Last night, I strolled along Rue de Buci, one of the most charming streets on the left bank of Paris. The sidewalk was crowded with tables and little motorbikes buzzed by like loud mosquitoes, as I paused to buy a ripe Saint Marcellin cheese and half a roast chicken from the little street market. I stopped in at Le Bar Du Marche for a glass of wine, and bought some books at Taschen. Then, just as I was biting into a gelato-filled macaron from Amorino Gelato, I woke up.
There are many ways to travel, and one of them is in the mind. Right now, we're all missing the thrill and anticipation of planning a holiday in Australia or overseas. So how can we recalibrate our brains to cope with an enforced period of non-travel?
Embrace your armchair, I say, and give it wings. Lose yourself in any book written by Bruce Chatwin, Mark Twain or Bill Bryson; or dig deep into a travel documentary on the National Geographic channel.
Then head into the kitchen and cook. More specifically, recreate a special dish that lodged itself in your taste memory from a trip away. It could be the saffron risotto of Milan, the caraway-spiked choucroute of sauerkraut, pork, sausages and potatoes of Alsace, or the baked shakshuka of eggs and spicy tomato sauce of Tunisia. Think about being there as you boil the potatoes or chop the tomatoes; breathe in the spices and let them waft you away on a magic carpet of aroma. Then theme that finished dish with the right wine, play the appropriate music, and you've kept one of the great joys of travel alive.
Another tip? Learn a language, or polish a rusty one. Download an app and practice your French or Japanese over dinner. With every new phrase learnt, you're a step closer to being there. If you're with oldies, get them reminiscing about their best travel experiences. If you're with youngies, get them planning their dream holiday (budget, unlimited!) for when all this is over, so they are aware it will not last forever.
The trick is to not sit at home stewing, wishing you were somewhere else. That would be as silly as travelling the world, as free as a bird, and wishing you were at home. Just remember, the sun will shine again, and the planes will fly again.
Spend a little downtime sorting your travel pics – at last, you have the time. I've even taken to flipping through my old travel journals over dinner, reading out passages in a nostalgic "remember when" exercise that invariably has me dreaming about all the trips to come in the future, when we can travel again. Because dreaming, is believing.