2 weeks ago

A Reader Writes: Covid Country

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I haven’t touched anyone since March 14. Not a handshake, a hug, or a kiss. Not a pinch, a push, a poke or a prod. Not a squeeze of a hand or a hearty backslap. Not a ruffle of a youngster’s hair, nor a touch of a smooth cheek. Not a tickle of a rib or a tap on the shoulder. No nudge of a back or brush of an arm. I have quite literally been an island. One of those islands you can see but can only reach at certain times of the day depending on the tide: think Mont St Michel – with an Irish accent! I can now tell the distance of two metres from 50 paces away. I can also see the word metres spelt wrong (meters anyone?) from about 100 paces!

No man is an island. Really? Welcome to Covid country where we are all, in some shape or form, an island. Perhaps you are part of a necklace of islands all interconnected such as the those found around the Pacific Ocean or maybe you are standing alone – a big island in a mass of water, like Iceland. Either way, we’re in Covid Country.

Cut off from everyone. Deliberately and consciously. It isn’t until you can’t do something that you realise how much you miss it. And for me ‘it’ is travel.

I miss travel. I miss touching new cultures, getting my tongue around the basic phrases that can get you out of trouble, that can stop a local in their tracks and change a scowl of being a ferengi to being a friend in a few seconds.

It isn’t until you can’t do something that you realise how much you miss it. And for me ‘it’ is travel.

I’m a traveller. My passports have over the years crisscrossed the globe. In the few months before lockdown, I was in beautiful Bhutan, hiking to Tiger’s Nest monastery, I crossed the Serengeti spotting lions, leopards and cheetahs in three straight days, trekked through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to find the Katwe mountain gorilla family and chased the sun zealously across Zanzibar. Travel plans have been shelved (Malaysia, Italy, Estonia for March/April/May) and so I took out my world map and finally got to scratch my way around the world and realised I have quite literally only scratched the surface of this planet of ours and so in solitary lockdown I am planning my next adventures.

Face masks and hand sanitiser will be added to my must-pack items, along with Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour cream, my hiking boots, my lucky St Christopher medal, camera and the relevant Lonely Planet guidebook, but I am excited about my next adventure – wherever it may be. Whether it’s to the Blaskets or the salt plains of Bolivia, Mayo or the Steppes of Mongolia, Galway or the rainforests of Gabon, I am in countdown mode for travel. Travel. And a hug or a handshake. Or both.

Sunset at the Serengeti National Park, January 2020 and a tree full of Maribous. Photograph by Joanne Byrne

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