I am having withdrawal symptoms at the thought that traveling the world has basically come to a halt. Being in the age group most likely to die from the coronavirus, Douglas and I had decided to travel in the United States this year by car to see Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Boston. But now, we must think of isolating ourselves from the rest of humanity, to stay healthy.
We have seen a lot of Europe over the last three years, spending up to six weeks at a time abroad, sometimes twice a year, enjoying the slow pace and great food in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Last year’s two weeks in Pescara, Italy was memorable for a three hour ride to visit Pompeii, hoping that the volcano didn’t erupt again while we were there.
The sight was crowded in May, so I could just imagine what it would be ovrwhelmed with tourists from around the world in the summer months, just what we wanted to avoid. So, I understand the need to stop the flow of people across borders, but it still hurts to think that we need to do so.
I will miss the roar of the plane as it speeds down the runway, imbuing in me a feeling like I was Mario Andretti speeding around the curves in the Monaco Grand Prix. I look forward to the day when I am above the clouds, letting go of problems at home and looking forward to walks on the promenade in Quarteria, Portugal or simply laying on the beach and marveling at the small boats on the ocean.
I will miss the sounds of so many languages being spoken, seeing lovers entwined in each other’s arms, watching mothers gather their children like a hen with her chicks, and admiring women of all shapes strutting proudly, as if saying, “This is my body and you don’t get to tell me to hide it away!” In all of these things, I learned that while we may be various shades of skin colors, speak many languages, live in distinct ways, we are still more alike than we are different.
It was in traveling to places beyond my city and country that my mind was expanded and I came to understand that the human condition of trials and triumphs, love and loss, sweetness and sadness is the same, no matter how far you travel. I came to understand that it is not our races, ethnicities, social classes, or even ages that divide us, but it is the perception of difference, meaning that when we fail to get to know people who appear different, we often judge them incorrectly to be unlike us.
That, my friends, is what travel is about, learning to appreciate other cultures,leaving ethnocentrism and the belief in our cultural superiority behind us. We come to see that people everywhere are just trying to make it through this life as safely and with us much love and hope and fun as possible in a lifetime.
I have great faith that there will eventually be a vaccine and medicines against this new virus, and once again we will be able to play tag with thousands of other people in long lines at airports, wondering where all these people came from and where they are headed. I’ll be able to smile at the people who pass us on the streets of Paris, excited to find another American whom we can actually talk to.
But we will also work at learning a few words of Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and French, enough to say Good morning, Good night, and Thank you, with a big grin on our faces, thankful to touch the humanity of another person we may never see again in this life. I understand the bans, but it saddens me, still. It is a scary time, but let it not be an excuse for prejudice and discrimination and hate.
They have closed my college for two weeks here in Georgia, to protect students, faculty, and staff. I don’t know if this is needed, but I am thankful for a break from the worrying about contracting the disease from a student. I just wish I could use this time sitting quietly and staring out at the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea.