Mind travels


There is something particularly sad, I think, that the saying ‘the world is your oyster’ will not be easily passed on to the younger generations after the wider ecological crisis that the pandemic has thrown into light. Travelling may become more like a new guilty secret rather than an important rite of passage into adulthood. Yet, travelling and understanding cultural diversity as well as the ever changing geopolitical landscape of the world we live in through first-hand experience may be one of the most important growth rituals any of us goes through during our lifetime.

            In last Saturday’s Guardian (The Guardian, 20/2/21) several travel writers revealed their fantasy destination during the pandemic, that secret corner of the world they had accidentally discovered or that favourite spot where they kept coming back to over the years. Which is our fantasy lost paradise place, the one that felt painfully out of reach during the pandemic and what kind of desire it may represent? Is it about a time in our lives when we were care free, younger, loved up? Or about parts of ourselves we have not yet explored and which seem important to reach? It seems like where our mind travels can also be about loss, what was there not that long ago and is no longer there, like a buzzing Spanish tapas place in central London, where one could eat a delicious workday lunch out of tiny plates accompanied by a guilty glass of cava, while sat squashed and squeezed on uncomfortable bar stools. Sometimes, we do not realise when our lives are buzzy and luminous until something important is lost.
            When I think about the places I travel to in my mind, where I have been before or the destinations on my bucket list, they all seem to represent a cherished moment in my life or a sense of a connection I am yet to discover, but which seems important to hold on to. Most of my mind travels, I would say, are urban, they are about mingling, diversity, discovery, anticipation, a sense of things unravelling. Yet, many other dream places in my mind are watery landscapes dominated by the sea in its many interesting guises, whether turquoise and sunny like the Mediterranean, grey and turbulent and vast like the Atlantic or endlessly blue and warm and humid like in the Tropics. The places I dream of travelling to, those on the top of my bucket list have strong urban (most often with a foody/gourmet element) or watery features or both such as Japan, Mauritius, Vietnam, Bali, Marrakesh etc. This is no surprise, as I grew up in Thessaloniki, a city I loved with a strong urban feel, with renown food culture and where every road led to the sea, Travelling to different destinations is like people who have had a number of long term relationships, the so-called serial monogamists, who may explore a slightly different and yet, familiar part of themselves through the eyes of each subsequent partner.

            Will our mind travels turn to actual travelling by the end of this spring, and will we then stop fantasising about that sublime place we would love to have access to? I doubt that the transition will be easy or smooth and I don’t mean practically only. It is well known that after a time of imprisonment many suffer a form of Stockholm’s syndrome. With a bit of luck, during this late part of the pandemic, we may begin discovering our areas of entrapment, the ways in which we cannot easily let go of our abductor as well as the avenues we can create towards freedom. Yet, before our travels become more literal, it may be worth asking the question: What do our dream places tell us about ourselves lost and found?

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