Wander Your Past with Loved Ones When You’re Stuck at Home
When you are quarantined and need to cancel a trip, why not travel into your personal past?
In April 2020, I am encountering a “new normal” and writing this article at my desk with strange mixed feelings of anxiety and isolation in New York. I am living with my partner, who is cloistered in the same room now, and we are learning how to co-exist healthily where we live every minute of every day together in a confined space. My partner and I are both working remotely and taking online classes, so when the noise from one of my devices is too loud, it affects my partner’s productivity. On the flipside, my partner sometimes asks me to run errands while I am working, which in turn interrupts my work.
Unlike historical devastating pandemics such as Black Death in the 14th century and Spanish flu in the early 20th century, access to technology allows us to continue the same activities as before COVID-19 to some extent. Any online alternatives have even helped us keep our mind and body healthy and motivated. However, new issues about privacy and communication have evoked in couples and families as a result of the transition of all family members gathering at home. Media also reports that the U.S. has received more than 2,000 calls from individuals citing COVID-19 as a condition of their abuse since mid-March, part of an alarming surge in such reports in countries where residents are in pandemic-related lockdowns . Some experts expect a rise in divorces in the future .
Under these circumstances, I believe one solution is not raging, but attempting to reach mutual understanding, trust, and respect. As a designer, I have the tools to generate a solution that is more peaceful and unites people through collective experiences related to this moment we are all living. Thus I started creating a web-based experience named “Wanderlust into (y)our past” to better understand and empathize with my partner. It is a time travel experience wandering through the personal memories I share with my loved one, which leads us to respect each other’s inner worlds.
Using this website, we can go back to three, five, and ten years ago! Upon our first use, I asked her to time travel to see where each of us was ten years ago, because I realized that even though I have been with her for a long time I don’t know much about her past. We go out, eat, hug, watch movies together, but we never talk much about our thoughts for the future, what I like, and what values she can not change. We need more communication. We need to respect each other, unite our hearts, and share collective values as a family. So when I asked her to time travel with me, she looked at me with a weird face, but said, “It looks fun!” (She was also bored with isolated life.)
So we embarked on a trip in 2015 to Tokyo, Japan, where I lived, and to Lansing, Michigan, where she lived. At that time, I was already working as a designer, and she was a university student. For me, the cityscape of Tokyo ten years ago has not changed beyond what I expected, but she was curious and asked questions which were difficult to answer, like what I was thinking about at that time, which restaurants I went to often, and what kind of girlfriend I had at that time.
Then, I wandered through a dormitory in Lansing, Michigan, where she lived. I felt nostalgic for the town, even though I had never been there. She talked about how cold the winter in Michigan is, and told the story of getting soaked by sudden rain while dog walking in the middle of summer. Though we were looking at the images, I certainly sensed the temperature and smell. We virtually “commuted” from her dormitory to her university, talking about movies, friends, and dreams of that time. She showed me old pictures on her computer and began to contact her old friend, immersed in nostalgia.
Eventually, we came back to the present day with a kindred feeling and naturally discussed what to do about our current challenging situation and how to cooperate. Interestingly enough, while looking back on the past, we were able to think about our future together.
“Wanderlust into (y)our past” is not just a journey into the past, but a journey into the inner worlds of partners and families, also a journey towards the future. This experience is on Github, so anyone can time travel with their partner, family, and loved ones. For those who are isolated and cannot travel to the outside world, this project can provide an opportunity to wander into (y)our past.