For many, the pandemic has called us home. It has forced us to nestle into the confines of our neighborhoods, whether they’re full of apartment complexes, high rises, or the long roads of small rural towns. Many of us are rediscovering, or discovering for the first time, where we lay our heads at night. Perhaps before, “home” was experienced on lunch breaks at work, in new friendships across the globe, in gatherings of extended family, or roommates at school. Now, home has regained a more literal definition. It is where we are, and where we are is much more limited. A natural way to escape the feeling of being boxed in? Neighborhood walks. 

So, we wanted to let you into our homes and our neighborhoods. This is a compilation of photographs and reflections from the staff at Passion Passport. We wanted to get a little more personal and share what this last year has looked like for us—what we’re learning, what new rhythms we are adopting, and what we are grateful for. We hope you enjoy and will share with us how you are experiencing your neighborhood this season. 

Janelle Choi (Social Media)

Brighton, UK

bikes parked along blue railing at seaside sunsetWhen the pandemic started, I was living in the beautiful city of Brighton, UK. We’d anticipated summer with so much excitement until the pandemic hit at full force. We quickly realized that summer would look very different this year. Before the pandemic, we spent nights out at pubs or going to gigs, but after lockdown, it was more evenings on the seafront, or days at the park with small groups of friends. I’m actually very grateful that I had such wonderful humans to call friends in Brighton, because they became my community. Not only because of the pandemic, but because I had moved to the UK on a whim, having spent my entire life in Canada thus far. The friends that I made in Brighton took me in and made me feel supported.

sunset on beach with pier

We lived near the Brighton pier—and unlike me—my boyfriend needed a lot of time out of the house, so we went on lots of walks around our neighborhood. Sometimes walking to the seafront and strolling the pier, sometimes going to the local park, or sometimes we’d go admire the colorful houses. Once we found a plant abandoned by the side of the dumpster, so we took it home and nurtured it (it grew two new leaves!) I do think I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for nature and this beautiful new place I get to call home during this season.

I still think about those sunsets over the west pier, or the moon on one particular day, glowing red and hovering over the palace pier. All those days we spent locked inside our tiny flat definitely gave us fresh eyes to look at all the beauty around us.

uphill view of colorful housefronts

One morning, we walked for two hours, until we didn’t recognize the city anymore. The rocky seafront turned into white cliffs and we couldn’t believe that such beauty was right outside our neighborhood. 

When we started clapping for our health care workers every Thursday at 8pm, it was the first time we saw so many of our neighbors’ faces at once.

I will never forget the scene of little heads popping out the window one by one, clapping, cheering, and smiling at each other.

It was beautiful and a bit sad to think that we never got to know all of them. 

We did make friends with an amazing family right before we left Brighton in August though. Just downstairs from our flat, the empty retail space was being turned into an Indonesian restaurant. I poked my head in one day to introduce myself and offer help if they ever needed someone to run to the shop or wanted to borrow some tools. We quickly became close with our neighbors. We helped them design their menus, ate Balinese breakfast at their restaurant almost everyday, joined in on their restaurant lock-ins, and even made plans to go stay at their family home in Indonesia.

attached flats in brighton with white and red doors

They were some of the loveliest people I have met (there’s a documentary on their restaurant here that shows it). It’s unfortunate that we only knew them for those 2 weeks before leaving Brighton, but I’m so grateful our paths crossed. I know we’ll see them again. Getting to give and receive help from neighbors is such a comforting feeling, especially with the consistent unravelling of uncertainty during a pandemic. 

Zach Houghton (CEO)

Brooklyn, New York, USA

This year, I found myself going on meandering walks through Brooklyn, mostly through Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, and Prospect Park. I discovered streets and buildings I hadn’t properly noticed and allowed myself long periods to slow down and be still. 

 

One route became a regular: on summer mornings, I would walk over to Cobble Hill Park, a little oasis in the brownstones of Cobble Hill. My rituals were a saving grace: walks, journaling, meditation, podcasts and coffee. 

Joseph Ozment (Editorial)

Pilsen, Chicago, USA

Mural art by Mateo Zapata.

I landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport on the very day — March 11 — when the WHO officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic.” Masks were really just starting to be a thing, and hand sanitizer hadn’t yet become a staple item located in every doorway, like we’re so used to now. The anxiety in the air was palpable (I had plenty myself), but I was making a routine visit to my girlfriend and felt safe enough continuing ahead with my trip. But as a stay-at-home order went into effect in Illinois and mass closures started across the country, it became pretty clear that I would be staying in Chicago a little longer than initially planned. 

This wasn’t how I had anticipated getting to know Pilsen, the neighborhood on the south and west side of Chicago where I’d eventually be permanently based. It’s perhaps best known for the restaurants and street food vendors who were now closing, thinking about how to survive this huge setback. But camera in hand, I hit the chilly streets several times a week to take in the beautiful golden light that Chicago gets in the morning, paying special attention to how it landed on Pilsen’s colorful storefronts, vintage vehicles, and amazing murals (including one of singer Selena on the corner store right across from my apartment). 

vintage blue mercedes with license plate panama

Fast forward a few months, and Pilsen is home now. I felt welcomed by this neighborhood the first time I visited last November, and zig-zagging through its streets with my dog in recent weeks has been a saving grace. Even when cities move at half speed and we’re all working at less-than-half capacity, special places like this still feel alive. I’m looking forward to enjoying a somewhat more normal year in my new neighborhood next time around, but we’ve gotten to know each other privately in the meantime. 

Zoe Bell (Editorial)

London, UK

When London’s lockdown started back in March, I was still a relative newcomer to the city. So for me, the pandemic hasn’t been about rediscovering my own neighborhood but exploring a new one. While everything was closed, I took lots of long walks from my apartment in Hoxton. I loved being a 30-ish minute walk away from Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral; walking along the Thames made me feel like I was still in London, even though the city seemed so different. 

In August, I moved to a new neighborhood, and though my new place is only a 20-minute walk from my old apartment, it feels like a fresh start. The best part about my area – I live just off Brick Lane – is that the art changes constantly. I notice new artwork and graffiti every day, even on my own street (and sometimes, my front door!). It’s really inspiring to see that despite everything, people are still creating art. And even during lockdown, the neighborhood’s produce markets and food vendors are still open. I haven’t met too many neighbors yet—and most of my friends are fellow expats, so I still feel like a bit of an outsider—but the more I explore my area, the more I feel like a local. 

Some newly discovered gems just around the corner from me include this street art piece by Marija Tiurina: it’s such a cool depiction of pandemic-life. I also recently realized that there are tons of broccoli sculptures on the streets around Brick Lane. Apparently, these are the work of local collage artist Adrian Boswell. Now that I’ve started looking out for them, I notice these colorful broccolis everywhere!

Corynn Craig (Editorial)

Los Angeles, USA

camper van with rainbow in back window

This year, I have invigorated a love for walks. I used to go for long runs, whizzing through neighborhoods to clock in ten miles and move on with my day. Now, I return to childhood corners where ten years ago I would have been bent over a puddle, watching a leaf float down a stream of hose water from the neighbor two blocks up. 

Though this season has introduced an unwelcome foreignness, it has also introduced opportunities to return to the slow and mindful rhythms of childhood. I throw on clothes that feel soft to my skin, I splash my face with water but refrain from meticulous mascara application, I go on walks—not because they’ll lead me anywhere I need to be—but because I want to admire new gardens. I stop and stare at a tree because never before did I feel permission to do so. I lay on the grass of my parents’ backyard to wonder at clouds because it just feels so good to watch them do what they’re meant to do despite the chaos ensuing. I care more about checking up on the neighborhood’s artichoke blossoms than I do about my productivity levels. 

smiling sun chalk ark on sidewalk

There is a freeing disconnect between humanity and nature. No matter how destructive our tendencies, how deeply our brokenness has been revealed these last months, the trees stand in total independence and determination to do what they are meant to do—to provide nesting space for birds, to concoct oxygen out of polluted Los Angeles air, to blossom in spring and shed in winter. 

This year, I am learning from the trees. I am striving to stand strong with roots curling deep into the unsteady ground of this year, to do what I’m meant to do despite the destruction that continues to flood society, to do my part. To learn, to acknowledge my poison, to apologize, to be courageous, to be hopeful, to be kind, to provide nesting space for others, to be safe, and to play.

homemade prayer flags hanging from laundry line

Here are some photographs from my neighborhood walks. I wanted to capture signs of play, nature, and intentional displays of care and hope. 

How have you experienced home this season? What have you discovered or rediscovered in your living community this year? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter

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Passion Passport’s community includes explorers, creators and storytellers from around the globe. Their travel experiences have challenged them, shaped their perspective of the world and given them a better sense of who they are. Both online and off, Passion Passport offers the opportunity to connect with one another, to share those pivotal moments, and to travel with purpose.