Glamorously we got so used to traveling beyond the two holiday trips per year that taking the cross-border experience away feels like a galactic loss. Pandemic travels have changed our perspective of global roaming around liberally. Responsible behavior can take away ostentatious expressions of free-will, yet what is NOW more important? Without the rule of law, humanity tends to slip into anarchy. As the millennia of failures broadened our understanding, policing ourselves does not generally work. Nevertheless, in some regions or states people behave more mindfully towards others. Usually in places that do not pamper the ego, glaringly inflated into harmful heights, but instead cherishing humbleness and politeness.
Pandemic travels of a better human being: be savvy and respectful
Curbing one’s appetites is not fun, yet we know deep inside that it is good for us. Unless, we emotionally blind ourselves. In a fair and constructive democracy as much as in any morally strong society, one’s behavior shall not harm the others. You have the right to destroy yourself, but do not infringe on the wellbeing of other living beings. Our distinct law systems globally agree on mutually regarding benefiting humanity as a whole.
In the case of invisible harms, such as deadly viruses it is extremely challenging to reveal the proof of the perpetrator’s guilt. Yet, you can kill by simply not wearing the mask and not following the hygienic protocols recommended by the health authorities. I am not exaggerating at all. These are no conspiracies (to rule over you clean and safe body!?), but plain facts known by trustable global organisations and science. These simple rules were unceasingly followed by the world’s most sensible people and those who can curb selfishness, desire and ego in following them. I learned that we shall strive to be but a shadow, to express ourselves but do not leave a permanent imprint on another life along our path. This is showing a pure respect, and still more healthy self-expressive than invading others. Our mere presence can be destructive. Would you desire another person to sabotage your wellbeing?
Still, if you must seek role models, here is one in tune with our tech-forward times. I find myself typing in the Silicon Valley. Here everyone meticulously wears the face mask even on the hiking trails and while running in the wide open space. There are many super smart people living around Stanford University, won’t you agree? In terms of health, I would do what they do.
From Europe through London to California the self is present
During my limited travels over the past year some behaviors stroke me like a naked octogenarian running across the Times Square. In Los Angeles, the closer to Hollywood you get, the less masks are worn. Hiking up the trendy Runyon Canyon, all the Insta-cool bare-chested, spandex folks bared their faces and did not mind social distancing. The same self-obsessed, public safety disregarding behavior I abhorred at London’s Hyde Park during the strict lockdown. That weekend in early March, me and my friend were the rare strollers wearing our facemasks in a place so crowded that Trafalgar Square during a demonstration would equal the density. Vicious new strains were recorded in parts of London by that time. Those folks would even protest wearing masks as infringing on their personal liberty. Where have we got in our democracy?
Have you thought of the nation where winter tourism was born? The most liberal country in Europe next to Sweden kept all the ski runs opened throughout winter. Taking the safer cross-country trails, luckily, perhaps it was the mountain breeze that protected us from any contagion in the vast open space. Switzerland is barely a nine million nation that also has lakes to its merriment. Boating is so easy here and so is hiking on the countless trails for the rest of the year.
Shed fear by embracing safer options: the vaccine debate
I got my second shot of Pfizer in the US and I am gratefully relieved off the others’ irresponsible behavior. Vaccine passports are a smart idea. If we want to keep traveling, we shall take responsibility for others’ health that our mere presence can seriously undermine.
Vaccines have saved historically countless lives. Millions of babies would not have survived beyond their first months or years. Potentially, our entire species would be extinguished by this millennium, when hopping on a cheap plane can spread any disease with a handshake. Therefore, facing the challenge of Covid 19 and any emerging dangerous strains, one cannot more agree that without the effective vaccine one should not be allowed to travel unless under a strict, supervised quarantine. During the past pandemics almost a half of humanity perished. Blame your government for being so slow enrolling this proven mass protection, science shall be applauded for the heroic speed it took to find the cure.
After passing our vaccine protocol, we still can carry the virus and can be contagious (luckily much less, but still) so wearing the masks in public is still better advised until we defy this vicious virus together. Whether I was in Italy or Beverly Hills, I was masked up. Interestingly in the later many more people wore the masks on the streets, while in Italy, so badly hit by the first round of Covid, had plenty of “chin warmers” socialising around.
Give up planning, embrace last minute opportunities or staycations
So, where to go now or perhaps soon? Planning crossing the borders under the current global emergency imminently slips into last minute arrangements. I was one one of the rare travellers that still whizzed between countries and continents over the past year. Yet, the main reasons why I have not contracted and not contained anyone else with the virus were: wearing the mask responsibly, meticulously cleaning and wiping my hands, my studious husband’s following the data and safety announcements with his sharp eagle eye. His planning around escaping to safer countries just before the numbers plummeted in France, Italy and Switzerland got us to the Bermudas, Florida’s beaches, England and California. This cost him days if not weeks of planning and constant changing. Frustrating, but with the right attitude icebergs melt. With only a few quarantine books and sweatpants in my suitcase we decided one morning to book a flight to California the next afternoon. Lots if paperwork, but worth getting our vaccines sooner than most in Europe did.
Rare opportunities must be grasped before they fizz away like a Jin from a bottle, yet a pandemic that still kills millions of people requires also a vigilant savvy of last minute planning combined with realistic forecasting skills. While being mostly an optimist, my mindset does not ignore the gravely reality. Yet, seeing the flip side of occurrences helps to balance the scales of judgement, shredding off fear. When life-death is on the line or serious consequences abound one must trust not just the guts, but follow the reason without the cloud of affective emotions. While yoga teaches clear vision and guides to higher consciousness, India, it’s birth country, is having its red light now in the pandemic. Not everyone is a true yogi in India, and more the chaotic life and density of humanity together with poor healthcare system trapped millions in the virus’s malware.
Clear horizons, embracing nature holidays
Literally, the ominous 2020 had the potential to bring clear vision to our lives. The eye doctors must have rolled up their pupils though. While giving you a 2020 rating for the physical quality of your sight would be pleasing, most of us could not see through the emotional and self-indulgent fog in our minds. That potential of a strange year dwelled in going in rather than outside. Psychologically, reclusive introspection is highly challenging. As my intense online study with the C. G. Jung Institute in Switzerland revealed, the individuation or self-actualisation is achieved only by a few dedicated people, Jesus and Gandhi are the few to name. Yet, we shall strive to learn enough about ourselves so as we age we become better stewards of our life. The pandemic offered a tremendous opportunity to do so and not virtually alone. Online, plenty of meditation and learning opportunities were offered free of charge. Still, we need to get out often for the sake of our sanity. Cities were off limits, so I have spent about four days in large metropoles during my pandemic travels (excluding obligatory quarantine in London). I had to battle an inner bug instead.
I have a travel virus, ever since I first ventured to Italy, lived across Asia and journeyed to South America, there was not a stop sign that would keep me in place. More on the road than at home, I was that odd human being who still managed pandemic travels during the ominous past year. Safely, as I mentioned earlier. Each trip being multiple-tested, wearing our masks and never let the housekeeping mending our room at hotels, no gyms, only nature walks and bicycles moved us around. It felt great to connect with nature, less noise, no crowds, a blissful feeling abounds.
The summer of 2020 was wonderful, but Europe especially is paying for its liberal indulgences of socialising and traveling as if the world was in 2019. The initial restraints of spring did not carried happily into fall, thus we are in a much worse situation in the round II. While most traveled to the Mediterranean beaches in July and August, we headed to the virtually empty central Europe. The Alpine hikes and bike rides were as amazing as my horse riding, and so was Prague, the architectural gem of Central Europe spread like a magic carpet to our spacious indulgence. Pandemic travels took us also through Provence late spring, Burgundy in June, Austria and Germany in July, Liguria and Milan in August, the timing was key.
Later, turning winter into an opportunity my sister with her fiancée snapped a bargain in Maldives. A reclusive island stay cannot guarantee access to best healthcare in case of an emergency, yet one had to weigh the pros and cons. Before 2021 spring hit they went to a safari in Tanzania and suntanning in warm Zanzibar. They were lucky though, as this was by far the riskiest trip of their lives, and they even had not idea. Ourselves being number-cautious, we embarked for the Bermudas. The most magnificent catch of that trip was that it was overwhelmingly local. Highly popular with cruise ships, the Bermuda beaches tend to be packed with tourists, but we had the sandy windswept coast just to ourselves, plus a few locals. Paradise! Further warmer countries offer more outdoor space for dining, which is far more safe than being limited solely to the indoor restaurants.
Love, family and the pandemic
I do miss all the people who lift me into a smile, puzzle my philosophical mind, challenge my perceptions, dance with me around their gardens or night clubs, yes, social distancing sucks, to be honest. Yet, there are other pleasures in life to rejoice in. Like food. Indeed, there is more in the daily fuel, sugar rush to satisfy or swirling pans in your kitchen (plenty of flips and turns around our stoves during the pandemic). Love goes through our bellies (someone said). Although being in love can make you forget eating as much as that comfort of food can feel like being unconditionally loved. Since Czechia had done very well during the first wave of Covid, we embarked on visiting friends and family during the summer. I published a series of photographs of the gorgeously deserted Charles Bridge that felt as spacious as before the fall of the iron Curtain. Ourselves isolating up till that summer, we were a small danger to our beloved ones, so we met everyone outdoors for jolly meals and recuperating walks. Glad, we did. I have not seen any of them since August (now, May stroke me out of the blue). The country dawned into the dark abyss of being the worst country in Europe in fall and winter, there was no gate back until the measures were long and strict enough to lower the spread of the virus.
Art, indoor exhibitions and live music
As much as I missed social contact, I was famished for art! While museums, theaters and galleries shut for most of the past year, short gaps opened their collections to the public. Pandemic travels proved to be more interesting when the art institutions were able to reopen. Most had to limit the number of visitors and that was a fairytale come true for a true art and space lover like myself. I indulged in each painting, sculpture and installation wholesomely.
In Vienna, the halls of Albertina, usually crowded with tourists, were deserted so I could meditate over the paintings by Wilhelm Loibl. I could truly connect with them, not barely glimpse over these framed artefacts.
In San Francisco the museums required advanced reservations and some were so popular that I was only able to find a slot for the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the very end of our California trip. I honestly do not miss the overcrowded openings at museums where one cannot fully engage with the pieces one likes. The limited attendees numbers suited me selfishly well.
We were unexpectedly pampered by a wonderful guitar and singing at Laguna Beach in California. As if the All-mighty ordered the musician at our first meal out in months. Set in a canyon just behind the beach, the alfresco experience rejoiced our hearts.
Exercise and wine tasting
I love the outdoor gyms! While some hotels already embraced breezy workout before the pandemic stroke, others set up some exercise machines on their terraces or by the pools. I felt so much more invigorated and gushing with joy after a peloton ride outdoors. In California, I took my first group class since October. While being limited to six participants on a rooftop, we all sweatted massively though our mask coverings. This group suffering connected us and encouraged our effort in a “cardio” yoga (it is extremely challenging to breathe properly during a cardio workout in the mask) taught by a kickboxing instructor. Regardless of being fully vaccinated, I joined the others in respect, not anger at the “stupid rules”. Mostly though, throughout the year we hiked even in the snow. I also finally met the almost two thousand year old Methusela. This redwood stalwart feels so overwhelming live, perhaps a group of eight could hug it. As if the tree spoke to me in its ancient tongue, approving of my increased time spent in nature, I became more sensitive to the magic life surrounding me beyond cities. The forest is as lively as a metropolis, yet to my mind it feels grounding and wonderfully joyous that no indoor exercise can provide such a profound sensation of zest for life.
Wine tasting also embraced safety protocols. By appointment only and vastly in the outdoors, protected by tented roofs or umbrellas when needed. I cruised Napa, Sonoma and the Santa Cruz best vineyards with a greater awareness. Limiting the number of wineries to one per day. Each occasion took close to two hours of welcoming generosity, strolling between the vines or sipping by an outdoor table set in the midst of the vineyards.
While I encourage joy on La Muse Blue, I also suggest seeking balance. I’m not a reforming preacher, yet perhaps we need the Renaissance of values-driven society to remedy the selfish individualism that plagued the 21st century men. A vast amount of serious research studying happiness (surely one of the most important aspects of our lives) confirms that attitude can move mountains, but also that a well measured restraint enhances our joy from the everyday small pleasures. Pandemic travels reminded me of how important for our common wellbeing is respecting the others’ liberty, their right to live and be healthy. Selfish behaviors will only lead to destruction. Take the Roman Empire, the corrupt Catholic clergy of the crusades, the French opulent kings, then Napoleon, the colonial superpowers and countless other overt and indulgent societies. We can change.