The One That Got Away: Travelling in the time of Covid (Ken Haley, Transit Lounge)
The One That Got Away documents journalist and travel writer Ken Haley’s year evading the pandemic. While many of us were kept in captivity as Covid-19 raged across the world, Haley was tasting some freedom travelling through Central America. His pandemic year begins early in 2020 when he heads for the Caribbean as the spectre of something called ‘novel coronavirus’ looms large elsewhere. Between sojourns in Cuba and Florida (a rollicking, fun chapter), Haley then hides out by jumping between Puerto Rico and Barbados. There, we witness chance meetings with fascinating local dignitaries and overhear poignant exchanges with cab drivers. Haley is attuned to the sociopolitical nuances of the region, all the while observing how imperialism has left irreversible scars on these parts of the world. Haley’s stay overseas is less tantalising than it seems. His trip is hindered by lost luggage, a robbery, hotel quarantine ‘detention’, along with other seemingly endless Covid-19 roadblocks, as well as some serious health challenges that squeamish readers are warned to brace for. Nevertheless, as Haley advises, the ‘most vital currency any traveller can have is confidence’ and he regularly exemplifies that ethos here. Humour and self-deprecation are never far off as he duly records his efforts to remain a ‘coronatourist’ and to not hide the challenges he faces as a wheelchair traveller. With a buoyant, energetic approach to recording a year of (mostly) eluding lockdowns and quarantine, The One That Got Away is a greatly satisfying travel memoir that gives hope that, like Haley, we too might one day be able to venture abroad again.
Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.