Dipping my Toes into Post-Pandemic Travel
Like a rain after a long drought, my first post-pandemic travel experience was a welcome respite from the proverbial four walls of my home that have kept me (and kept me well) for the past year and a half. And just like riding a bike, my jet setting return was a little shaky at first. Marveling at how much I forgot, I kept asking myself whether this was actually my first time traveling.
My Covid-Induced Fast from Travel
Seventy-two weeks. That’s one year, four and a half months. That’s how long it had been between getting off one airplane and onto another. To cope, I’d tried to not remember my pre-pandemic self who would get restless after merely six weeks at home, or how I sometimes scheduled only a few days between international trips. The flight breaking this Covid-induced fast might only be two hours long, but I checked and rechecked my confirmation as if it was an around the world ticket, terrified it would be canceled. I was that desperate to break out of prison.
Preparing to Take Flight
I assumed getting ready for a four-day trip would be trivial. But the mental checklist that had occupied center stage in my frontal cortex for so long had disappeared. I had to search for one of those written checklists I write out for others:
Where is my list of never-to-be-forgotten numbers (trusted traveler, frequent flyer accounts, emergency contacts) I stick into a suitcase pocket for backup?
Where are all those photocopies of passports, drivers license, global entry cards?
Have I contacted the cat sitter and sent a text to my neighbor who will call the police if a U-Haul truck pulls up to the front door while we are gone?
Have I bought enough cat food?
Have I set the timers on the lamps (no, we do not have a “smart” house—I do things the old-fashioned way)?
Have I downloaded every app I need, especially the one from our new, never flown before, airline, and made sure the passwords are stored on my phone?
I never, ever, considered the long separation from my luggage and toiletries would be tantamount to a divorce, and I’d have to start all over again. Like a recent divorcee, I had to relearn everything. Where were those little 3-ounce containers I use for my mouthwash, my hair gel, my cannot-live-without facial creams? Why aren’t they filled and ready to go? How dare the ones I’ve used before dry out after 16 months sitting in the closet? Where is my baggy of little snacks for that inevitable wait in the airport for a delayed flight? Why aren’t my luggage locks in the little basket from Madagascar that sits on the window ledge? (Never mind I put them on never-locked carry-on cases.) This repacking thing is not fair.
At least the clothes won’t be a problem. I can’t have forgotten that much. Except I can’t find that quick-dry underwear and forgot how many socks my husband uses. It’s going to be hot—a couple of lightweight sundresses and something nice for dinner should be sufficient for me. Shorts, pants, shirts for him. All OK, except I haven’t found out if sport sandals are OK for dinner. Never mind—just pack hats, sunblock, and a shawl or two for air-conditioned restaurants.
I forget if preparation always generated this level of anxiety. Maybe it comes from thinking I’ve forgotten all my experienced traveler tricks. But now I’m confident all is again under control, and I’m set to breeze quickly through the airport, TSA-pre-check approved boarding pass in hand, all my belongings for a 4-day trip packed neatly in a properly sized carryon.
Until security flags my bag and pulls me aside. Rookie mistake #1—forgetting to trash the water bottle. The look on his face tells me not to bother saying “I forgot.” He knows better, and so do I.
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