Remember when times were just...interesting? Ah, the good old days! When quarantine sounded like an exotic nectarine and we didn't keep a running score on how many people got sick and died every day. We're not going to beat this virus, but we will flatten the curve so our health services can cope, even if we have to drive the economy at high speed into a steel cliff to do it. Of course, all this is good practice for the true zombie apocalypse, and plenty of anxious quality family time ahead. Watching the world react has been the most insightful reality show ever produced. Wouldn't it be ironic if Donald Trump was brought down by a virus from China with the name of a Mexican beer? Wouldn't it be strange if a pandemic put the breaks on our excessive materialism, global emissions, and political absurdity? It's certainly taken care of the Overtourism conversation...although I don't think Venice, Dubrovnik and Iceland will have to worry once the virus inevitably subsides due to media fatigue, vaccines and whatever virus awaits the next time someone gets kinky with a horny armadillo. For this will happen again. And again.
A global crisis will either bring the world together, or tear us even further apart. As I write, there are plenty of people and organizations working hard to make both scenarios a reality. No sports, concerts, events, festivals? No cruise ships, parades, parties, schools or restaurants? No offices, no staff meetings, no touching, no looking, no French kisses or Italian hugs? How much can the economy take? Will it snap back with vengeance, or evolve into something altogether different? When the curtains drop, and the Coronovirus circus ends, will humanity celebrate with a debauchery the planet has never seen before? There's a scene in the prescient Kathryn Bigelow film, Strange Days, that shows a city combusting. You're not quite sure if the masses are rioting, protesting, destroying or celebrating. That's what we can look forward to when this is all over. Business as unusual. Meanwhile, as icecaps melt and forests burn, scientists are beseeching the world to do something already about climate change, a call to arms that mustered but a fraction of the response to the latest pandemic. To use another entertainment analogy, I can't help but wonder if the coronavirus is akin to the politics of Kings Landing in Game of Thrones, while the larger existential threat of the White Walkers marches ever closer. Climate change won't just target the vulnerable elderly: it's coming for us all. Forgive me, I've just been streaming too much.
Speaking of which, I'm delighted to share news that my show (the most misspelt title in the history of television) WORD TRAVELS is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. That's all three beautiful seasons, filmed in 36 countries, visiting spectacular locations to tick off incredible adventures that will inspire dreamers of all ages and interests. Since it's likely most of the world is going to be in quarantine for a while, I hope you'll continue to feed your travel bug, keeping that poor, battered creature nourished within the insulated warmth of your soul. Rest assured, the planes will once again take off, the ships and trains will depart, the museums will open, and the world will be a better place soon. I know this, because it has always been so.
Note from the Future: The post below was written just a few months ago, and already it is a time capsule. The full onslaught of Orwellian-sounding "social distancing" had yet to be implemented, perhaps because authorities were still counting on people taking their initial "low-risk" measures seriously. Too many people didn't. It's always harder to motivate with a pretty-please as opposed to the fear of big sticks. I believe many aspects of the measures to combat COVID-19 are still way over-the-top and based more on a political-charged narrative than empirical data. Wearing a bottle on your head is still as stupid today as it was back then. Still, I acknowledge there's a reckless flippancy to the below, and apologize if it causes offence accordingly. Some posts are indicative of the time in which they were written. Unfortunately, a pandemic of ignorance will continue to remain as relevant as it ever was.
Someone needs to just come out and say it: We have full-scale pandemic of unprecedented proportions! Scientists have now proven that if someone even looks at you askew in 2020 - and that someone happens to have neighbours with distant relatives in remote Pingxiang - it’s pretty much guaranteed your cranium will machine-gun mucous from your double-barrel nostrils and vaporize everyone within a fifty-two-mile radius. Oh, how we look back fondly on Ebola, which conveniently only killed people in Central Africa, victims that never gave us anything remotely as delicious as Balsamic vinegar. Remember how Zika deformed that entire generation of children? No joke is it, sitting behind millions of kids at the movies with their ginormous, misshapen, screen-blocking heads. Flus from birds and swine killed hundreds of millions across the galaxy, but somehow we endured, and let’s face it, waiting on hold for internet support is more manageable as a result. Humanity is nothing if not tenaciously opportunistic. We endure and survive and thrive in the face of asteroids and dinosaurs and cancelled Series A football matches. At least until the Coronavirus came along, this deadly contagion that spreads at the speed of light by sound, light, fluid, metal, thought, and more alarmingly, urine-hued Mexican beer.
Vigilance must be practiced. All schools must shut indefinitely so we can return to healthy states of stupidity. All social, religious and trade events must cease so we can withdraw into fear-crazed paranoid isolation (don’t worry, Amazon deliveries will continue unabated, Jeff Bezos will take care of that). It is necessary to close all the factories, shops, stores and businesses, because the virus can’t get us if we’re unemployed and starving to death during an economic Armageddon. Ground all boats, trains and planes, which are the true super disease carriers, transporting viruses under the finger nails and poorly disinfected toilet seats. And ban all Chinese nationals, I mean all of them, even the ones who have absolutely nothing to do with any of it, because although racism is a virus too, some viruses must thrive for others to wither.
There is now a 99.9% certainty that you will die within the next one hundred years. There’s simply no escaping it: YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. So please don’t judge imbeciles buying three tonnes of toilet paper and locking themselves up in quarantine because they sprained a toe. Celebrate their vast concern for the community, even as they run you over with their overflowing Costco cart and water bottles on their heads.
As an abundance of caution, urban surveyors are now scouting caves, preferably ones with smooth walls to hold the rock art that will replace Netflix and Disney+. Anyone know how to scrawl a pangolin with a burnt stick? Your career is looking a whole lot more promising than mine. At least according to the media, which is doing a cracker job keeping the score charts ticking over. Every morning I wake up and can’t wait to see how many more are infected, and how many more are dead. Is South Korea threatening China’s dominance? Is Northern Italy giving Iran a run for its money. Europe v South America? It’s the World Virus Cup. As we count the beans, who has time to worry about gun deaths or drug wars or Syrian refugees or the Big Mango inviting oil and gas consortiums to drill for gold in the San Diego Zoo. Cheetoh Mussolini is obviously taking this seriously, appointing a Vice Presidential robot in charge, a bureaucrat who doesn’t believe in science, evolution, the dangers of smoking, or women. COVID-19 is just where we want it, shaking on its microscopic knees. Over in China, doctors are incentivized to raise future health alarms with one-way tickets to hard labour Kashgar re-education camps. In Russia, anyone claiming the weather is too warm is permanently Putin-dipped into frozen Lake Baikal. Fortunately North Korea is quite content, as the more of its people who die of COVID-19, the less mouths there are to not feed. As for travel? Well, we’ve been freaking out about overtourism for a while, the impact of relentless masses descending on places that used be great when we went there, but now that you’re going there, isn’t so great anymore. Since the only Chinese person still travelling is a mid-level pantsuit designer from Chongqing, overtourism has fast being relegated to history, along with other formerly pressing issues, like Rachel’s haircut, and Justin Trudeau’s fancy dress. It’s a rough, tough time to be selling meaningful global interaction, or any interaction at all.
It’s a pandemic all right. A pandemic of fear and ignorance. A pandemic of media saturation and headline baiting. A pandemic of economic uncertainty and distrust. And while you have more chances of being stung to death by earthworms than dying of the coronavirus, I understand your feverish concerns, the media that fuels them, and why the economy must collapse so we can return to a simpler, more Stone-Age-like time. A glorious age when it was normal and encouraged to spit in our palms and shake our hands in trust. In the meantime, please don’t read this. Your eyes on my words will make me sick.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.