'Travel without moving': how people are seeing the world through strangers' windows

Poppy Noor
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Kirill Kukhmar/Tass</span>
Photograph: Kirill Kukhmar/Tass

Wouldn’t it be a relief – considering we are all stuck inside and travel is a distant memory – if you could get a change of scenery? A new view would do us all well, and with that in mind, people across the world – from Beirut, to the French Antilles, to Hawaii – have been making short videos of what’s right outside their windows to share so we can still explore during quarantine.

See someone’s world from their window in Oxford, Michigan, where the reflection of emerald trees bounces off the water. See potted plants dance in the breeze in Honolulu. If it’s chaos you’re craving, opt for the busy bustling road in London’s Brixton, where red buses and white vans hurry past tower blocks seemingly unaware of the menacing dark cloud hovering above.

Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam started the WindowSwap project while under lockdown in Singapore by asking a few close friends to share the view from their windows with them. In June they expanded it, asking people to send in 10 minutes of horizontal video via email, to be uploaded on their website. They have received hundreds of submissions from dozens of countries across the world since. “Until we can explore our planet responsibly again I guess, this is a way to travel without moving,” says Ranjit over the telephone from Singapore.

They have made small discoveries since then, like the ability to trade places for a moment with people in places they had never heard of; seeing the view of an 81-year-old woman in Massachusetts who couldn’t send a video because she didn’t know how, but sent a beautiful photo instead; understanding the natural knack of teenagers in cities for making high-quality videos; and nothing quite compares to the appeal of a slightly pixellated, grainy video from a small town.

“I feel, they have so much character and it’s the beauty of this thing we started, that continues to transform,” says Balasubramaniam.