Images of Escapism from a World Without Travel
Whether it was American college graduates foregoing a trip to Europe last summer (and postponing it once again this summer, too), people from across the globe deciding not to fly to New York to go to Times Square, or the devout delaying their pilgrimages to the holiest places on earth, COVID-19 affected everyone’s travel plans over the past year.
Before the pandemic, people traveled for family, pleasure, work, and religion. It is likely that travel for most of these reasons will resume to levels somewhat similar to during the ‘before times’, but traveling for the sake of pleasure—the least pressing reason to do so—will be affected for years to come by the pandemic.
I often catch myself daydreaming about a time when I can travel freely once again. In those dreams, I’m travelling for the mere pleasure of travelling. This pleasure comes from my desire to learn from seeing, touching, tasting and hearing with the sole intention of getting out of my comfort zone. Travel takes me out of the world that I am stuck in and lets me start anew, even if for just a few days.
Travel has brought me friends and experiences that have shaped my life so intensely that I could not possibly be the person that I am today without those experiences and relationships. I cannot imagine what my current life would entail without my past of travel, nor can I imagine my future without it. A world without travel, to me, is a lonely, lonely place.
But the matter of fact is that the day that I keep daydreaming about will not come to fruition for many months, if not years. As the pandemic drags on and the memories that inform my daydreams of travel have become hazy—overpowered by a year spent watching TV in my living room—I find myself drawn to the rolls of film that I shot travelling before the pandemic.
Sure, I can look through my phone at the hundreds of photographs I have from my various travelling exploits, but it is the act of scanning and working with a frame of film that brings me back to the moment that I snapped the shot. My inner Roland Barthes reveals itself more clearly when I work with film. Scrolling through the camera roll of my phone—filled mostly with cat pictures and the occasional major life moment or trip to another country—feels like the death of Barthes’ Camera Lucida
My family and I traveled to Morocco in January of 2020, two months before the pandemic ended nearly all global travel. Morocco, a country of unrivaled beauty that sits on the gateway of Europe and Africa, shielding the Mediterranean, provided me with one of the greatest travelling experiences of my life. The food brought me to my knees. The art left me in a state of awe. The history left me needing to know more. The people, hospitable like no other, made me not want to leave.
This selection of photographs I took in Morocco investigates the feelings of escapism that I have had throughout during the pandemic. They convey the sense of isolation that so many felt during a year without travel. Despite COVID’s effect on our collective senses of loneliness, these photographs show how lonely the world could be before the pandemic. After the whole world simultaneously experienced loneliness, maybe we can rethink the ways that we interact with one another, creating a more inclusive society that addresses the problems that cause the emotion.