It is a safe bet to say that the year 2021 has been like no other for the human beings in the world alive at this time. Words like “pandemic”, “social distancing”, “lockdown” have become part of the daily language by force since early 2020. As the editor of this blog, I have avoided such words, and anything related to the covid-19 pandemic for that matter, because after all, the focus of this humble virtual space is “budget traveling and photography” content.
What can I do, however, when traveling has been impacted so significantly by the spread of a virus for which we have no defenses to fight against, and rendered a catastrophe so global as this one? After years of solid growth, the tourism industry encountered this major roadblock that no one was expecting. Flight cancellations and travel bans from one country to another have become the current normal for two years now in the name of “flattening” or “bending down” the relentless curve of infections.
In a long list of losses of this pandemic, planes staying on the ground, I dare to say, is the least worrying of all. Many people have been fatal victims, and those who are still alive fight yet another battle on top of others they were already fighting. The hope of normality that has been so easily shaken so many times since the beginning of it all with the appearance of new virus variants and waves of infections here and there.
All those who crave for reaching new places, breathing foreign air, and regaining their strengths by finding themselves lost somewhere on planet earth, have found themselves forcibly deprived. Myself included, naturally.
A year for local discoveries. A time for Taipei City.
Although most of the world struggled in such magnitude, Taiwan has remained a very safe place to be during the pandemic. This evident success is due to several factors. Partly because isolating an island from international travel is easier than controlling land borders. Also because of the notorious collective sentiment of the population (not to mention the place where this virus emerged from), and, very importantly, due to the ironclad restrictions for visitors entering the island.
Protecting the local population and economy with such intensity has certainly been a high cost to pay. Both outbound and inbound travelers of the island are discouraged to get on a plane due to the significant PCR test and two weeks worth of quarantine hotel fees to be paid in order to go traveling abroad or visiting the island. The time and money spent on isolating for two weeks when entering Taiwan have been the perfect filter to avoid overwhelming the much needed healthcare system.
The resulting phenomena is that travel enthusiasts in Taiwan, in their desperation to travel, are rediscovering these 36,000 square kilometers of territory with an enthusiasm that was given only to foreign destinations. Even people who did not travel much before are finally getting familiar with it. Throughout the year, the local tourism industry has benefited from this greatly.
During 2021, I had my fair share of internal traveling, combining one-day weekend road trips, multi-day mountain camping and normal hiking adventures. But I have put special efforts to have sensitive eyes for life within the city of Taipei. After all, living in a city and traveling to the same city can be two very different experiences. The intention has been to leave the routine aside for a few hours, and go back to see normal scenes with the eyes of an outsider. To make justice to all the amazing portraits one can find locally in the alleys, from bridges, lookouts, and landmarks. I did this exercise as much as I could in 2021.
Looking forward to the day of going abroad again in 2022
The adjective “everyday” doesn’t have to be a synonym of mundane, boring, unattractive, or monotonous. It can be a vindication for the frequently-overlooked utter beauty that smiles so easily from any angle of the daily commute. What can be so easily ignored by commuters, can be exactly the photo that provides a window for the weary, located in distant latitudes wishing to go abroad and have a break from the extra challenges they have had to fight for two years of pandemic.
This is a collection of images from my everyday life in Taipei throughout the year 2021. A selection of images taken during my walks in the city. To curate it, I intentionally avoided any photo out of the city, whether road trip or drone imagery. This gallery is the product of the casual roaming around Taipei. To my surprise, I realized that I went out exploring quite a few times after the sun went down, playing with long exposures and wide apertures.
As many others, it is my hope that we can once more be allowed to travel freely where our hearts desire. This time, however, with a renewed mind, being mindful of the environmental impacts our traveling produces, and being thankful for the precious opportunity of being part of a foreign reality at least for a little while. Perhaps, as a silver lining of all this pandemic nightmare, this forced stop in the travel industry can also stop us from traveling just for the sake of traveling, and make us appreciate what we have and accept the lack of what we do not.
For more travel stories, drone movies and other short clips, click here.