Floating in an Okavango Makoro
I peregrinate across the river of White Lotuses.
The water is so calm here,
And the Sun shines with benevolence
This quintessential tranquility is confounding.
The canoe abruptly comes to a standstill,
And punting has been stagnated all of a sudden.
As splashes of water dampens my face
I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand,
And looked forth
We had come too close to an Elephant,
It was belligerently shaking his head
Rumbling and Trumpeting,
Out of the act of vigilance, I suppose.
I lurched back
With both my hands as support,
And tried clinging onto the makoro.
But what is it that I sense,
Ain’t the fine texture of Ebony!
It feels like the roughness of the cotton yarn,
That weaves the sheets of our houses.
How could it be?
And I am suddenly teleported back to the deep turquoise walls of my room into June 2020.
People are still dying of coronavirus. Scientists are indefatigably working for the vaccination. Economies are still collapsing. Almost half the world is still not moving. Travelling and Tourism is still out of the question.
But I palpably remember that just ten minutes ago, I was floating in the waters of the Okavango delta.
It wasn’t a dream… Trust me.
I was wide-awake with both my eyes opened as wide as that of tarsiers.
Had I the puissance to glaciate time with the blink of my eyes, You’d have known I’m not lying!
But I probably wasn’t at the Okavango delta either. It’s just not possible.
So what do you think happened?
Think of Anything?
I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.
I know all of us are dealing with coronavirus in our own ways. And it’s not always easy. There seems to be a series of emotions, where most days I try to accept today’s reality and stay hopeful about the future of our world, but some days are still spent in denial and with mixed feelings of aggression and depression.
Sometimes just a little escape from reality, to the world we all had imagined we would be living in before coronavirus appeared, to the 2020 that we never lived, is more than satisfying.
I’m talking about Virtual Reality. And how it is helping me during quarantine.
To keep myself busy these days, I have been taking some online courses on EdX. In one of my courses, I learnt about how the increasing use of AR/VR are impacting the Tourism Industry worldwide.
I immediately rushed to my Mom and asked her about the Samsung Gear VR that came with her Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge mobile phone back in April 2015.
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Ever since that day, everyday, I have been having my beautiful escapes late at nights, sometimes for hours. I travel to the jungles of Botswana, to the far-flung beaches of Brazil watching the sea-turtles hatch, to the summit of Mt. Everest, to the Antarctic peninsula swimming with the leopard seals and so on. I discovered so many novelties as I travelled virtually all around the world. I even travelled to the outer space and the ISS (International Space Station). Although it most certainly isn’t like actually travelling to these places, but the idea of experiencing something new and unexpected is constantly present. Besides, even if for sometime, it helps you get away from it all.
As travellers around the globe are trapped inside their homes and are looking for ways to quench their wanderlust with whatever the social media and the technology can offer. VR seems to play an important role in it. And funnily enough, there’s also a word in German language which can be used to explain this feeling of longing to travel that many of us are facing right now. This word is ‘Fernweh‘.
Moreover, Virtual Reality in the times of ever-evolving COVID-19 situation is also helping the Tourism Industry to recover from the irrevocable loses by promoting destinations with the ‘try-before-you-buy’ experiences. Not just that, it also inspires you to travel to a destination you probably did not know about before. Hence getting rid of the old misconception that VR can be a threat to the Tourism Industry.
How can Virtual Reality help you during these times?
As a girl who frequently travel, I had never imagined that there would come a time when I would not even get out of my home for months. And this time has started to feel like eternity. On one hand, VR has helped me travel virtually even within the confined boundaries of my home, it has also made me realise how important Travel truly is. It has in ways even brought me closer to Nature. As the head of digital at the BBC’s Natural History Unit says, “Even viewing nature digitally has been scientifically proven to help peoples’ mental wellbeing, which feels especially important right now.”
In this era of Digital Revolution the day is not far when we will be able to FEEL the Virtual Destinations and not just see them. Dr. Ian Pearson, a leading futurist, engineer who runs Futurizon says that this technology called Active Skin could perhaps be developed as soon as sometime in the 2030’s.
To those of you who are still wondering what it’s like to have a virtual travel experience, I’d just say that You have to experience it for yourself. Only then you’ll know how it feels. Just like you have to really see a colour at least once in order to understand what colour it is.