Is it the end of travel as we know it? Should it be?

Is it the end of travel as we know it? Should it be?

By David Gillett

Will this be the end to our travels?

Nothing could have been further from my mind as I rubbed(rəb) elbows(ˈelˌbō) last May 1 in a crush(krəSH) of college scarves(skärvz), ball(bôl) gowns(goun) and grungy(ˈɡrənjē) hoodies(ˈho͝odē) in Oxford(ˈäksfərd), England. The dawn(dän,dôn) gathering below(bəˈlō) the Magdalen(ˌmaɡdaˈlēn) Tower, which attracted nearly 20,000 people, has been a tradition since Elizabethan(əˌlizəˈbēTH(ə)n) times.

There was a silly(ˈsilē), edge-of-sanity(ˈsanədē) smell to it all: Lunacy(ˈlo͞onəsē) amidst(əˈmidst) the quadrangles(ˈkwäˌdraNGgəl) of one of the world’s most prestigious(preˈstējəs, preˈstijəs) universities, bleary(ˈbli(ə)rē) eyed students drinking champagne(SHamˈpān) at sunrise, tiny kids dressed like fairies(ˈferē), ruddy(ˈrədē)-faced men in green who break out into Morris(ˈmôris) folk dancing in the streets. It all made sense in a strange way … the Mad Hatter would have loved it. He might have even been there.

But that was a year ago, in an age that seems a millennium(məˈlenēəm) removed from where we are today.

Attending a sunrise street party seems like a death wish. Oxford has no monopoly(məˈnäpəlē) on shutdowns of course. The heaving(ˈhēviNG) throngs(THräNG,THrôNG) have drained(drān) from Venice(ˈvenəs), like a bloodletting(ˈblədˌlediNG) from the poster child of tourist(ˈto͝orəst) overload. Times Square(skwe(ə)r) echoes(ˈekō) to the footfalls of the NYPD on the lookout for careless congregators. In London, a sober(ˈsōbər) quiet envelops(enˈveləp) Piccadilly(pikəˈdilē) Circus(ˈsərkəs), massive(ˈmasiv) digital signs shouting a mute(myo͞ot) warning(ˈwôrniNG) to a lonely street cleaner in a face mask.

For travellers, questions smoulder(ˈsmōldər) in the background behind the more pressing concerns(kənˈsərn) of ventilator(ˈventəˌlātər) shortages(ˈSHôrtij) and daily death tallies(ˈtalē): Can things plummet(ˈpləmət) so drastically(ˈdrastəklē) and yet pick up again when the danger fades(fād)? Will we ever travel again?

Perhaps that question needs some reframing(rēˈfrām): “Will we ever travel in the same way again?”

With the pause button pushed, there is an opportunity for a reset, a chance to rethink why we travel and how to do it better.