Looking longingly at someone else’s window

By on September 3, 2021 0


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This week, I looked out of a high-rise apartment window in Tyumen, Russia, through a skylight in Trorod, Denmark, and out of a balcony in Toulouse, France.

Not physically, unfortunately.

There are a few freezes, a friend introduced me to a website called WindowSwap, which plays videos to you taken from other people’s windows. The content is crowdsourced, and anyone, from anywhere, can download a video. I’ve been working on it a lot lately.

Before the pandemic, I traveled quite regularly, a natural side effect of half of my family living in a different country. Like many Australians, I had long taken our easy access to the rest of the world for granted.

Now much of my world has shrunk to my house and the view out the window: a driveway, a fence, and the building next door. It’s pretty boring, which I don’t usually mind. But this week, with the news of Melbourne’s latest lockdown extension and the prospect of continued restrictions until next month, the monotony has taken on some malice in my mind.

So I did the closest thing to the trip that I can at the moment and look out other people’s windows.

A skylight opened slightly in Wichtrach, Switzerland, revealing distant mountains. A tractor passed by and disappeared into the nearby green hills. The sound of helicopters faded above our heads.

A lush, soggy backyard in Colorado. A stream is bubbling in the background, and the screen distorts as water flows past the camera.

Terracotta roofs of Prague enjoying the sun. The sound of traffic echoing through the streets below and a summer breeze rustling through the trees.

A downpour in Bangkok, in front of a wide open apartment window. A row of television satellites point skyward from the rooftop of a building in the distance.

A backyard-slash-greenhouse exploding with colorful flowers in Lancashire, England. Ed Sheeran chirps in the background.

In return, I uploaded my own video of my driveway, fence, and the building next door. It doesn’t seem like a particularly fair trade, but I’m not complaining.

Besides the scenery, you get tiny clues about the lives of window owners: a “Star Wars” poster on the wall; the reflection of a figure in the glass; a hushed conversation in another language; a woman’s voice buzzing. Never enough to form a complete picture, but enough to feel a temporary connection.

The reason I love the website so much is that it reproduces, to some extent, the quiet moments of the trip – when you’re not marveling at tourist attractions or eating tasty food or (in my case ) awkwardly catch up with your loved ones. Haven’t seen for a few years, I just exist in a foreign place where everything is different, from the etiquette of the metro to the appearance of the streets to the smell of the air.

It reminded me a lot that the world beyond Australia’s closed borders still exists and is waiting for us to join it. I am very happy to do so when we reopen.

What little things did you do to survive the lockdown? Write to us at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

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