SOCIETY TALK

In solitude we learn what really matters

Everyone is figuring out what they value most during this pandemic

In Summary

• It took extreme circumstances for us to appreciate our lives' most invaluable things

The writer walks the cobblestone paths of Old Tallinn, Estonia
The writer walks the cobblestone paths of Old Tallinn, Estonia
Image: NABILA HATIMY

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out and we retreated into our houses in fear, we kept faith that social distancing would clear out the pandemic before long.

Now that we have been indoors since mid-March, our faith has withered in the face of the harsh reality that we might be in this situation for a long time.

All we want is the sweet freedom we have been fighting for since colonisation. The freedom to go where we please, when we want to. The freedom to do the little things we took for granted before the world turned topsy-turvy.

The question we ask most now is ‘when’: When will coronavirus disappear? When will we be free to move around again? When will this nightmare end?

Instead of fretting over the grim present, most of us are coping with the situation by dreaming about things we will do once things return to ‘normal’. Personally, I believe that life going back to ‘normal’ is an abstract concept. Nothing will ever be the same. The pandemic has changed us in a way nothing else would have.

Coronavirus gave us a break from our realities, forcing us to take a step back and gain insight into our lives. Whether we were working too hard, seeing less of family or even having no time to stay indoors, in the last few weeks, we have had time to appreciate the most important things in life. From spending time with family to eating in restaurants, we have found a deep appreciation of the little things we took for granted.

I, for one, have found a deep appreciation for travel. I find myself dreaming of travelling again. I cannot claim wanderlust, nor am I the most travelled person in the country by any means. But I do enjoy taking trips to different places on occasion. I find myself dreaming of paths I have not yet walked. I dream of following cobblestoned streets that lead to the oldest cities in the world. I close my eyes and see myself on evergreen mountainsides in the remotest parts of the world.  

The travel bug has bitten me when I am in isolation. The fever that will have no cure for the next few months. Because I am forced to stay in, I have appreciated the value of the outdoors. I can now recognise travelling is an essential part of my existence.

When I was travelling, I was not only exploring new things, new cultures and interacting with strangers. In a bizarre way, I was reconnecting with myself. Travel is not just about seeing the tallest building or walking the longest bridge. For me, it is a spiritual pilgrimage that awakens parts of me that I did not know existed.

In actuality, I have been bracing myself for the inevitability of the consequences that have shaken up the travel sector. I know that travelling will not be the same for a long time to come. As airports and borders have locked down and planes are using runways as parking spots, it will take a long time for travel to go back to what it once was. The freedom to hop from one country to the next is a privilege we took for granted pre-coronavirus days.  

It only took movement restriction for me to realise that travel is an essential part of my existence. While I have figured out the profound appreciation for travel, I am certain that everyone else is figuring out what they appreciate most during this pandemic.

It is unfortunate that we had to face extreme circumstances for us to appreciate the most invaluable things in our lives. Let us hope that this serves as a lesson well learnt. When the anticipated day of a post-corona world comes, that we will never take anything for granted. That we will cherish all that is dearest to us.