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In the Before Times, I often composed my travel writing in the present tense. You know how the trick goes, the way the travel writer strains to swiftly bring the reader into a scene: It’s a balmy night in Panama City, and I’m sipping a rum at the bar of the largely empty Ocean Sun Casino. ... I’m lounging on the sunny bow of the expatriate’s boat as we shove off from the historic city of Granada, Nicaragua, and into one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. … The sleight of hand is to make it seem as though we’re jotting off these dispatches on hotel room stationery or poolside or from a tray table in business class. As the days of shutdown drag on — as we Americans are forbidden from traveling to most nations in the world — this approach begins to feel as old-fashioned as an epistolary Victorian novel.

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