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At a time when only "necessary" travel is allowed

TO TRAVEL: Where are you going to travel when the pandemic ravages the destination? In the literature, of course. On the deserted islands of the books, you can stretch up the hammock without being infected by anything other than longing.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

A few years ago, the time had come to clean out Grandpa's apartment. A long life was to be sorted into four piles: "throw away," "save," "give away," and "sell." Worn photo albums, umbrellas with squares and paisley pattern, tower with white sheets in thick cotton quality. Well-used bread molds, outdated screwdrivers. And books. Long lines with "Who, What, Where", English novels and ragged crime. But then at the bottom; several meters of tired fabric backs and titles faded in gold:

Polynesian Passat. South Sea adventure. Sun over Guatemala. Inca's will. Tai-Pi – four months among the natives of the Marquesas Islands. Happy is he who finds his island. Shelf meters upon shelf meters with longing away from sour Norwegian winters. Several of the books had underlined descriptions of exotic places with a thin pen. Grandfather, he who never traveled further than the cabin on the mountain. And preferably no longer than the earplug chair in his own living room. Grandfather – an armchair adventurer! It was a different time. The world was more difficult to access, and perhaps some were read during the war, when the world outside the chair was closed and locked to most people.

Now we have our own war – the war against viruses, and again we have a taste of a world we can not reach.

But does it really matter? The travel ads promised hidden gems, but the islands were fully booked. They promised brown skin, romance on the beach, happy children. Then there were dandruff, blisters, chlamydia and sour kids instead. We wanted heat, so they got too hot. We wanted peace but just got stressed.

And so feriens boring predictability then; You've surfed the web and seen it all before. The beach, the old cathedral – and the restaurant you eat at were recommended by the neighbors who were there last year. The Paris Syndrome is called that; when tourists have longed for the destination, and are so disappointed when they arrive that they need psychological help. No wonder complaining about the holiday is a recurring theme with consumer ombudsmen and travel companies.

Once upon a time it was different. I Agnar Myklebostads novel Rubicon the main character, the student Valemon Gristvåg, is so overwhelmed by crossing the border from Denmark to Germany that he compares it to Caesar's crossing of Rubicon (hence the book's title). No way back now! And when he then crosses the border into France, his promised goal for the journey, it completely takes off: Valemon turns his motorcycle up on his shoulder, pulls down his trousers and preys on the first and best he comes across; a tree!

When was the last time you were just as excited about coming to a new place?

The desire of the journey is, as the desire always is – impossible to satisfy. In what is called travel psychology, it is precisely desire that is important. Desire gives the individual movement and direction, makes it pull towards something. The desire itself is empty, that is, it only points out the direction, not the goal, the goal remains unclear, and the closer you get, the more unclear it becomes. It is simply not possible to reach the goal and satisfy the desire.

A journey in shelves

The good news is that you do not have to travel to get away. Celebrity Psychiatrist Finn Skårderud calls himself a bookcase traveler. In the book Unrest he describes how the restless modern man needs to Stopover. To travel is to meet others to better meet myself, a search for wholeness and context, he writes. But when the physical journeys, at least the longest ones, are not recommended, you can just as easily travel on the bookshelf. "There is an obvious relationship between reading and traveling," writes Skårderud. "When you read, you are looking for something foreign, and what you can find is the foreign in yourself."

A book is also a means of transport. Maybe the best? IN literatureone becomes the journey just as you envision. If you do not like where the sentences take you, you can just stop reading. And bonus: We do not have to bring ourselves! At least the parts of us we like the least. Because without exception, we always have with us wherever we go, we take with us all our anxieties, phobias, irritations and our tired body.

A book is also a means of transport. Maybe the best?

And besides: the feeling of being on a journey, ie away – has become less because you carry with you family, friends, work, bills, unread messages and duties in your pocket. You will not escape unless you leave your phone, and it really requires adventure.

No, only in our mental journeys can we enjoy the view, I read in the little quirky book How to travel. Only in our mental journeys can we enjoy the destination without this annoying moment that is ourselves. We have with us what we wanted to travel from in the first place, yes, we ruin so many journeys by the annoying habit that we should always have with us.

The desert island of literature

Maybe in the future we have to prepare anyway for more trips to go via the armchair. For even when quarantines and closed borders have been crossed, the future could offer new obstacles to the hitherto limitless existence of the privileged. More expensive airline tickets, restrictions on the number of flights, destinations that no longer welcome tourists, terrorism, economic crisis… and so on; several pandemics.

Sometimes you have to lose, to understand what the value of what you had. And maybe it's like that with travel. Maybe we're back to the point where a student might want to take off their pants and rape a tree in a trance over knowing that a border has been crossed – and that might not be the worst thing that came out of this pandemic. Maybe we just lived in a small pocket in history, a strange fold where we could without thinking about spinning the globe and travel where we wanted. Maybe our children will look at the pictures of us in front of all the wonders of the world and wonder how it was. Maybe they will look at us as we look at explorers a few hundred years ago – with both fascination and disgust.

There may not be much to post on instagram from the ear tag chair, or wait, of course it is, you can just take a picture of the book. Or maybe you should leave it at that. The adventurousness of putting down the mobile phone of course also applies to armchair travel.

By the way: grandfather was actually once traveling. Africa, he called the goal. He never specified the country, but from the image of my grandmother a little strained on a camel's back, it may look like Egypt. They did not like themselves there, any of them. It was too hot. Masete sellers. Also that snake then – that a man in a dress (!) Insisted on putting around his grandmother's neck. Uh! Disgusting!

I'm pretty sure the only desert island my grandfather longed for was the armchair with the fruit pattern by the window. The sound of trams, coffee makers and town hall bells, where the only snake was in ink of seven letters. Longing – oh, it's not the worst. Everything beautiful and good grows up in the shelter of it, as Fridtjof Nansen said. It is probably not for nothing that books are called litteraTUR.

Anne Håskoll-haugen
Håskoll-Haugen is a freelance journalist,

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