A note from Atlas Obscura founders Dylan Thuras and Josh Foer:
In the courtyards of Wuhan, China, thousands of residents chanted “jiayou” from their windows, encouraging one another to stay strong. Across Italy, multi-balcony concert sessions have broken out, with musicians and singers playing along together. In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led an entire apartment complex in a balcony/window exercise session.
At Atlas Obscura, we talk a lot about the search for wonder and the joy we find in sharing it. These values are at the core of who we are and what we do. They reflect our incredible community of travelers, colleagues, readers, and contributors around the world who make us an engine for global human connection. The impact of COVID-19 on individuals, economies, and our community near and far has been difficult to witness, and our hearts go out to those affected.
But this is not a message about our immediate plans. You can see those here—for our Trips and Experiences. And it’s not a message about safety. No doubt you have already gotten many of those, and we encourage you to follow them and stay home to help limit the spread of the virus. We actually want to send you another sort of message, because it’s something we believe in strongly. Wonder can be found all over, and right now, finding wonder matters. Over the coming weeks and months, we want to help you find people, places, and projects out there that inspire and help us all hold on to our spirit of discovery and sense of community. We’re calling it Wonder From Home—think of it as a different kind of WFH.
Most of us are stuck at home, staying away from others, for an unknown amount of time. Many of us are also trying to work from home, watch kids, or care for family members. We’ve lost not just the ability to go out and see the world, but even the basic daily interaction that fuels us. When I think about this I am reminded of something that guides Atlas Obscura and Josh and me personally.
Some people think that exploration requires long plane trips, selfies in exotic locales, or racking up a long list of countries one has visited. We disagree. This letter is a call to learn from and celebrate all the intrepid explorers out there who have never left their home state or province, but take inquisitive wanders around their neighborhood, or the explorers who can’t get out but find inspiration in the wide frontiers of the internet. The emotions that underlie our desire to explore are universal, and can be satisfied even at home. Exploration is more than travel—it’s a way of looking at the world. And when we’re all ready to go out and see the world again, Atlas Obscura will be here to help you do that too.
The emotions that underlie travel, that search for wonder, the yearning for discovery, and for the understanding of other people, all still exist and still find expression even when we can’t go. Like the people in the windows and balconies of China, Italy, Spain, and other places around the world, people are finding hope, solidarity, and joy as they give voice to these feelings. Even though we can’t do it in person, we can find other ways of sharing the generous spirit that brings people to travel in the first place.
Just in the last few days, the internet has exploded with creative expressions of sharing. In some ways it is the best the internet can be, cultivating communities and nurturing strange and wonderful projects. Over the coming weeks, we want to help you find some of those projects, places, and people with “Wonder From Home,” a series of articles and more, from citizen science projects you can do from your window, to animal encounters by livestream, to amazing skills you can learn at home. And we also hope that you’ll take the time to keep exploring the world through our atlas of places, our stories, and our videos.
This is a difficult time for all of us. But amid all that is bad and scary, let’s all dedicate ourselves to feeding the part of us that makes us yearn to see the world and interact with each other: our sense of curiosity and wonder. We hope we can play a small part in reminding everyone that the world is still an incredible place, and bringing you all a little bit of wonder, every day.