Travelling, Covid style

I’ve got a lot of negative things to say about Facebook, which wraps its algorithms around my brain circuits and gets more of my attention than I’m happy with. Despite knowing that the spotlight it shines on the human capacity for stupidity, cruelty and gut-curdling self-interest leaves me in the shadows of depression, I find it hard to give it up. This is an indication of how very good Facebook is at what it does. Manipulating people, basically.

Nonetheless, one of the benefits of Facebook’s incessant drive to keep me engaged is to remind me of the past. You have memories, it pipes up, with its little dangling alarm bell designed to make me click. And it’s kind of nice to see the past parade across your screen, when really you should be doing something a bit more constructive and slightly more mentally challenging.

So many of my facebook memories from this time of the year involve international travel. No wonder I’m so surprised at how cold Sydney gets in June. I often miss out on the worst of it. Five years ago, we were jetting off to South Africa (and on to London). Six years ago, we were in New York. Ten years ago, we were in Paris. The year after in Fiji. Oh, the places we’ve been.

And oh, the places we wish we could go! Japan is at the top of my list. And two weeks wallowing on the Greek isles not far behind. Southern Spain would be nice for Tapas and history. And Cambodia for temples.

Right now though, international travel is off the cards for us. We’re stuck in Australia, which luckily has a vast array of different experiences to offer. We’ve got mountains with ski runs, islands with tropical breezes, rainforests and deserts and a range of cities each with their own personalities and attractions. Unfortunately, a surge of covid cases in Sydney has pulled even this rug out from under our feet. We are trapped in Metropolitan Sydney and can’t even go to the Blue Mountains, all of 45 minutes drive away. I’m trying to practice c’est la vie. For a person who runs on anxiety and what-if scenario planning, it’s a big ask.

Still, there are other ways to experience different cultures, as we accidentally discovered the other night whilst puzzling over menus presented in Korean, with barely a hint of English. As if we were in Seoul itself, we actually had to ask one of the wait-staff to explain what was what. He did so with an air of patient indulgence. Looking around, we realised we were the only non-Korean people in the place. How exciting, I thought, side-stepping the house speciality (intestines, no thank you) and opting for spicy fried chicken and “pancakes” instead. It’s like we’ve gone on holiday after all… and without needing a plane ticket, passport or quarantine hotel to boot.

So, this is the new world at the moment. The way things are. The need to be flexible in our approach to things, and to find adventure closer to home. There are several suburbs that are enclaves of particular cultures near us. Opportunities to travel, if you will, via cuisine and language, if not by plane. To go to places designed specifically for people of that culture, who barely give a nod toward English tastes or explanations. Afterall, one of the key parts of exotic travel is surely talking to locals, negotiating the menu and hoping for the best? Perhaps we need not only travel in our dreams, at least once the current two week lock-down has passed.

As for Facebook, five years from now what will it tell me? A lot about living through COVID I suppose. Local sunsets and pictures of the dog will feature. But perhaps it will also remind me, if I let it, of that time we went down the road and found ourselves in South Korea.

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