Reclaim the heavens.
In early May, I took my first commercial flight since travel restrictions eased and my vaccination was in full effect, to visit my daughter in Texas. I didn’t feel insanely in danger; it was psychologically uncomfortable, but i always hated airports and airplanes. I ate and drank nothing on board, and my mask was firmly attached to my face.
Yet there was also a sense of festive nostalgia attached to reclaiming the skies, a feeling I usually associate with returning to a college where I once studied, or returning to the stage of the summers of my childhood. As we walked through the clouds in this private sunny stratosphere so familiar to jet travelers, I felt the anxious joy I discovered when I first hugged friends after being vaccinated. . My forties had given me extra time with my husband and son, days to write, and heartwarming rehearsal patterns. But getting out of it was a relief, nonetheless.
Even with the terror that can accompany it, the journey is a liberation. The things, places and people that I loved and will love have been here all this time and I’m no longer chained to New York with an iron leg. In September, I plan to return to London for a friend’s 50th birthday and see my seven English godchildren. I am currently away from Great Britain, where I have citizenship, for longer than I have ever been since I was 12.
The possible areas of travel.
The question of travel is not just a question of pleasure. Travel is an integral part of our continuing education. Nineteenth-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt wrote: “There is no view of the world as dangerous as the view of the world of those who have not seen the world. Just as the boundaries of our bubbles drove many of us a little crazy in our 40s, being locked in our own country has been devastating for many of us. The success of each country depends on the curiosity of its citizens. If we lose this, we lose our moral compass.
Likewise, although I aspire to go elsewhere, I am eager to welcome people to these shores. It’s strange to walk through the great museums of New York without hearing the din of 100 languages. Travel is a two-way street, and hopefully soon it will be bumper-to-bumper in both directions.
At the end of “Paradise Lost”, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden, and John Milton does not hide their anguish at being cast out. But he doesn’t end on this bitter note, because banning one place meant an opportunity to find another, as timidly as this process was undertaken:
A few natural tears which they let go, but soon wiped them away;
The world was all in front of them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence guides them:
They walk hand in hand with wandering and slow steps,
Through Eden took his lonely path.
This will be how we return to the areas of the possible pre-Covid. As the virus is brought under control, we will leave with renewed vigor. The world is all in front of us. We can begin with wandering and slow steps, cautiously and uncertain. But think about it. A year ago, many of us were afraid to venture beyond the grocery store; now we are being given an entire planet to explore, even with caution.
Andrew Solomon, professor of clinical medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, is the author of “Far and Away: How Travel Can Change the World”.
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