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For those of us lucky enough to have avoided the coronavirus itself, the most noticeable change in our daily reality might be our relative lack of mobility. Traveling to the grocery store can feel like an odyssey. Traveling internationally can feel like a distant dream.
Of course, the loss of our collective ability to travel pales in comparison to the many other existential crises posed by this pandemic. But there’s no denying that, for many of us, our inability to venture out — beyond the borders of our homes, our states, our countries — has made the past several months (and the prospect of many months to come) all the more challenging.
So, back in March, as travel restrictions began to lock people in place all around the world, we editors on the Travel desk launched a new visual series to help readers cope. We called it The World Through a Lens. The idea was to showcase some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places, and to introduce readers to aspects of global culture — whether agricultural or religious or historical — that, in these months of stasis, might otherwise have remained hidden from our view.
Our goal with this series is slightly different than that of our typical Travel fare. Instead of inspiring travel among our readers or describing the travels of our contributors, we’re aiming to approximate elements of travel itself — to provide a kind of virtual travel substitute that soothes, transports and distracts.
But escapism isn’t the only objective. At its best, travel can transform us: It can awaken us to the restorative power of nature; it can broaden our ability to understand and appreciate dissimilar cultures; it can help us become more empathetic to people whose lives fall outside the scope of our day-to-day routines. These, too, are things we hope the series can provide, especially at a time when such transformations aren’t available to many of us via direct experience.
To achieve all that, we’ve tried to create immersive visual experiences; every story in the series is driven by images. (Instead of assigning photographers to shoot new work, we are relying on photojournalists with previously shot, and unpublished, portfolios.) We’ve also tried to create a more intuitive and symbiotic relationship between images and text. (In most cases, the journalist who took the pictures is also the one who wrote the copy.) And as a general rule, we’ve avoided “service” information: no hotel plugs or restaurant reviews, no recommended itineraries. The focus is on the people and the places themselves, as seen and captured by some of the best photojournalists in the world.
In this week’s installment, we carry you to rural Patagonia to observe some of the region’s remote schoolhouses. As with our other destinations (dip into the four-month archive to see more), we hope you enjoy — and are transformed by — the virtual journey.