The past is a foreign country, travels back in time

As I write from our apartment in Berlin, the sun glaring from bright blue sky, my irritating digital calendar has just reminded me that I’m supposed to be in Southern Italy’s Puglia region, exploring ancient cities and eating seafood along the Adriatic coast. It wasn’t too long ago that I was naively optimistic that the coronavirus outbreak in the north of Italy would only be a minor inconvenience and life would largely go on unhindered. Since then, normalcy has become fantasy.

Instead, we’re living in a catastrophic global pandemic in which many thousands are dying, millions have lost their livelihoods and many, many more are self-isolating. The levels of uncertainty about the scale and duration of the crisis are crippling, and our political leaders seem helpless or incompetent in the face of these events. Only in early March I was in Venice, now Europe is in lockdown and movement of any sort is verboten.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira, Morocco
Kayan girl, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tea picking, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Food market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yesterday, I made the short trip to my local supermarket, the first time I’d been outside for three days – I’ve never been more grateful that our apartment is equipped with two balconies. The streets were quiet, those people I did see were wearing face masks and ostentatiously avoiding physical proximity to each other. Getting vegetables and milk looks and feels a lot like the set of a zombie apocalypse movie. People seem fearful and suspicious of others.

Like everyone else, we’re trying to adapt, to support each other, our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues. Kindness and compassion have never had greater value. It is heartening that despite social distancing, people seem determined to build bonds – and not the financial type. It helps that supermarkets here don’t seem to be running low on toilet paper, clearly the fabric that ties us together as a society might start to fray otherwise.

So, what does someone who writes a blog about travel and living in a foreign country write about when their world suddenly shrinks to trips to the supermarket? Spookily, I wrote a post in mid-February (Travel, harmless fun or psychological disorder?) where I mentioned writing about countries I’d visited but which hadn’t appeared on this blog. Unlike Jeff Bezos and a couple of US Senators who sold millions of dollars of shares, I really didn’t see the coronavirus coming.

Now, with most of life lived indoors, instead of having new adventures it seems like a good time to relive some from the past. Not unlike the coronavirus crisis, this comes with certain restrictions. All journeys pre-digital photography are out of the question, the analogue photos are currently in the North of England and unreachable, as are the paper diaries in which I stored my memories. So that excludes Mexico, India, Nepal, Belize and Egypt (amongst others).

Beach, Giragala, Sri Lanka
Stilt fishermen, Galle, Sri Lanka
Hmong girl, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Washington DC, United States
South Beach, Miami, Florida, United States
Roman Τheater of Bosra, Syria

I’m looking forward to re-exploring visits to Morocco, Israel and Palestine (not without trepidation), Syria and Sri Lanka, as well as some city breaks to London, Chiang Mai, Istanbul, Miami and Washington DC. I’ve travelled widely in the United States (and, for a time, went to college there), but have few photos from those days. Despite that, let the journey into the past begin … and to anyone reading this, stay safe and healthy.

8 thoughts on “The past is a foreign country, travels back in time

  1. Likewise Paul. Thanks for your “pot-pourri”. You should go back to doing more people photography. You are very good at it. Love the young Kayan girl from Burma.
    I was indeed wondering about “travel blogs”. (Not sure what mine is actually). Dig in your archives… It’s fine.
    Be safe.

    1. I think your blog might be described as a time and travel blog (at least in part), it certainly transports me to different times and places. Most of my photos of people are related to my working life when I was in London, I get to visit less interesting places and communities these days.
      Hope all well Brian?

      1. All well Paul Thank you. You too? Germany seems in better shape than Frogland or the UK.
        Not sure what your working life in London was, but your people pix are very good. 😎
        Stay safe

  2. Most certainly there are those who saw this coming…..hmmmm, I’m sceptically awaiting the “news” that a miraculous vaccine Will suddenly “save” us from isolation.
    No thanks, not for me.

    1. It’ll be quite some time before either science or herd immunity catches up with this bug. We’re expecting to be in lockdown of some sort or other for some months yet and that’s in a country that seems to be managing this quite well (at least compared to the rest of Europe).

  3. Thanks for posting the wonderful photos of people around the world. Right now, we have more in common as we are facing crises around the globe. I look forward to seeing your photos in the future as I post the same. Travel for me is very important, but right now, so is staying home.

    1. The lockdown has at least meant I’ve been able to dig through my photos from before this blog was started. It’s been interesting recalling those earlier travels, but I’ll be glad when we can finally start to venture out beyond our immediate neighbourhood.

      1. I’ve enjoyed the Discover Prompts because it forces me to look in a different way at my pictures. But getting them organized? I have a long way to go!!!

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