Travel in the time of coronavirus

Reading Covid — Craig Mod

Title derivative of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Craig Mod is young and healthy. Still, covid hit him “like a kick to the throat”. He avoided it for twenty-eight months. Almost no sooner had he left Japan, his cocoon of two and a half years, did ’rona take him for a ride. Soon I too will leave my cocoon, New Zealand, headed for the very same country Craig did so fatefully – England, my home.

Covid-19 reached New Zealand 864 days ago, and so far I have evaded it. It will find me eventually, but I won’t help it along. Avoiding the virus here in New Zealand has not been particularly arduous, life has been only minimally disrupted when compared to most other countries which saw less cohesive responses to the outbreak. Indeed life has gone on almost as normal outside of our two comparatively short lockdowns.

Things become less certain as homeward travel becomes more so. But five years away is long enough, it is time to go back, even if it means going a few rounds with this sobering supergerm.

Through the looking glass of this pandemic, and his bout with the bug that left him feeling like he had been “beaten by a dock worker”, Craig questions the justification for travel.

The romantic ideal of travel is to leave as one version of yourself and return another, changed, “better” of yourself. This trip changed me, but not in the ways you might classically expect. I’ve returned suspicious of travel, more confused than ever about why so many people travel. Unsure if most travel of the last few decades makes sense, or has ever made sense or justified the cost. It feels like some consumerist, un-curious notion of travel was seeded long ago and, like a zombie fungus, has mind controlled everyone to four specific canals in Venice. To a single painting at the Louvre. To three streets and a square in Manhattan. To a few rickety back alleys around Gion.
— From Covid by Craig Mod

It’s hard to argue with that. Hard, but not impossible. Because there can be more than that. Craig knows this, he knows it deeply. He’s scratched beneath those “four specific canals in Venice”, he’s vagabonded the full span of the Tōkaidō connecting us to the texture of its 400 year history, he’s explored how travel itself is a creative tool. In spite of his covid induced doubt, Craig has shown us that motion, and its less subtle cousin travel, are powerful tools for thinking, growing, and creating. So long as we are looking closely.

Of course, I need to believe that, for I mean to travel again. Slowly, in my own way, under my own steam, but travel I will. First home, then away again.