How to See the World When You’re Stuck at Home ?!

How to See the World When You’re Stuck at Home ?!

When you are in quarantine or cancel your flight, you can still go on a trip. the secret? it's Google Street View.

The other day, bored by the quarantine orders, I became a virtual traveler, staring at pictures of public places that had been abandoned in the wake of the global coronary pandemic: the soccer game in Germany, played in front of thousands of empty seats, the San Marco square in Venice, vacant except for a number Few disorganized pigeons, the huge empty courtyard of the Great Mosque of Mecca, which is usually full of the rim with worshipers roaming the Kaaba. These are places built for humans, but there were no humans. It was like looking at what the future might look like after our departure, a disaster movie without the movie part.

Our country is slowly wrapping its head around this disaster in slow motion. Life cannot continue as usual, at least for the foreseeable future. We are entering wartime into isolation. Everyone should do their part. A friend canceled a lunch with me a few days ago, and wrote, "I am active social divergence at this time. I don't mean to downplay your business."

Nothing took. We all learn new vocabulary for pollination: self-quarantine, shedding period, curve flattening, an inflection point. We learn the exact dimensions of close communication. We shake the elbows. We sing "Happy Birthday" twice while washing our hands (I can't really get the first verse); we're working remotely; we're embarrassingly running our online lessons; we (for reasons I still don't quite understand) are buying ridiculous amounts of toilet paper. As I read this, there may be a whole new reality.

We are also canceling our travel plans, at rates not seen since 9/11. Then pictures of empty places. Our family was supposed to travel to Charleston, Southern California, in mid-March for a short break, but we made the wise decision not to go. Like many American families with young children, we are wandering around a voluntary stone cocoon, with a bean storehouse, a shelf full of Boulder D., Hippos Hungry Hungry Hippos and a whole host of uncertainty.

My wife and I also try to legalize our online news coverage about Covid-19, as we find a special mix of tales from Italian hospitals, charts of exponential injury rates, and general anxiety for every elderly person we know don't do good things for our blood pressure. How can Twitter give you more and more at the same time? Needless to say, I have been eating a lot of Cheetos.

Also, I was looking forward to our trip! It was a long and frail winter. We wanted to rest, away from our regularly scheduled programs, out of the routine boredom of our breakfasts and welded Rice Krispies light blouses. For this reason, we travel: to force ourselves to take a soul, to bend space and time, even for a moment. We go there to go back and appreciate it here.

Over the past year, given that the climate crisis has consumed my head and most writing projects, I have been traveling less and less there. I had to address the question of whether flying for pleasure can be morally justified anymore. As you can imagine, this is a deep existential area for the travel writer.

After a lot of anxiety, and the guilt weight of fossil fuel manufacturing versus the individual, I ended up at a weak philosophical equilibrium point where I will reduce my air travel, and choose my flights carefully, but I will not say categorically not to all travel. I will try to plan more trips locally, and I will look for alternative ways to find magic.

It turns out that such a mentality, also useful in times of epidemics and self-stone. Immediately after we canceled our trip to South Carolina, Max, my 3-year-old, took a break from Hungry Hungry Hippos and tried to return the journey by default, using one of my favorite tools in the world: Google Street View.

On my computer screen, we pretended to land at Charleston Airport. You have provided the narration. We rented our car, which smelled like Twizzlers and a wet pack of cigarettes. On our way out of the airport, Max discovered this T.S.A. A dangerous reading factor and a roadside walk. (I like to think she was reading Albert Camus.)

We caught some fresh grouper at Crosby's Fish and Shrimp Co., to be grilled later. Max threw stones at the water. After a little wandering, we stumbled upon a crazy dance party on the beach. We stared at the lighthouse of Morris Island from the beaches of Rat Island. Then when we looked at the people’s long, strange paths to their personal sidewalks, we asked: How long were they so long? Soon Max felt bored and left the room and stopped with this man for some time, and although we may have disagreed on more than a few things politically, we have been linked by being fathers and fate to getting rich to Red Sox rags and our childhood love for "Adventures in Babysitting".

google street view

In short, I was traveling and discovering. Maybe not in the body, but I was an explorer though. I was fascinated by the world of deception in Google Street View a decade ago. I often resort to it as a research tool when writing a novel but most of the time, I use it simply to practice being a curious human being. What an incredible resource! An endless fountain for small details. You can walk around almost any street in the world, without the hassle of snow, rain or night depression, completely safe, take Chitose, and if you get tired of your trips, you can immediately move to a whole new place on a new continent.

What I find particularly tempting about Google Street View is that it claims to be a very objective document for our world. It is simply the product of a car (or motorcycle or park) driving down a street that takes pictures. But, of course, it is not an objective document. Humans object, as they always do, filling every scene with stories. We wear horse fashion. We leave children unattended in front of Gucci stores. We see a Google car pass while we are clipping grass and feel we are forced to show our dream to the world. This is how you roll.

Google Street View also reveals something that regular travel can't do: how the place changes over time. Every time Google car passes, a new collective memory is created. The pelvis grows. Such a mass in front of what is now the 9/11 memory, recorded in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2019. The wound heals in slow motion.

Try it with your own mass. Street View has a miraculous way to make the familiar unfamiliar. How many times have I gone and seen my childhood home from different angles? Or my old school? Or my first tribal site, now blanked in a new mall?

Something is puzzling about existence but not there, about being everywhere and anywhere simultaneously. Geospatial distance leaves us wanting and hungry for more. I am amazed by the human landscapes, the way people are separated from their bodies, and the way everyone's faces are blurred as if they no longer exist (sometimes they no longer exist). This is our world, but it is not ours.

In 2015, London-based Visual Editions publisher approached me to create a digital book for their series, "Editions At Play." The idea was to make a book that could only be read on a smartphone. With the help of programming from Google Creative Lab in Australia, I authored "Entries and Exits", a short story that has been told via Google Street View, about a smitten man who has a key that can open any door in the world. The story, like Street View itself, has no end.

But I will also be the first to tell you that Google Street View is not a substitute for the real thing. Traveling in the real world is about contact: physical contact, surface contact, contact with new foods, new water, new scents, new light, new languages. The strange thing is that at this moment in time, surrounded by the invisible threat of infection, we are supposed to reject every contact, retreat, and fortify our bodies from the world.

Then what do you do? When we cannot travel by ourselves, and when we cannot lay our hands on there, how can we recreate this sense of wonder and discovery?

Part of the answer may lie in the travel writer's model that works with the cool Tech Toolkit. What we often crave is a meeting of the mind with a place, to follow a curious person while treating foreign landscapes, and to make discoveries, steps, and leaps of faith. Then, at some point, we want to peel off and make our own vision, take our own steps, and make our own leaps. As Camus once wrote, "You get to know your path by discovering the paths that deviate from it."

There are some models available for such a coordinated and fascinating exploration, such as the now-worn "Night Walk", a beautiful nightlife tour of street art in Marseille, or "Welcome to Pine Point", an "interactive documentary" about the mining community in the Northwest Territories. In Canada, which lasted long enough for its residents to form a world of memories around the place. These are great pieces of online art but they are not quite like real travel.

Lately, with the advent of available virtual reality headsets that don't make you puke everywhere, an explosion has occurred in VR travel apps. Google Earth VR has its own version, while others claim to take you to Grand Canyon or swim with sharks. Not to underestimate the educational value of some of these experiences, but tying a contraindication to your head still looks like a form of regression, not a form of communication. I'm still the best contemplative video for people who simply walk through the cities. As this field grows, perhaps we will see more examples of the beautiful organization that still leaves us room to wander off the path.

Meanwhile, the answer may simply be reading more books, and the most beautiful and active art form remains perfectly suitable for quarantine for small groups. I just read "The Dawn Flight Trip of CS Lewis" to my 6-year-old son Holt. Reading such books aloud and participating in the story seems important at a time like this.

The Dawn Treader Journey is a poker cruise in imitation of old Norse tales, after the good ship Dawn Treader as it travels through the magical archipelago full of slave traders, dragons, and locals en route to the brink of universality. Holt and I had many discussions about whether there was an advantage to our world. It was a trip that I will remember more clearly than most of the real trips I've ever made.

But perhaps the obvious solution to finding wonder in this survival season is that some of the best trips await us where we are now. Today, I broke and quarantined our house and walked into the woods. We wandered through the woods looking for perfect walking sticks. We liked how the earthworm was not sad because he had no legs, we were pretending we were looking for a legendary bear named Steve. At one point, we were astonished by a group of deer to do Beirut through the brush. Max froze in admiration for this running physics.

When our trip ended, we went home and made hot chocolate. The outside world looked very close and far.

Max sipped hot cocoa very slowly as if he wanted to taste it for weeks to come.

Finally, he stopped and said, "We've gone too far, right?"

“Yes, I said.” Let's do it again tomorrow.

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