The danger of travel – dangerous in ways many don’t or won’t understand

The Southern Alps. New Zealand

In this time of Covid-19 (coronavirus) and racism and riots in the United States, it sometimes feels the world is going mad and we’re powerless to stop it.  Only one thing is certain, I am powerless to do anything to stop it.

The sadness this has caused me is because I’m a traveller.  I’ve been to so many of those places, perhaps have even talked to people who are now dead or dying from the virus, or are in jail from protesting, and it reminded me of a column I had written when I was the travel editor of a newspaper in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Christchurch Citizen)

These weekly columns, which I’d planned to be monthly, gave me space to write anything I wanted about travel – stream of consciousness travel writing was easy for someone who loves to travel – albeit someone who was a late starter to travel.

However, with wall-to-wall coverage about this latest new virus, and the ongoing racism that resulted in yet another death in ‘the states’ I remembered a column I had written some 18 years ago.  I believe it still has currency now.

sailing down the Nile

I’m feeling sad. Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually meet. This week, hearing of train accidents and even more deaths in the Middle East, I am very conscious of that emotional danger.

Geography was always of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator would give clues as to temperatures and climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t – well for me anyway.

Now travel has given me a different perspective on places. Geography remains important, history helps with understanding people and the two, combined with travel experience, gives me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something rather like kinship, I’m attached. I leave a bit of me in every place, and take some of the places away with me

To me this feeling of human-oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries achieve a goal; overcome an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain.

My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland and then shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ began again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. Those people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV or newspaper.

Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine killing each other, London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I love have been devastated and traumatised, monsoon floods happen in Asia, and now Egypt, fabulous country and generous people, is grief-stricken with a train tragedy.

With all these,  I think of the diverse people whom I have come to know, love, judge and compare and empathise with their pain. Yet what can we do to ease that pain? Nothing. The one thing that would help – having loved ones alive again – is way beyond anything we can do.

However, maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all the scenery and monuments are the same in everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that provide the difference.

Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television. Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a  family member is in pain we feel it.” Travel editor” First published – Christchurch Citizen Feb 25th 2002

 

Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, I refuse to stop travelling!

Despite coronavirus in cities and countries being locked down, I refuse to be locked in – just as all my ancestors did in the mid-1800s – fleeing Scottish clearances, Cornish tin mine closures and the Irish potato famine.

And despite my trip to China – a river cruise on the Yangtze River  -being cancelled, and the fabulous Rainforest World Music Festival  -in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, being postponed until further notice, I refuse to be locked in despite the virus and, despite being compromised by age, nothing will stop me, travelling.  I remember a song from my parent’s era “don’t fence me in.”

Coffee in XIam, China

Travel writers have an affliction which, means they, I, we, are doomed to travel and as I said despite COVID-19 and the lockdowns all around the world  I am going to keep on travelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday I was in Oman, today I’m in Dubai with my parasol and a few days ago I was back in my home city Christchurch,

Solitude, Wellington, NZ
Peacock Fountain, Christchurch Botanic Gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also been down on the Wellington waterfront I’ve seen some birds that I saw in India yet again and I’ve even been upright on a paddleboard in Fiji.

So, take that coronavirus you’re not going to stop me – my memories are too well embedded for me to be isolated in my lockdown bubble, I can, and will travel the world with my wonderful memories.

What a privilege, it’s been to have travelled so extensively and I’m grateful for the example my parents set of not wasting money, saving, and living frugally as required.  they also left me a small inheritance which, after a lot of earlier travel, enabled me to do even more.

I recall being on a plane -in 1995 – petrified that at age 50 I still wasn’t old enough to travel the world by myself (with no bookings).

If I run out of memories, I could be jogged by just some of my clippings or books.

So where are you travelling to while in lockdown? I’ve been to Alaska in bwZimbabwe I’ve been to London, Wales, and Borneo. I’ve been to the USA, Mongolia, Zimbabwe and had a river cruise in Europe – to name but a few.

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Covid-19 and the travel writer!

What to do, what to do!

How can I be a travel writer and stay at home? What will you do? (NZ goes into shutdown in 2 days)

Well, the first few days in, and all is well.  In fact, I have just made a coffee date for in a few days – my neighbour and I will make our own coffee, sit on our respective balconies, and talk over the fence.  I’m sure we can make that a regular occurrence.

‘Have a coffee with me’ an old man indicates – I do. Muscat fish market, Oman,

However, a trip to China – a river cruise on the Yangtze River has been cancelled, and the Rainforest World Music Festival which I love to attend (in Kuching Borneo) has been postponed until further notice.

adventure in Sarawak after the RWMF

So, what is a travel writer to do, well, actually what I can do is go over all my old notebooks and photos and tell you about some of my past travels -actually, some of which I haven’t even written.  Others I would have written about parts of it, but there is still way more – so, lots of virtual travel still coming your way from me :-).

So a few more stories from my last travels and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Siam Reap cultural show

Are there any topics about travel, in general, you would like me to cover?  I’ve been travelling solo for a long time and specifically since 1995 so have a lot to share.

In the meantime, I have to adjust to being mainly confined to my apartment.  Luckily, I have a big view and a balcony where I grow flowers and veg. I have lots of gratitude :):):)

I’m also sprouting beans, creating nice dishes for my dinner, keeping in contact with friends via the Internet and phone and not living all day and my PJ’s – I’ve already been caught once on a video call!

I’ve also decided to use my travel medication boxes on a weekly basis, as without my normal routine I think I could very easily forget them.

Of course, I will also be reading copiously, and maybe even lying down and be ‘read’ audiobooks 😊

If you need some e-books perhaps you’d like to check these free books (below) out while most of us are confined at home.

For now the physical world is reduced to my map in the kitchen