Traveling During COVID-19

Earlier this month my family and I flew on four different airplanes. (!!) That might sound totally irresponsible to you, but after careful consideration we decided to go for it. Thankfully, as it turned out, everything went just fine :). More importantly, moving through the airports was a marvelous reminder that there is more to life than the bubble in which we typically operate. This has been true about air travel since before COVID-19, but now that my personal bubble is smaller, the reminder was most welcome. I used to see, hear, smell, experience, and explore outside of my home daily. Now, venturing out is quite limited as I continue to work from my kitchen table.

The magic of moving through the airport for this trip was special simply because I could appreciate the newness around me. For the first time, I liked seeing faces I would never again see, hearing voices with accents that were unlike mine, having conversations with strangers I would never speak with again. A year ago, the fleetingness of it all overwhelmed me. This time, I relished in the mental stimulation that an airport full of strangers provided. I took in the conversations around me, having been deprived of this commonality-turned-delicacy for the past five months. I enjoyed it when my seat partner told me about his grown children, I watched with incredulity as two women fought over whose seat was whose; I noticed that no one complained about having to wear a mask, they just did it.

Adding to the magic, one of my layovers was in the same city that my best friend lives (above!). By chance, the layover happened to be quite long so our families were able to see each other! There we were, together, in the middle of a pandemic that has kept everyone apart from each other for so long. After countless FaceTimes and text messages, it was absolutely incredible to be physically together. Even though it was only half of a face that I saw, with smiles hidden behind masks, it was a refreshing break from the monotony of life’s new normal.

In the airport terminals, I was especially impressed with the service industry. I had my first sit-down restaurant experience since March and it was so nice – I miss restaurants! The servers went above and beyond for us and I have never felt more welcomed to sit and dine in my whole life than at that California Pizza Kitchen (thanks, Jason!) and Chili’s (thanks, Hector!). I think there has been a shift in perspective to where people no longer take their jobs or their customers for granted, and vice-versa. And yes, we were permitted to remove our masks to eat and I was very comfortable with the distances between myself and my fellow diners.

Of course, everyone has their own level of acceptable risk and many people would understandably not travel via airplane right now. And that’s okay! But from what I saw on the inside I am happy with the decision I made and was delighted by the thoughtfulness of the airport/airline staff and other travelers.

P.S. Once landed, the vacation was a happy time of fun in the sun, reading a great book, and spending time with family. We can’t wait to do it again soon 😊.

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