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Present progressive: May


In this month’s round-up: The new meaning of travel; inner landscapes; exploring slow leisure; and rediscovering knowledge and learning

Illustration: Rosie Barker

A few months into a new normal, the changes and adaptations we’re going through are settling in and slowly becoming our new reality. This is a new, ever changing theme that we plan to keep exploring. ‘Present Progressive’ will continue to deliver a monthly round-up of all of the top trends, events and current themes we believe are most relevant to our community. Here are this month’s top themes, curated and filtered through our lens, for you to read and do some exploring of your own.

The New Explorer

As different countries are devising exit strategies and cautiously attempting to retrieve a sense of normalcy, it's becoming increasingly evident that travel as we know it is going to change drastically. Restrictions will most likely stay in place for much longer, diminishing our international and domestic flight habits to their bare minimums. This means that “traveling” now means leaving your house for a trip to the grocery store or a bit of exercise, or within your own home, as Jennifer Baer’s posters suggest. Because the future of the tourism and travel industry is unknown, we also have an opportunity to reconsider what it means to us, and imagine it in a new shape and form. Companies are quick to respond, such as Avion Interiors, a French airplane design company, which presented new ideas for airplane interior layouts that minimize contact between passengers.

The architecture and design of public spaces that serve residents and tourists alike will have to change as well, therefore altering the way we move through them and use them. Suggested designs have popped up for markets with floor markings designating appropriate distancing, and beaches have been reimagined with clear acrylic pods that allow us to enjoy the view while following hygiene rules.

We might also see a changing approach towards the architecture of our immediate surroundings. We may experience new ways of exploring our own street, neighborhood and city, as we won’t simply pass through them but set our own intentions for exploration, as if we were somewhere new, discovering a new life and a new meaning.

The Inner Traveler

The old adage “a man’s home is his castle” was never as true as it is now. More than a means for protection, spending the majority of our time in our newfound “castles” has inevitably caused a shift in priorities, inviting us to look inside rather than focus on what is around us. We have been inspired to turn our homes into the best possible versions of themselves. Examples for this can be seen with furniture and interior design companies suggesting how to create the ultimate ‘WFH’ environment; new services delivering cocktails to our door for us to sip in our garden; and new guides instructing us on how to create a ‘restaurant-like’ setup for our every meal. Instead of investing in clothes and our personal appearance, we are looking to change every room in our homes.

Inner traveling goes well beyond the indoors. Having left behind our efforts to get dressed and to make that familiar appearance-based impression, we have an opportunity to change our views on both our bodies and our minds. This is especially relevant as the northern hemisphere welcomes the sunnier time of the year, and we’re reminded of those good old “prepare your body for summer” headlines on social media posts and magazine articles. With no vacations in sight and no pressure to show off our tan or abs, our focus can turn to personality traits. Rather than worry about weight, we now strive to achieve self improvement within: finding patience, resilience, and empathy as new personal goals. The increasing popularity of meditation apps is just another marker for this newfound search for inner peace, and the efforts we are redirecting towards the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us.

Diversity of Knowledge

Deprived of intentional and random social encounters, the metaphorical roundtable where we once exchanged our opinions now truly exists solely in the metaphorical sense. We are losing contact with the variety of personalities and ideas we normally interact with, and resort only to our own habitual news resources and feeds, neglecting to open our minds to different views and ideas.

More of an insight rather than a trend, it seems that this lack of diversity is leading to an already troubling phenomenon of armchair experts, whose conclusions and beliefs are a reflection of a narrow and constrained point of view.

This is an issue not limited to information and knowledge: emotional experiences are also neglecting to show diversity and consideration. Celebrities trying to demonstrate how “we are all in this together” in their hollywood mansions, while showing a complete lack of understanding of the ways in which the majority of the world is experiencing quarantine (Jennifer Lopez in her backyard, Gal Gadot and the ‘Imagine’ lip sync) have gotten their deserved backlash for insensitive social posting.

Experience-Based Learning

It seems that online tutorials have been around forever, making fixing your faucet just one Youtube video away, and baking a perfect dinosaur-shaped cake just a Pinterest click closer.

Today’s climate has shifted the emphasis from the final result to the process. Remember how you used to study hard for a test and memorize everything, only to forget it once you passed? Well, this is just what current tutorials are trying to avoid. We are now more interested in the actual process of learning for the sake of learning, not the so-called perfect execution we are trying to achieve. We’re here for the real gaining of knowledge: experience-based learning.

We see this shift in perspective transforming the world of cooking: online recipes, blogs and food influencers are encouraging us to test, try, and learn through our own mistakes. Laila Gohar is a great example, sharing ideas and cooking methods for basics such as beans, explaining the reason behind every tip and thought. It’s not about using that rare, specific ingredient; it’s about using what you already have and love, but in a new way.

We see this not only in food recipes, but in alcohol consumption as well. No more pubs and bars? No worries, you can create your own favorite drink or cocktail at home, and without too much fuss or faux-professional knowledge. This guide to building your own bar cart is a great example: it gives us many options, both budget and taste wise, inviting us to create our own experience to enjoy both now and in the future.

This type of learning takes into account the learners’ own personal preferences, likes and dislikes, cultivating a sense of self and helping us to build our own systems and repertoires that suit our life.

Slow Leisure

As the structure of businesses, economies and the concept of work itself are changing, we see an impact on other areas such as leisure.

Used to a world in which free time was mostly spent by going out to restaurants or for drinks, or to see a movie or an exhibition, it became evident that leisure was synonymous with spending. Almost all leisure activities as we knew them came with a price.

The new reality gives us an opportunity to rethink the concept of leisure. How do we spend our non-working time? What does it mean to enjoy our free time?

Inspired by the Slow Movement principles, we are seeing a surge in support for boredom. Once criticized and ridiculed, doing nothing and enjoying it is now considered an accomplishment. As the Slow Movement reminds us, centuries ago our ancestors used to spend their afternoons strolling aimlessly, idling, gazing, and indulging in free thinking.

Not only was that the norm, but ironically it also proved to be quite a productive thing: only through “nothingness” did new ideas come to life, and as a result inventions and progress took place. As we all know but probably forgot thanks to our phones: getting bored can be quite inspiring, as seen in the hashtag #quarantinewalk. Now that we all have more time on our hands, with no ‘FOMO’ threat whatsoever, can we try and think, observe, and reflect not only on how we work, eat and sleep, but also what we do with all that’s in between.


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