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Nothing Shameful: Travel during COVID-19 Pandemic

On July 13th, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hopped on a plane to the U.S. Got your attention yet? Well, strap in. Put on your mask.


"Why not?" I said to myself as I booked the American Airlines ticket a few weeks prior. Well Claire, maybe it's a matter of life or death. Maybe putting loved ones at risk. Maybe having to completely quarantine. Maybe your family and friends being scared and worried. Did any of that stop me? Of course not. Because I was young and in love (or so the Adults say).

I thought I'd write a post about my trip from start to finish. To offer hope to those in a LDR (long-distance relationship) during these uncertain times, and to share my interesting - at times apocalyptic - experiences. The booking process was fairly painless, if you don't count the several phone calls to different airlines and limited flight options. I settled on daytime trips with one layover each (the standard from Toronto to South Dakota), departing on July 13 and returning August 5. Yes, that's a total of 23 days. Of course, it never seems to be quite long enough when spending time with your partner you never get to see.


When my gracious mother dropped me off at Pearson International that morning, I walked into a nearly empty airport. At the bag scan, security agents were joking and conversing to pass the time. The border security guy asked to confirm that I had a return flight, and I temporarily removed my mask for an identity check with shaking hands. I I got to my gate with an hour to spare, and did my best to conserve my phone battery. Thankfully, my flight had about 25 people on it, and I had an empty seat next to me. This I was grateful for as I repeatedly sanitized my hands, phone, bags, and yes, even the mini pack of sanitary wipes.


Eventually I arrived in Chicago. Oh boy.


This airport was absolutely packed. I had no choice but to brush shoulders with others as I ran to the washroom and ran to my next flight. "Where could everyone possibly be going?!" I asked myself, and then I realized that indeed, I was stupid enough to be there so I didn't dwell on that thought. My second flight was 100% full. I sat squished between the plane window and an overweight middle-aged man. Hey, at least everyone wore masks... Except when they were eating or drinking of course. I won't bring up unfortunate "American" stereotypes, but you get the picture.


Upon arrival, my boyfriend picked me up and we awkwardly greeted each other with a wave and a side-hug. I sat in the backseat of his car and we kept our masks on until we got to his place where I could take a shower and disinfect everything one more time. Now, if you want funny stories or photos from the trip, feel free to reach out and I will gladly share. But I'll stick to mainly the travelling-during-a-pandemic points for the sake of this post not being a novel.


For the third week, we decided to take a somewhat spontaneous camping trip: a few-hour drive west to the neighbouring state of Wyoming, figuring we could hit Devil's Tower on the way back. The perfect opportunity to spend time outdoors, while conveniently getting away from people... For the most part.


We stayed at several different campsites, and they were quite popular but we kept to ourselves (side note: those outhouses were among the cleanest I've ever seen, which was a lovely surprise). Sure enough, a few hammock-hangouts, moose-sightings, and (many) Un-crustables later, we arrived back in the city. The last few days of my trip were spent checking off our local to-do-together list, and then it was time for me to hop on a plane again. Such is the harsh reality of LDRs, pandemic or not. While on the topic of harsh realities, we are no longer together, but I'll spare you the emotional details and say that we are still friends. I only include this part of the story in honour of our blog title and slogan. Life, of course, isn't all banana bread and tie-dye (or however the saying goes). And I think we've all had to learn that - whether for the first time or the hundredth - in these past few months.

My return trip was alright - I forced the emotion to wait until I was done being in travel-mode. Pro tip: listen to neutral/happy music and play word games on your phone to keep your mind occupied! The flight to Chicago was, of course, completely packed. My layover was delayed an hour because we switched gates (and planes) a few times. In the end, I got back to Canada safe and sound which was really all I could ask for. That was always the goal in the back of my mind from the moment I booked the trip - to make it out of this crazy adventure without putting loved ones at risk.

I'm just about done my mandatory 14-day quarantine and am happy to report I am feeling good. The whole thing truly flew by and felt like a step out of time, but hasn't this whole year felt that way? Our lives have changed drastically and we've been presented the chance to examine aspects of our relationships, our values, our lifestyles, and decide... Are we going to let this challenging season get the better of us, our are we going to learn from it? Here's a lyric, from the song that titles this post:

The only way out is forward.


I know, easy for me to say as I sit here with my laptop, a roof over my head, and a fridge full of food. So let's be extra grateful for the privileges we get to enjoy, like time with those in our close circle, and perhaps taking advantage of the opportunity to reach out to those we haven't talked to in months/years. Spend some time reflecting on what you've learned about yourself & the world, go for a walk, play with your pet, hug your loved ones a little tighter. Hey, if you feel like cooking, we've got you covered.


Peace & love,


Claire

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