Op/Ed

Ways of seeing: Pandemic offers global perspective

Lately, I have been binge watching travel videos on YouTube. They are a little escape. I just click from place to place, ogling the architecture and the natural scenery, drooling over street food, feasting my eyes on outdoor markets, and marveling in a sense of otherness.
I have always wanted to travel — a feeling that I need to go and explore somewhere new. Feeding this need is always a question of having time and money, but never before have I been as stuck as I have been during the Pandemic. Never before have there been actual travel restrictions keeping me from picking up and flying to anywhere in the globe. I think this has led to my recent gluttony of travel programs, which I sometimes watch until my eyes glaze with sleep. I look down to find several hours have passed while I have been vicariously globetrotting through camel festivals in Pushkar, sunken Roman ruins in Turkey, and mosques in Uzbekistan.
Wanderlust — that is the feeling. The word has Germanic roots. Wandern means “to wander,” and lust means “desire.” Combined these words express the need to travel — not to a particular destination or with purpose, but simply the need to move, or rather, to not stay in the same place.
My wanderlust has always been there, but tempered by my love of Vermont and home. While I itch to go, I also love the idea of putting down self-sustaining roots, growing a garden, and raising chickens. Unfortunately, these things seem mutually exclusive and so I have this dichotomy of desires that have yet to come to an agreement. Even when I travel, I am looking for home. Every new place I go I can picture a life for myself. I see an old abandoned mansion for sale in Phnom Penh and imagine restoring it and filling the garden with native plants; a school in Japan and I imagine a life teaching there with an apartment and a scooter to drive around the city; a rural village in Ghana and I imagine a life pulling water out of a well and cooking over charcoal fires. Endless directions my life could go and it seems impossible to just pick one.
In addition to videos giving me tantalizing glimpses and Instagram-worthy shots of other places, I have been voraciously reading travel books. In one, the author ponders the idea of travel as a catalyst for learning about your own home. A fresh perspective on your life after being away and experiencing something completely different and other, is perhaps the best way to learn about yourself and your home. I wonder if all my travel to other places is what has led to my love of home. Perhaps it is travel itself that created this quandary of mine. If so, the global perspective, experience, and education travel has provided have been worth it. By traveling somewhere different we can reassess our lives and perhaps that glimpse of our own lives from the outside allows us to see how our lives fit into the global collage.
Meanwhile, I am stuck here in a Pandemic winter. I am trying to enjoy the season by taking advantage of the ice rink in town, better this year than I ever remember, by going snowshoeing and skiing, drinking endless cups of tea, and reading so many books. Left to contemplate this internal struggle between wanting to be here at home, and wanting to be everywhere else.
Claire Corkins grew up and lives in Bristol and studied Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic in Maine. After college she worked abroad teaching English as a second language. She currently works with her father in such various endeavors as painting houses, tiling bathrooms, building porches, and fixing old windows. She hikes, reads, plays ice hockey, travels, and wishes she could wear flip flops all year round.

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