People are now noticing what they previously took for granted. Does your dog seem a shade cuter? Or does that hibiscus drooping over your neighbour’s fence look redder than usual? The sun, even, seems to shine with a softer joy. New Delhi reached 37°C yesterday, but we barely felt it.
With so much time spent pacing around at home, or (if your neighbourhood allows it) walks around a contained block, people have gotten creative with their idea of micro travel. It earlier meant going for brief experiences that maximise your immersion in cultural or natural beauty, but now that we’ve got more time than needed, the focus is on finding novel ways of use, a pivot back to quality over quantity.
The world is going to come out different after the coronavirus lockdown, with changes not just in work behaviour, but also in the very definition of many activities. Here’s a look at what’s shaping micro travel today:
Well, it’s technically not that strict. People are spending more time by their balcony, terrace, patio—perhaps, even the sunroof—to capture their everyday views of the outside world. And it’s quite incredible to see how colours, layers and natural beauty can vary within the same rectangular frames of wood, stone and glass.
A Facebook group called ‘View From My Window’ has capitalised on this idea. Started on March 31, the group rounded up one million members in a few weeks, with thousands of pending submissions. As of April 29, they are no longer taking new members and posts.
Users from across the world share their daily sceneries in this group, and enjoy pictures shared by others. The idea is that while your view might be unchanged, so is everyone else’s, instilling a sense of patience and solidarity for the long fight ahead. It also affords a look into the beauty behind remote or ‘non-tourist’ neighbourhoods, rarely seen or visited until now. Facebook groups haven’t been as popular among younger millennials in the 2010s, but as older generations took to it—especially during the lockdown—they’ve seen a new creative boom.
Pop culture paradise
It’s not to say that millennials aren’t finding inventive ways to use the platform. A new trend among young Indian users is to create pages and groups where people ‘pretend’ to live in a different pop culture universe—it could be within the colourful and nonsensical world of Satyajit and Sukumar Ray, or a world of superheroes, or even old cinema and musicals. One group, perhaps desperate for stronger human connection, pretends that all members live in the same neighbourhood.
These worlds have their own aesthetics, as well as tailormade lingo that only followers may comprehend. It feeds into the natural response of escapism during times of duress—but isn’t most travel escapism anyway?
Turning the lens inward
Now that we can’t point our cameras towards sunny beaches, midnight dance performances or snowy treks, it’s been a challenge to find an outlet for our passions. But home is where the creative hearth is. Several Hindu New Years in 2020 saw people maintaining austere celebrations at home. Now, with the month-long celebration of Ramzan, young photographers are documenting what it’s like to have festivities without a necessarily festive atmosphere. These photographs aren’t your usual glossy shots of customs and rituals in respective cities, but reflect the mixed feelings of having to do it all in confinement.
Jemima Yong is another photographer showing a different side to solitude. The idea of capturing the same unmoving space over time isn’t new—photographers have done it to show changing seasons, resilience, or even the fragility of life—but Yong has chosen to memorialise a field near her house in London. While Facebook’s ‘View From My Window’ allowed no human figures, Yong’s Field 2020 is entirely about how people are using the same flat expanse over time. Documented in black and white, the series shows grandparents taking children on walks, a morning run, happy dogs, pensive folks glued to one spot—highlighting recreation while maintaining social distancing norms.
Does the field, despite no visible structures, points of interest or landscaping, have more to offer than suspected? And did we never notice this in our thirst to hunt for shiny tourist hubs and social-media magnets?
Documenting life at home also has a renewed following, away from the hurried desire to be everywhere all at once. Taking this breather sure reminds us to appreciate the outdoors more. If all that sounds like baloney, some enterprising individuals suggest setting up a mini ‘travel arena’ to relive your best memories, with souvenirs, postcards, suitcases and the like. But if you ask us, the cleanup after taking a few pictures doesn’t seem worth it. We’d rather take it slow, maybe catch up on some literature, and wait for the real deal.
The big question
Does all of this contribute to a new and wider idea of ‘micro travel’? It seems like it, especially for homebodies who don’t like stepping out even under normal circumstances. ‘To travel is to live’ is an idea ingrained within us all, pushed on by an industry that profits off the need to check places off a list. But from our windows, to personal depictions of culture, or even the virtual reality experiences that are popping up every two seconds, it seems that humanity can manage just fine without packing its suitcases every few months. As the lockdown continues, it’s likely that this search for authenticity in escapism will be probed further.