me (and perhaps for you) in the future. Exactly a year back, I was celebrating the new year in Lisbon, walking the cobblestoned streets of the Alfama district, the most picturesque labyrinth that I had ever seen. I remember taking the bright yellow ascensors—the 19th-century funicular system that Lisboetas used to go up and down the steep hills—standing shoulder to shoulder with the locals and jostling for space in the crowded tram. Gone are those days as we enter a new reality, which I suspect is here to stay for the years to come, if not forever.
One big change for me, for instance, has been to ditch air travel completely. While it’s not impossible to travel by air even in the current times, the new restrictions and lack of availability of flights have made me consider anything but absolutely essential air travel, as dispensable. Doing so, of course, meant that I could not travel to far-flung places. As a result, down the drain went our plans to travel to Seattle and Australia this year.
Itchy feet, just as mine are, meant that I could not avoid exploring new destinations altogether. A realisation dawned—it had been just so easy to hop on a flight and travel to places halfway across the globe that I had completely missed probing my immediate surroundings.
I need to dig where I stand, and that’s what I’ve been doing the past few months. Doing so surprised me, for I came to realise how little I knew about the place where I live. For instance, only a few hours’ drive from the Skåne region of Sweden is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Stevns Klint in Denmark. On these cliffs, one can see evidence of the hypothesis that the sudden mass extinction of three-fourths of the Earth’s species, including dinosaurs, some 60 million years ago, was caused by the impact of an asteroid. The corroboration is nestled in a very thin reddish layer of iridium settled between two layers of rocks. Such quantities of iridium are not usually found on earth and are speculated to have come from outer space. So here, next door to me was this well-preserved archaeological evidence of one of the greatest mysteries of life on earth and I had not managed to prioritise it this far.
They say that travelling is a great way to learn. However, we have inherently associated travelling with travelling far. But that need not be so, as I discovered this year. I was forced to reduce my range and despite, or rather because of, that I managed to find hidden local gems.
So how would travel in 2021 look for me? Well, for one, I will travel as frequently as I did in the years gone by. However, more and more of my travel is definitely going to be local. I expect less flying and more driving. I will continue to eat out in restaurants when I travel. And, finally, I still hope to travel by the trams and buses in these cities, and smell and breathe in the places alongside the locals.