The uncharted waters of today are full of predictions for the new normal. For instance, there have been a number of recent news items predicting that the world will not see a recovery of international tourism and travel for at least another year and maybe more. I find myself worrying now, admittedly pessimistically, that the world of travel my wife and I have experienced and enjoyed over time may be a thing of the past.
There are thousands of photos in my computer. Some show family or local events, but most are like the three above and depict our travels. Those photos now seem a bit sad, not just because Notre Dame is no longer like that, but because the travel we have known for years has been truncated and replaced by empty airports and anchored ships. It will now take courage, in addition to the price of a ticket, for travelers to jump on a plane or ship in order to touch the outside world and its people. The current situation creates an incredible loss--particularly for today's younger generations.
It no longer seems ludicrous to ask if we have the courage to take a trip next month or even next year. Will we have to wear a mask every time we come closer than six feet to another human being? How will "social distancing" affect traveling and the traveler? Will viewing the Tower of London or the Pyramids be the same when you are standing alone rather than in the proximate company of other fellow travelers or locals. Will the serendipitous mealtime conversations fostered by close table quarters and or adventuresome food choices disappear? These are now all questions to ponder.
While I realize that there are millions of folks who cannot afford or even conceive of traveling, I do grieve for the potential loss of experience that many now face. My wife and I still consider the three month trek through Europe that we took in the early sixties to be one of the critical events in our lives. Will it be available again in that carefree manner that only the young are capable of? Will retirees who have saved carefully for years in order to have the ability to use their new deserved leisure for travel now be afraid to do what they had postponed? I certainly hope not.
Travel opens the door of possibilities and widens horizons. It can enable you to see the world beyond your own front door and your own community. To change the metaphor to one more current, travel can help cure the disease of parochialism that still impedes our lives and fosters our divisions in far too many ways. For that reason alone a vaccine cannot come too soon.