World Travel Pandemic Style: From My Armchair

by | May 26, 2020 |

My tag line touts love, language, adventure … out of the ordinary. Over the years I’ve shared with you experiences I’ve had around the world. From Kazakhstan to Cuba to California. But now? How does one engage in world travel in the present circumstances?

World Travel: The Current Reality

Europe is opening back up to international travel. I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Italy in June. Spain at the beginning of July. France toward the end of July.

Given this news, you may also need to know about Schengen. It’s a coalition of 26 European countries whose citizens can freely move across borders, making it the world’s largest visa free zone.

world travel

Most of the countries in Schengen are also in the European Union. But Schengen is not co-extensive with the EU. Countries can be in the EU – Romania and Bulgaria – but not (yet) participate in Schengen. Countries may not be in the EU – Switzerland, Norway and Iceland – but do participate in Schengen.

My point is: Italy, Spain and France are opening up to citizens from Schengen countries. Travelers from other parts of the world will be allowed in later … depending on how the openings go.

Note: Schengen is a small town in Luxembourg. It was there in 1985 that officials from France, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg first signed an agreement to allow their citizens free travel across borders.

Although China, South Korean and Japan don’t have any kind of formal agreement akin to Schengen, these three countries are currently trying to figure out how to open up to one another.

Many places around the world require international travelers to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

World Travel: My Armchair Reality

All my travel is voluntary. Right about now I’d normally be packing my bags and heading to Bucharest, Romania. But I’m sitting tight in Durham, NC for the summer and loving it.

I’m getting my international fix from the same source most people are getting their entertainment these days: Netflix.

South Korea has become famous for their dramas, known as K-Drama. They are tons of fun. The production values are high. No matter how dark the story, comic situations or comic characters provide some light. There is usually a central romance, which may or may not be interesting. But the non-romantic dimensions of the main plots are always solid. As are the secondary characters.

Biggest point: I could watch K-Drama for the clothing alone. Historical garments and modern-day dress alike: gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

I’m currently following Mystic Pop-up Bar.

Then there’s Crashing Landing on You. It’s a hoot of a story that tosses a young South Korean woman into the midst of a North Korean military village:

For a richly imagined historical drama, try Mr. Sunshine.

Brief Linguistic Aside

I don’t know Korean, but I love listening to it. And K-Dramas are a painless way to pick up some of the language.

If you tune into them, you will quickly hear a very striking phonetic phenomenon. It’s a vocal gargling that accompanies some utterances.Usually ones where the speaker is intensifying his or her feelings on the subject. And, by the way, it’s usually he who is intensifying his feelings. Although I’ve heard women do it, too.

For a demonstration and explanation of what I’m referring to, check out Megan Bowen:

For an academic discussion of the phonetic phenomenon, see: Culture and Interdiscursivity in Korean Fricative Voice Gestures by Nicholas Harkness (2011).

Harkness confirms that vocal gargling – what he calls Fricative Voice Gestures (FVGs) – is, indeed, a gendered phenomenon. FVGs also seem tied to age and class. What’s most interesting is that many Koreans are not even conscious of the phenomenon, although it is widespread. It’s not unusual for speakers to be unaware of features salient to outsiders’ ears.

Back to My Armchair Reality

If you want a break from South Korea, you can travel to Cape Town, South Africa by way of Blood and Water. It’s a dark teen drama with a lot of twists and turns.

I loved listening to their accents and hearing the slang. I was also intrigued to see black/white interactions in a place where Apartheid ended 30 years ago.

World Travel: The End?

The word over-touristed has been around for a good year or more. Almost five years ago already I wrote that there is no more “off the beaten path.” All paths have been sufficiently beaten.

Think, quick! Off the top of your head name some over-touristed cities/places.

Did you come up with: Venice, Rome, Paris, Prague and Barcelona, perhaps?

You’d be right. Along with: Bali and Iceland and Kyoto and everywhere else in the world. Even Mount Everest has a 60,000 pound trash problem.

Coronavirus has given all of us world travelers (and everyone else, for that matter) a strident “Stay Home!” order. The problem of over-touristed cities has been solved. They are currently empty. For the moment anyway.

For now I will travel from my armchair that you see in the title image, with its window onto the world. When I next venture out and abroad I will consider very carefully the consequences of my choices.


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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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