For nearly a week now, my family and I, currently on lockdown far from home in Lima, Peru, have followed a daily ritual.
At 8pm sharp, we go to our balcony window to clap hard, as if we were coaxing the Rolling Stones or Billie Eilish for a concert encore. We’re joined by what sounds like hundreds of neighbors doing the same at their own balconies, windows, and doorsteps and for a minute or two, the sound of applause fills the still night air with a loud message of solidarity in the face of the intractable viral enemy now ravaging the globe.
It’s meant as a gesture of gratitude to first responders here — medical professionals, food producers, delivery drivers, police and the military — everyone who still needs to be out in the world keeping things running while the rest of us are ordered to shelter in place.
And while our ritual can’t destroy this novel coronavirus or help scientists find a cure, for me it has real value as a talisman to reaffirm our shared humanity at a time when we are forced to be apart. It is a sound bath as therapeutic as any balm.
And while COVID-19 is unlike a natural disaster we can physically see, feel and confront, this nightly ritual acts as our sonic sandbags laid down together with our neighbors, as a community, to defend against fear, isolation, and despair.
With thoughts of sonic sandbags & solidarity, we’ll be sharing some stories in the coming days and weeks of travel voices from the field, many on the front lines of this crisis; from travelers rescued as borders slammed shut, or who are sheltering in place far from home; to professional working tirelessly to make travel safer and smoother, both now in the heat of this crisis and later, sometime down the road, when this viral wildfire runs its course and thoughts of repair and rediscovery return to our lives.
So throw open that virtual balcony window and join us to applaud our fellow travelers and travel first responders. May it prove a balm and talisman to us all.