Fly around the globe for a EUR" and return home for aEUR again in 'Imagine a City.

After two-plus years of being largely confined by the pandemic, many people are now taking to the skies and planning exotic vacations.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
06 July 2022 Wednesday 13:19
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Fly around the globe for a EUR" and return home for aEUR again in 'Imagine a City.

After two-plus years of being largely confined by the pandemic, many people are now taking to the skies and planning exotic vacations.

You don't have to travel through crowded airports or wait in long lines at TSA. Mark Vanhoenacker, your tour guide, will take you around some of the most beautiful cities of the world.

Vanhoenacker was a commercial airline pilot and wrote poetically in his book Skyfaring about the joys of flying above the earth from the cockpit of a jumbo plane.

Imagine a City is his new book. It takes you from the beginning to the end to reach the destination aEUR." Vanhoenacker used to dream about far-flung places and then gets to experience it up close as the plane lands. The author's journey from a lonely child in western Massachusetts to a confident globetrotter, based in London, is also documented in the book.

He takes us on a bicycle ride through Brasilia, and birdwatching in Kuwait.

The tour can be disorienting, just like jet travel. After reading a chapter on Jeddah, you wake up in Delhi. Vanhoenacker, a skilled navigator, can fill in the gaps by providing history, poetry, and lots more local color.

Vanhoenacker may not have the insider's perspective that comes with living in a city for a lifetime, but he has the advantage of frequent, short visits to many places with plenty of foreign currency and a backpack full of curiosity.

He takes us on a walk through the snowy streets in Sapporo, Japan and glides over the wrecks off the coasts of Cape Town, South Africa. Or, its social media equivalent: a daily Twitter tweet that reads "BANG!"

He writes, "I like to believe that it's important to have these worlds be better connected." "Increasingly they are: By history and stories, immigrants and travelers, computers and aEUR" (if I'm not too proud to say this aEUR by planes."

The book is woven with stories about Pittsfield, Mass. Vanhoenacker’s boyhood home, and the place that he once longed to escape. He would sit in his bedroom and build model airplanes, imagining all the places they might take him. He would study the globe illuminated on his dresser and draw plans of a model city where a young man like him might find a place to call home.

He writes that when he was young and struggling to come out as gay and with his speech impairment and other issues, it was almost lifesaving to be in a place he imagined or travel to.

Many people find freedom in big cities' impersonality, but others fall through the cracks. Vanhoenacker wrote about his time in San Francisco looking for Henry, a Pittsfield family friend who had fallen into drug and despair.

He writes, "Henry's story has brought home to me the reality of how it is possible to lose yourself in a place so far away from your first." "I would be shocked to see how easy it is to forget to look at the faces of middle-aged homeless men I passed," he writes.

Part of the book was written during the pandemic when air travel was grounded temporarily. Vanhoenacker stayed home for months without flying anywhere. Some pilots retired early while others were laid off.

The flight crews often carried more cargo than passengers when flights were resumed: "pets," bags of letters, enough gold, enough banknotes and enough gold to remind me that the world's banking system isn't entirely virtual. Tens of tonnes of Scottish salmon and medical supplies whose technical specifications my colleagues and I would read to each other from the cargo manifest with increased interest and a new sense of pride.

Pandemic travel restrictions are slowly disappearing. American recently removed its COVID testing requirement to international visitors. Passengers are now eager to take long-delayed flights.

Vanhoenacker points out that many cities that were once closed off became more welcoming over time.

"As cities grew and survived, thanks in part to their ramparts," they have tended not to tear down their walls. While the stones may have been useful for other structures and the paths of demolished wall walls often became roads, particularly ring roads,

Vanhoenacker compares North Carolina's ring roads to the railroads that run around Moscow, Berlin, and Raleigh. The Minivanoenacker, his father's car that he fondly calls the Minivanoenacker, is the vehicle he drives.

Japan's Yamanote Line, an elevated railroad running 21 miles through Tokyo's central area, is another famous ring. It boasts six stations that are among the busiest in the world and loops for 21 more miles. Vanhoenacker offers readers a tour through all 30 stops. Some of the names include "All-Day-Long Village" or "Sacred Rice Field".

Vanhoenacker doesn't use the automatic turnstile when he returns to New Post Station where he started the loop. He might not be recognized by the fare-card reader as having been anywhere.

The well-traveled author arrives back in Pittsfield at the end of his journey. He finds it far more welcoming than he could have imagined growing up. He's made it all the way back.

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