Traveling abroad is a wonderfully liberating experience, especially after being locked down

The impossibly thin silver lining about the Covid era is that anything travel-related, including little airplane loos, looks wonderful. Crossing a border feels like Magellan. There may not be killer mists or sea monsters to fight, but now we have a contagious virus to fight. Although we have much more comfortable seats and in-flight entertainment to make the trip less stressful.

I am for the trips to start again. Just as we hoped no one got chickenpox on the flight, we now hope no one got Covid, and put on a mask and carry on. You will most likely escape the Covid, unless the BA.2.75 is lurking in your driveway.

That people travel with a vengeance is evident if you enter any airport outside of India. And it’s good for the travel and hospitality industry, in which I have a vested interest. But the endless queues at immigration and the little news of supporting documents you now have to carry with you are a bit of a drag on the road, which sometimes makes it seem more like the road to perdition.

But aah, the joy of going out to a different country. I recently took a long-haul flight to follow in the footsteps of another verbose, slightly taller-than-me Bengali – Swami Vivekananda – to Chicago. Clean air, blue skies, no chance of being molested or harassed by RWA Auntie for simply wearing shorts in public. Essentially the wonders of the free world and in my case multi-colored Chicago. Especially when you come from Khapland, where you’ve been locked up for almost two years.

The first time I visited America and England was when I was 12 on a family vacation. It must have ruined my father. But what I remember from that trip – over three decades ago – is the Smithsonian Museum. At home, our museums were not very well maintained. Even the Kohinoor diamond in the Tower of London and the uniformed oxen and crows looked mesmerizing.

But despite all our travels, there’s still a charm to the little things people take for granted on foreign shores. Well behaved crowds at the Chicago Art Institute, no graffiti saying “Tanu Loves Rikky” on the walls. (Yes, I avoided Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, where the crime rate is 409% higher than the national average in a country where buying guns is much easier than terminating a pregnancy. .)

That Swami Vivekananda Way is the name of a street just off Michigan Avenue without fear of fame, the architecture tour as you cruise the eponymous river past the buildings of the Chicago Tribune and the University of Chicago, and being able to order a steak without the fear of a stake going through your heart are all positives.

Yes, you need to keep gun laws and Roe vs. Wade, deep in your mind. But the joys of the Windy City and the Free World are many. Although the sight of mountains of food scraps that could feed entire villages being cremated shocked me when I was 12.

But it’s not Covid that’s the killjoy of travel. I have traveled several times abroad over the past six months. So, I was ready for the glitches. But the utter confusion on the faces of unsuspecting passengers who were told they had to complete an Air Suvidha form online – which is ‘obsolete’ as we no longer need to carry RT-PCRs to travel , but we still need to upload a test result (your Covid certificate must be less than 1MB in size) to return to India.

So the lesson is: travel if you can, and travel like there’s no Covid. And, most importantly, travel like there’s no Air Suvidha form to download.

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