Virtual Vicinity — The Pandemic Perspective

Quotidian Tales
6 min readNov 23, 2020

…their faceless identities empowering the subtle more than the substantial… Their tours were not actual but virtual!

It’s been a ‘trying’ time for most of us. I mean in both parts of speech. Exhausting and experimental. I was losing a semblance to my preferred self and succumbing mostly to domestic drudgery and at times to depression and distance. Then one evening, almost a month ago while I was talking to my brother (referred to as Big B going forward), he introduced me to a WhatsApp group. Initially, I was not really keen on joining it as it sounded like something unusual and not-really-heard-of-before. After all, a Taurean to the core, I am stubbornly resistant to change and take a while to accept the unconventional.

‘National Park Challenge,’ the name by which the group goes, is an international group consisting of members with shared interests, to say the least. My first thought…it’s just a group of fitness aficionados. Then working around it, I tried to figure out the real reason for the assembly. The association began with a group of friends based out of Richmond, Virginia, who one day, maybe just like that, decided to tour the National Parks in the USA. “Hey, are you kidding me?” Yes, they were travelling and trekking at a time when everyone in the world was like the caged bird in Maya Angelou’s poem “stalk(ing) down his narrow cage,” confined and coping. By the way, this group too was coping, but guess how? Their tours were not actual but virtual! In fact, they were putting to use the only viable vehicle and singing their songs of “freedom” as veridically as the poetic counterpart (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

Let me explain how that works. Every week an American National Park is chosen and the ‘Destination’ along with the ‘Weekly Goals’ is officially published in the form of a ‘Newsletter’ or a digest in the group. Once the gauntlet is thrown (wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that), the participants accept the challenge and thereafter begins the journey of exploring and experiencing the beauty and bounty of the selected park, all the while enjoying the ride towards it and back home. On this excursion, however, there is a weekly goal to focus on and adhere to. It is here that you get to fix the main piece of the jigsaw and soon you get the key for the conundrum. The pursuit of activity to maintain or improve health and fitness is the predominant objective. But there is more to it as well.

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