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A Future Look at Past Lives

"We'll always have Paris," (- Bogart to Bergman; Casablanca, 1942).

"We'll always have Paris," (- Bogart to Bergman; Casablanca, 1942).

[Photo colorization and effects by CityRoom]

When Casablanca first came out, theatre-goers in the midst of The Second World War probably felt a bittersweet irony in the line, "We'll always have Paris." Witnessing the war's drastic transformations to their own cities day by day, they knew that the line was a lie. The couple wouldn't have Paris. Not the Paris they knew, at least. No one could have it, as it no longer existed.

Nothing can compare to WWII and its effects on society as a whole. But we can argue that our own time witnesses transformations of like proportions. The Pandemic of 2020, like war, takes lives indiscriminately; and all events that put life at stake may be weighed as equals.

Our Pandemic does claim worldwide repercussions more than WWII in one respect; for the Great War only closed the borders of a handful of countries. Now, is the first time in history since frontier-lines were first mapped that they are closed entirely and globally.

"We will always have Paris" is a nostalgic line. Nostalgia, from the Greek nostos + algos literally translates as "pain of home." The feeling of nostalgia is a bittersweet irony of longing for the home we cannot visit. Anyone who has traveled to a place that they returned to again, to fall in love with it and grow to know it like home has probably experienced the joyful sorrow of missing that place from afar.

Today, in the midst of the Pandemic, we travelers are all estranged from the cities abroad we know. They will go on changing, growing, without us watching. The Pandemic will give them new laws, new customs and superstitions, new fears to shape their societies, and new forms of pleasure to escape from those fears.

When the borders open again and travelers pass them freely without hindrance, we will visit the cities we each knew and loved, and hope to greet them as old friends. The post-Pandemic world will be different in varying degrees. Some cities will have changed more than others. They will have changed in proportion to the severity of their experiences of today and teir threshold for calamity. Every city will have a changed differently, each to its own local flavor, reflecting the culture's unique style of handling matters of life and death.

There will be new rules to follow. New rituals to observe. And how will we be greeted? Like a stranger or an old friend? And how will these cities look to us? Still full of youthful energy? Or, will they be worn and tired from hardship, wrought with evidence of plague?

Globally, we have our hands full these days. Yet, it is as important and beneficial as preserving the health of humanity today, as it is to envision and prepare for the humanity of tomorrow in a changing civilization. "A Future Look at the World's Cities" is a project for such preparation. It is an envisioning of the futures of 25 of the world's diverse cities as imagined by 50 travel writers who have grown to love them. In this article series presented by and Travel Writers Network, the travel writers will excavate like archeologists digging into the future. They will hope to greet the new era like old friends, so that all of us who travel may come to have friends like them.

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