Travel Through Windows

by Emma Dredge

A life-long traveler discovers how travel through windows can help keep the wanderlust at bay amidst the Covid-19 shutdowns.

I love the story of Rapunzel. The girl who gets locked away in a tower, which had “neither stair nor door, but only one little window right at the top” has always fascinated me. As a child, the illustration of poor Rapunzel staring sadly out of her small window made me feel sad.  She was trapped, and there was nothing she could do.

When Disney remade this story in the form of Tangled, Rapunzel was an entirely different protagonist. Instead of simply sitting back and waiting for the prince to rescue her, this modern-day Rapunzel used the window to awaken her curiosity about the world, which made her crave whatever was out there. Thus, she became the perfect example for wanderlust.

Just like Rapunzel, I love to look out of windows, and they have been integral to me as a traveler. I have gazed at shifting landscapes from buses and trains, stared down at vast cities from planes, and watched the hustle and bustle of everyday life from hotels and hostels.

I spent last summer in Italy. One night we stayed in the upper rooms of an ancient castle. The evening was hot, so I opened the window in the hope of finding a cool breeze. Instantly the town below streamed through. The lilt of Italian voices drifted in, along with the shouts of children playing in the streets below. Locals chatted with neighbors, a couple held hands as they sauntered through the narrow, winding paths, and a small girl wearing a bright green T-shirt dripped pink ice cream stains on the side-walk as she toddled beside her parents. I was totally immersed in this scene from my window.

I believe that windows are powerful because they give us an unhampered view of the world. For many travelers, they represent the chance for escape, the gateway to freedom, and the opportunity to fulfill dreams. When we look out of windows, we are able to see into the distance, and this can be both exhilarating and liberating. 

Since COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, it seems that many of us have felt a little like Rapunzel: trapped inside, staring out of windows and wondering when we will be allowed out into the world.

In these strange, unprecedented times, windows have become even more important to me and have actually become my vessel through which to travel. I have started to notice the windows in my own hometown in southwest England and have been captivated by their different sizes, shapes, and patterns. I’ve explored church windows, town hall windows, museum windows. Some windows are opulent, and others are more homely. Many windows have rainbow pictures displayed, a sign of hope that life will one day get back to normal.

These have become my travel hotspots, mini worlds which I yearn to know more about. Sometimes people notice me and wave. Then I wave back, smile, and wonder “What’s your story?”

After initially worrying about how my itchy feet were ever going to be satisfied during COVID-19, I came to realise that, in this time of lock-down, wanderlust can be found right here on my doorstep. All I needed was a new mindset, a fresh perspective, and an eye open for windows.

I think the reason I have become so obsessed with windows over the past few months is because of the tantalising questions that they raise. What is beyond that pane of glass? Does anyone live there? What happens in that room? Who works there? 

Windows also remind us that we are not alone, which is crucial during this time of global pandemic. We might not know the people living or working behind those windows, but it is possible to feel a human connection just by noticing that they have similar curtains to someone we know or by seeing a cat just like Grandma’s on the windowsill.

Windows offer us the opportunity to seek new things, fresh horizons, and amazing possibilities. Whether it’s a window in a house, shop, restaurant, museum, or place of worship, windows keep the intrepid traveler wondering. Windows can stir the wanderlust in us all because they make us think: “What else is out there?”

During lock-down, I have rediscovered my hometown through my love for windows. Obviously, one has to be careful simply to notice windows and not to stare—nobody wants to be accused of being a peeping tom! However, I have discovered unfamiliar places, made new friends, and now often wave to people as I pass. This has been my experience of travel in the pandemic.

Nobody knows what the future holds or how long restricted travel may be in place. We may need to persevere with social distancing or be tested at airports for COVID-19.  Some countries may keep their borders closed for a long time. But I believe that the opportunity to explore will return and that we need to keep our wanderlust alive by continuing to plan far flung trips and dreaming of new places.

In the meantime, this could be the perfect time to rediscover our hometowns, cities and villages—with windows being a great place to start. As Confucius once said:

“I live in a very small house, but my windows look out on a very large world.” 

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