I’m writing this confined between four walls. Stuck at home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I’m able to see no more than a few plants in the garden and a piece of blue winter sky squeezed between the buildings through my window. But this window has been like a breath to me in the last months – my only connection to nature and to the external world. I go there every half hour just to watch the time go by and the magic of changing light.
As a nature-addicted biologist, traveler, mountaineer, and photographer, I must confess this situation has been kind of tricky for me. The COVID-19 pandemic and the seemingly endless quarantine are new to all of us. And it’s not an overstatement to say that it’s new for humankind too, at least in the last century.
In just three months, I was forced to cancel two dream trips: one to Monte Roraima, in the Tepuis of Venezuela, and another to Península Valdés, in Argentine Patagonia. I’ve had to reinvent my life, and find ways to survive and stay healthy – physically and mentally – during the quarantine. I wonder how many of us have had to completely change plans due to the pandemic?
Things have changed, and it’s a bit scary to imagine how the world we’ll now face will be different from the world we knew so far. But the pandemic and the social isolation have also taught me a lot of things. They disclosed the deep problems regarding uncontrolled consumerism, and also our mistakes in our relationships with nature, with other people, and even with ourselves. This unexpected enemy arose as a result of wildlife trade and consumption, but that was just the tip of iceberg. Our forests are vanishing at a desperately high rate and our oceans are full of plastic. We have amazing technology, our economies are growing, but even so, poverty and social injustice are increasing. What have we done with our only home? Why is the digital world splitting us apart, instead of joining us?
Among all these musings, one of the most important for me was thinking about how I spend my time. It goes by fast and doesn’t come back. Every second we spend angry, bored in front of a digital screen, or lost in something we don’t really want to be doing, is a second less to follow our dreams, to have new experiences, to stay with whom we wish to stay.
Sitting like a trapped bird in my room, I’m remembering all the amazing experiences I’ve had traveling the world in the last few years. But I also remember the countless days or months I’ve lost on social media, or with superficial concerns and unfounded worries. Or, worst of all, how many great experiences I’ve missed just out of fear or laziness.
This is a hell of a life lesson. The quarantine is teaching me the value of freedom and the outdoor life. It’s throwing it my face.
Hopefully we will be able to see friends, rebuild our plans, and travel again soon. May this hard moment lead us to a more conscious state, more connected to the ones we love and to our outer and inner nature. May we build a more respectful relationship with our planet, our only home, and may we spend our lives doing what we love.
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