Life and Travel Now: Photographers and Travel Writers Share Their Thoughts

The Cape Wrath Trail, Scotland. Photograph by Richard Gaston

 

Autumn is usually the time when life slows down. The clocks are literally turned back, and time, instead of racing by, seems to turn on a new mechanism, marked by the changing leaves. But this change in rhythm and pattern was felt very early on this year, back in March. As the first flower buds flickered to life and turned their faces to the sun, lockdowns descended on the whole world.

Travel came to a halt. People halted, too, sheltered in place and reflected. Then we once again sought refuge in nature and discovered that we could find beauty in the blackest of times. We started to cherish familiar territory and learned that travel doesn’t have to be about the destination, or not even about the journey, but about a fresh perspective on things. Travel is always about a leap of faith. For now, we have to put our faith in the vastness of our imagination, in the solace and beauty of our close surroundings, in the joy of rediscovering our own countries and in the flighting power of watching a sunrise from the peak of our own mountains. It is now that we can set the pattern for the future.

I have asked photographers and travel writers to join me in the up-coming weeks and share with us their thoughts on life and travel during these exceptional times we are living. Today, my guests are a photographer and a travel writer who have a special bondage with Scotland.
 

The Cape Wrath Trail, Scotland. Photograph by Richard Gaston

 
 

Richard Gaston
Photographer

 
 
What are the positives you have taken away from lockdown?

I’ve became more aware of my plastic consumption.
Became healthier: exercising regularly and eating cleaner (more fruit and vegetables and no meat).
Gotten to know my local area very well: parks, cafes and architecture specifically.
Taken on a new hobby – cycling.

What helped you escaped during that time?

I set myself weekly tasks and developed a structured routine. I became more productive and enjoyed simple things. In addition, my new cycling hobby helped my reach further distances outside of the city and reconnect with old friends (we got into the sport at the same time).

We have all more or less taken travel for granted. How do you think travel will change from now on?

I think people will look more locally for travel, which I have went into more detail on in my following answers.

What is the first place you have travelled to after sheltering in place? What did you find the most surprising about this experience?

I completed a local trail, The Cape Wrath, that I’ve been meaning to do for years. It’s a wild hiking route through the highlands of Scotland. 250 miles over 17 days venturing into the country’s wildest areas, remotest beaches, loneliest glens and the highest waterfalls. It leaves from Fort William and finishes in the north-westernmost point on the mainland, Cape Wrath.

It threw many challenges, but, to be honest, due to the wildness of the route, it really allowed me to forget the pandemic was happening until we got to a shop in a village.

Are people creatures of place? Why is travel essential?

Travel allows us to broaden our mindset and learn new methods. Travel doesn’t need to be 1000 miles over an ocean, it can be local. Depending on your country, there are wild areas that can be explored on your doorstep. This can offer an experience just as enriching.

But if there was a place you never wanted to leave, which one would that be?

Scotland. I feel I am rich here. By rich, I don’t mean financially, I mean in the natural world, the friends and family I have, the people I haven’t met yet, the skills I can develop here and the experiences it can bring.
 
 
Richard Gaston is a photographer living in Scotland. Richard’s photographs are relieved of any unnecessary detail. What remains is the emotion of the adventure, of the moment, of the element. They have the ability to block all the visual noise that surrounds us daily. Maybe it’s his subject matter of choice, landscape, that focuses your attention on the now and on reality flowing, or the majestic beauty of Scotland, where he often shoots, that commands you to stay still and just be, or his preference for the colder months which naturally invite to reflection, but there is also a man-made quality and the eye of an artist that truly makes them unique.
 
 

The Cape Wrath Trail, Scotland. Photograph by Richard Gaston

 
 

Francisca Mattéoli
Travel writer

 
 
What are the positives you have taken away from lockdown?

I think many people, like myself, are going to see the world from a different angle now. Many will also have re-discovered the pleasure of travelling in their imagination.

What helped you escaped during that time?

To know that the whole world is in the same boat, and also the sensations of the life before «all this», such as a quiet stroll, a good book, a scene that calms us. Personal cocoons of comforting waves that give us courage and hope.

We have all more or less taken travel for granted. How do you think travel will change from now on?

I think that we all know now that anything can happen no matter where we are and that the unknown is not necessarily far away. People will not stop travelling in the future because to see what is happening in the rest of the world is, I think, a human need but I think that now, we will look more attentively at everything around us.

What is the first place you have travelled to after sheltering in place? What did you find the most surprising about this experience?

I was looking for nature and space more than ever. I went to Spain and to Switzerland, to the mountains. Not very far away, as I usually do, because it was impossible, but I tried to find the same feeling of freedom in a world open to light and fresh air. I was surprised to notice that after all my travels around the world I could slow down and still enjoy simplicity and the sense of wonder really near me.

Are people creatures of place? Why is travel essential?

Well, I’ll say two things. First, I think most of us are attached to the place where we were born but we also need to escape one way or another from our daily lives. Humans have always been curious to know about other people’s lives. Travel is in our genes. We are a nomadic species. I also think we need the connection with others, and the more we connect, the more we feel at ease everywhere with everyone. For me, that is why travel is essential, and how we can live in a better harmony – using our curiosity to travel and seek out new information, new people, new places, new adventures and open ourselves to many new things.

But if there was a place you never wanted to leave, which one would that be?

Impossible to answer that. I always want to leave after a while. My mother is from Scotland, my father from Chile, I’ve lived in many different countries, I come from different backgrounds and cultures… I always thought my home was a portable thing. But maybe it will change someday, who knows?
 
 
Francisca Mattéoli is a travel writer living in Paris. She has published ten travel books, from Adventure: Hotel Stories, to Map Stories and Map Cities. Her writing style has that capacity to leave you wishing for more. More of that beautiful weaving of personal or family experiences with the history and tales of a place that sets her work apart. The conversations with her are equally fascinating. Because when you have someone like Francisca Mattéoli at the other side of the conversation, you kind of wish for the discussion to take any number of directions, with the certainty that the experience will motivate you to learn more, do what you do better and open your eyes, arms and heart to the world.
 
 

Francisca Mattéoli in the Scottish Highlands. Photograph courtesy of Francisca Mattéoli

 
 

MORE STORIES

Good Storytelling Needs Time: Interview with Photographer Susana Girón

Through the Lens of Joni Sternbach: SurfLand

One Day That Summer: Torres del Paine, Chile

This entry was posted in Interviews, Journeys, Photography . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *