Seven ways to travel from your couch...
As the lockdown is settling in, you start shifting from the euphoria from the beginning to a sort of strange state, as if in a limbo. You start to really feel the lack of social interactions, but also simply going out. So when then fires make the air unbreathable, when the smog is so thick that it smells as though your neighbor is preparing a barbecue 10 feet away, when IQAir tells you that you are living in the city with the worse quality of air in the world at the moment and that the Mayor of Kyiv advises not to open windows at any time, the term lockdown starts feeling strangely real...
Minus the smell...
So what do you do to escape, virtually?
I already described in a previous post that I started putting on real-time train rides in beautiful places as Norway or Switzerland. Strange practice that I quickly embraced, though. But it's not all.
We started watching videos available online on my favorite places on earth (for landscapes): Norway, Iceland, Switzerland. Sometime just in slow motions while we work.
Looking forward to a perspective to the end of the quarantine, we also booked tickets optimistically for my birthday to the Lofoten Islands. I traveled there in 2011 on a long road trip in Norway, but the beauty of this place had struck me so much and I felt that it deserved a dedicated trip.
The perspective of open spaces is really soothing I must say. So far, everyone has been laughing at us when we say that we will be flying out of Kyiv on 29 May. They may be right or wrong. We thought we would try our luck. At worse, if it cannot happen, the tickets will be refunded and we will have had something to look forward to.
Another way to travel we find is through food. I always cooked different styles of food, just because I like this or this influence. But now, I really appreciate a curry with lemongrass, remembering about Thailand or Indonesia, or close my eyes while eating a bacalhau with mashed potatoes, and I could almost feel the air of Lisboa. And when we baked an eggplant tarte tatin with sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary, I was immediately transported in Provence. It is actually a perk that enables me to appreciate more the food that I prepare.
Another way to escape is to look at the small bounties of nature downtown Kyiv on my rare walks out. They are all the more difficult to catch, as parks are closed during the most beautiful, blooming period of the year. There is nothing like the fresh light green color of young leaves and the blossoms of flowers. I learned to appreciate each and every bit of this microcosm of beauty when I was living in the less-than-thrilling very Soviet city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine for a few months back in 2016.
Here is what Kramatorsk looks like: And that's the work of a babushka in front of one these run-down buildings:
This rings as a lesson that you can find beauty everywhere if you look for it. Like this other babushka who was planting flowers near Shchastia, also in eastern Ukraine, between two lanes of a road where shelling was not rare... We were all in flack jackets and helmets, radios on, engines running and here she was, calm and resolute to make her world a bit more beautiful, one flower at the time.
So in Kyiv, I enjoy and cherish every piece of greenery that I encounter.
Of course, we can watch documentaries about nature and the wild. But the best way to escape will always remain through books. There is nothing like the power of imagination. I remember how strongly my step-grandfather Richard felt about this, even refusing to watch movies most of the time. At the moment, I am reading a classic that I had -shamefully- had not read before: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. For up to an hour every night, I am sharing the languorous and somewhat decadent life of Hans Castorp and Joachim Ziemssen in the sanatorium on the hills above Davos. I can picture the conifers, the fresh air, the sharp outline of the peaks and the intense heat of the crude and harsh mountain sun, followed by the chill of fresh alpine air as soon as the sun disappears behind some crest. I enjoy every moment of it.
There are many ways to travel from almost your couch if you think about it. So, cheer up for the rest of the lockdown! :–)