As I write it is a weekday morning of ominous pandemic news but comes as well with the usual blizzard of non-pandemic new things alighting in my inbox.
And this morning's blizzard includes a photo-essay displaying photographer Lazar Gintchin's depictions of "Magical Fairytale-Like Landscapes of the Faroe Islands".
I have never been to the Faroe Islands but had always, until very recent times, been sure that one day I would visit that North Atlantic archipelago of starkly, ruggedly beautiful islands and islets far off the coast of Northern Europe.
Much of my overseas travelling has shown a northern bias, a fondness for bleakly lovely places. Studying the Faroes I knew it, too, would be my kind of place. I knew one day my sturdy and sensibly-muscled legs would take me along some of the Faroes' dizzyingly spectacular, windswept clifftops, to places where puffins dare. My soul, by me confidently promised an excursion soon to the Faroes, began to look forward to that profound excursion, to count the sleeps.
My point in making this heartfelt expression of nostalgia for the future is my once fond expectation of visiting the Faroe Islands may be dashed forever now, by the pandemic.
Now, alas, those of us who loved to travel and who sensed seeing the world was what life was for, are faced with something London-based writer Henry Wismayer fancies may be, because of this pandemic and its possible successors, "The End of Travel".
"I guess it was inevitable," he grieves in his thought-kindling piece, "that as the pandemic dragged on, that many of us would be plunged into nostalgia for the journeys we took in the past.
"For while it may be glib to bemoan a lack of adventure in a period of global bereavement and anxiety, the drastic contraction of international movement is likely to be one of COVID-19's most momentous cultural and economic ramifications. The old way it was practised, at vast scale, and across increasingly porous borders, has begun to look like it might be a terminal casualty. At the time of writing, there are only memories, and the work of reorienting ourselves to a more inert and less hospitable world."
His diagnosis of the end of travel is especially poignant for those of us who are gnarled by age. We perhaps have few years of globetrotting left and had hoped to make a busy use of them before our withered legs no longer allow us to trot up to the Faroes' clifftops, to trot us up to Hadrian's Wall and the Great Wall of China enable us to hurdle them in a single ecstatic bound.
"I've travelled a lot, certainly more than is usual," Wismayer reminisces.
"In hindsight, the best word to describe my compulsion to move isn't wanderlust but dromomania ... a consuming fixation, unthinkable for the vast span of human history, that even today, after months of immobility, I struggle to imagine living without."
Dromomania (I had to look it up) is an extreme form of wanderlust, a kind of psychiatric condition, driving those possessed by it to be always restlessly gadding about and plotting tomorrow's gaddings.
"Recalling those travels now," Wismayer muses, "it is tempting to view them as having straddled travel's golden age.
"In the first 20 years of the millennium, international tourism arrivals more than doubled, from 700 million in 2000 to almost 1.5 billion in 2019. Over that period, travel, for those of us lucky enough to enjoy it, has become synonymous with wellbeing, a vital adjunct of a fulfilling life.
"[But] as I determined to write an elegy to this era, however, I was surprised to find myself feeling not just nostalgia but also ambivalence - at once reeling from the cessation of global travel and quietly resigned to the idea that the breakneck experientialism of the pre-COVID world had to be derailed.
"Why, for me and others, did the desire to experience other places - evolve into such a burning need? Was there more at play than simply the decadent joy-seeking of a generation who could? Or was it merely a selfish moment in time, one that we now see, in the stark light of a pandemic's recalibration of our priorities, for the indulgence it always was?"
Yes, as us presently pandemic-grounded globetrotters pace our necessarily small and limited places like caged beasts, yearning for a first glimpse of the Faroe Islands, for another experience of the wonders of Oslo, of Glasgow, of St Petersburg, of Shanghai, of Chimborazo, Cotopaxi and shining Popocatapetl we may wonder if there was something dromomaniacal, about our previous frenzied globetrottings.
What was it that we travelled for? Why this hunger for other places when one already lives in a comfortable paradise (Canberra)? Why lug the luggage of our bodies anywhere when good imagination and a good book will take one everywhere at almost no expense? Who needs Qantas?
"There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away," divined Emily Dickinson, who lived so narrowly, never even ever seeing the sea, but whose creative imagination was as free as a wandering albatross.
Why the urge to be forever on the skedaddle to difficult places teeming with foreigners, and puffins?
Dr Johnson was sure "the man who is tired of London is tired of life".
What if the Canberran so misguidedly tired of many-splendoured Canberra that he yearns for North Atlantic archipelagos, for anywhere else, is weary with life itself?
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Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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