Finding Post-Quarantine Hope in The Amazing Race

Author: Liz Bazzoli

I love travelling. I love the feeling of sand between my toes, the sunshine’s warmth on my skin, the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life mingling with the carefree meander of the tourist. Most of all I love the sensation of newness, that child-like joy for exploration which accompanies travelling. 

From my very first airplane ride, I knew that I wanted to travel to every corner of the world (though my perception of the world was admittedly small, stretching only as far as my grandparent’s house to Walt Disney World). In fantastic, Up-inspired, illusions I dreamed of travelling to every state, every country, every continent, eventually reaching fluency in every language and becoming the most famed adventurer in the world!

For the time being, though, it seems my plans will have to wait. 

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide quarantine which has accompanied it has paused any travel indefinitely. Massive, tourist-enticing events from Coachella to the Tokyo Olympics have been cancelled, and with COVID-19 cases reaching new records daily, it seems unlikely that anyone will be leaving the confines of their home anytime soon. 

But maybe the thrill of travelling isn’t unreachable, even in our current moment. If quarantine has taught me anything, it’s taught me to live vicariously through my laptop screen. What if I could travel to different countries and a different, not-so-distant past without even leaving my bed”

I present to you The Amazing Race, a lovingly cheesy reality television show that follows contestants through what is basically a world-wide scavenger hunt ending in a $100,000 prize. Each season follows a simple enough structure: teams of two must follow vague clues to various locations around the globe, racing to complete a series of ridiculous challenges ranging anywhere from herding sheep to eating three pounds of caviar. The last team to complete each episode’s challenges gets eliminated. Rinse and repeat. To win contestants must navigate around different time zones, a wide variety of languages, delayed flights, and their own teammates. Needless to say, chaos ensues. 

Junk food television at its finest, The Amazing Race has not only been my chance to travel vicariously to the likes of Buenos Aires or Bangkok, but it also transports me to a moment lost to time: the early 2000’s. Contestants with soul patches and puka shell necklaces book flights on massive cube-like desktops, get around by reading physical maps and compasses, and have to make calls to travel agents on payphones; cellphones are a rare commodity. Competitors journey through the bustling markets of Marrakesh, attend lavish parties in Vienna, and race through the crowded city streets of Tokyo, interacting with the world without the fear of a deadly disease looming over their heads. Everything about the show feels fun and joyful, a time capsule of a lost normalcy. The Amazing Race feels so far removed from this current moment of isolation, but maybe it’s actually a beacon of hope and a testament to resilience. 

The Amazing Race aired its first episode on September 5th, 2001, a week before the September 11th terrorist attacks. The show came to fruition in a time of immense grief and political turmoil, not dissimilar to what America is enduring twenty-one years later. We’re living in a unique and tragic moment, but so were the contestants of The Amazing Race’s early life. By watching the show’s early seasons, you can see the healing of America, and it feels not so far from our current moment. Contestants talk openly about their own loss and trauma, but they also express a gratefulness to reach across invisible borders and connect with people across the globe. Maybe their enthusiasm and their vivacity despite being in the shadows of tragedy and anxiety can be a sign of hope for a post-quarantine world. Travel and human connection seem far away now, but a day will come when we can come together again and share in a global resiliency. Until then, there are still 29 seasons of The Amazing Race on Hulu that are calling out to me, beckoning me to begin a new adventure. 

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