Our new podcast episode is out: Continue reading
Together with my colleague Eva von Schaper, with the kind support of Journalismfund.eu, we are launching a podcast on the politics and values surrounding public health. Expect discussions on COVID-19, vaccination, masks, political debates on public health measures, data, and more. Please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts!
Have you noticed the desperation in the travel-addicted community over the past year? Out of habit or anxiety, many people I used to follow or still do tried to keep a similar level of talking about travel even when they were forced to stay put by the pandemic. Some shared photos of past travels. Others wrote posts about what they realised about the entire culture of travelling. Yet others shared their dreams and longings, and some still managed to sneak some travelling between constantly changing restrictions. I took some time to view these posts and hold their loss, understanding that many of them were really struggling with the sudden restriction of a habit that was making them happy.
But then, around April I think, I unfollowed all travel bloggers, except those who post interesting things about their country of residence. No bitter feelings or newly found anti-travel ‘wokeness’ here, it’s just that as they were raising social and sometimes economic capital for themselves with these posts and I was still travelling, I used to habitually check them out, maybe compare or get ideas, but as I viewed their posts for the last time in my lockdown shelter, I couldn’t see anything in them that held any value for me. I did not follow many cheery and cheesy ones anyway, but even the nice, reasonable, respectful ones, who could have claimed ‘I am a traveller, not a tourist’ or even denounced this claim because of its divisiveness, no longer felt like they are giving me anything. Instead, I embarked on several non-travel journeys, and I believe many people have, too.
It’s great that many prominent freelancers are sharing their #FreelancePies – we certainly need to open up the conversation about money. In this post I’m not going to disclose my total income, but I’ll show you what freelancing was like for me since I left my last stable job. I’m doing this to contribute to helping people who aspire for a career in writing to plan realistically. Also, I’m going to show this post to friends and anyone who holds some romanticised impression of freelance journalism. Obviously, my experience doesn’t represent an average freelance journalist in any country. It’s just, well, a slice of the industry.
Plaques, memorial gatherings, tourist itineraries and pilgrimages – many practices in everyday culture are about pinning lives to a specific place. When someone famous lived or died near or in a place that is now a commercial establishment, the history of that famous person will be immediately taken up to attract more people. But in London, writer Francesca Wade found a square that accommodated not one but at least five famous lives, and it doesn’t appear like it’s been exploited for tourism. The catch is, these famous people were all women.
Wade’s phenomenal research, which apparently took three years, fleshes out the lives of five writers as much as it is possible, with many letters and diaries deliberately destroyed as these women tried to curate the way they will be remembered. The book (see The Guardian’s review here) was included in the list of compulsory literature for my non-fiction writing diploma course at Cambridge in order to show us an example of using research. Last week we were also offered an opportunity to meet Wade herself and ask questions.
I have never been so ‘grounded’ for 12 years or so – although travel options briefly reopened in summer, going to see my family and friends in Lithuania became overly complicated, and going on a holiday abroad felt irresponsible. So since March the furthest I’ve been from this rock is a smaller nearby rock that is Gozo. This left me jealously watching my friends’ Instagram feeds, full of mushrooms, trees, camping, greenery, trees, hiking, and did I mention trees? I am exploring a fuller palette of feelings, by extension. Longing is not something I normally feel, but the intense longing to see trees enjoying themselves in a natural environment, with birds, bees and maybe even small mammals, resulted in a personal essay published in this lovely book. For the first time, I’m a published writer.
Yet it is other people’s writing rather than my own that kept me company throughout these dull and challenging months. And I am still trying to make a point to read literature from countries I couldn’t visit. Unexpectedly, I found myself looking for Lithuanian literature to replace a missing visit to familiar cities.
When I thought of what I wanted to do this year and things were still normal, I decided that it’s time to visit Iceland. One of the options was to go with a photography group straight from Malta. One or another way, the pull of this magical island seemed irresistible. But as we know, travel has been disrupted around the world, and I prefer not to contribute to increasing avoidable risks just for pleasure. What about my old dream to visit Iceland? Well, Project Gutenberg came to the rescue.
Spending more time at home forced many people to look closely at things in their lives. Buying, hoarding, stocking, keeping busy demanded materials. As much as our socialising, learning, and interacting moved online, our leisure and rituals became increasingly physical, and called for things to keep them this way. More cooking and baking called for more equipment. The absence of gyms asked for various tools at home. Replacing restaurants and cafes with deliveries meant constant accumulation of boxes and bags. People like me, who tried to live with minimal possessions and invest into experiences instead (travel, events, workouts, etc) had to completely reconsider their lifestyle, as most of these experiences became unavailable. Where does it leave our relationship with material objects? Continue reading
Numerous blogs, microblogs, magazines, and individual careers are all about travel. Now that travel is so heavily restricted, how does one write about it in a meaningful way?
The first inspiration for this post came from an instagram account that promotes tourism to Malta. Since 21 March, Maltese authorities suspended commercial flights, making leisure travel next to impossible. So if that account is all about promoting consumer travel, should it stop posting, or should it find new ways to keep its followers engaged? The account painstakingly sought out hashtags like #thankstotravel, #moretoexplore, #staycurious and others – and many travel bloggers and ‘influencers’ jumped at them too. Many of them desperately struggle to stay relevant as people ease into the new normal, but these promises of delayed gratification (‘you will be able to consume travel destinations in the future – meanwhile, please, please consume these promises of future consumption’) sound out of place and tone-insensitive.
Still, making snarky remarks about the struggles of these people and businesses to stay relevant as their livelihood is threatened would not be helpful. I believe that amid this crisis, we should use even stronger filters of kindness and helpfulness before we publish or post anything. Social critique of systemic flaws in the travel industry is helpful, because it is necessary for improving our societies, but picking on individual ‘influencers’ and businesses is not. Instead, I would like to invite them to critically reassess what’s helpful and kind in their business model.