In this time of being stuck at home - in quarantine at first and now on lockdown - my mind has wandered to past travels. I've fantasised about recent, short and close-to-home trips, both for work and to visit friends and family. I've relived the journeys that took me to the other side of the world, where everything I saw was new and the people I met were so wonderful.
Yet there's one particular destination to which my mind keeps returning. Two years ago I drove through the Namib desert, camping on top of the car in between navigating the sandy landscape.
It struck me hard, the emptiness there. Though we would drive for hours, our surroundings barely changed. Sandy dunes rose one after the other, too many to count, punctuated by rocky formations. There were enormous salt flats where the heat was unbearable, the sunshine was harsh and water was scarce. Withered trees cast strong shadows. We often didn't see any other living being.
We climbed the dunes, not once, but multiple times, beginning our ascent well before sunrise in order to reach the top before the heat of the day set in. We'd then drive around, stopping often, until sunset came. Come evening, we would set up the tents, sit down around a small, self-made fire, open a beer and reminisce about the day. There was so much to talk about.
The purpose of the trip was very clear, the schedule packed - and yet when we were there in the empty landscape, time stood still. Life stood still. Nothing seemed to matter that much anymore. Sinking into the atop the sand dunes, I felt as if all sound disappeared. Walking between them, I felt so small. Things become distant, the mind becomes quiet.
This seemingly never-ending, empty landscape forces you to think and makes you reflect on yourself. Maybe that's why, in this time of turmoil, my mind can't stay away from the Namib.