After 18 months of lockdown, last week we took our first family road trip in almost two years.
I was one of those people who didn’t mind so much being trapped inside during the pandemic. I loved having my family around me, and I enjoyed not having to drive places. I read lots of books. I wrote a lot. Teaching? Boot up the computer. Get-togethers and meetings? The same. I suddenly found myself in the odd position of being on time to things.
But travel is a big deal for me, and I was missing it. We were set to go on a trip to Disneyland the week that the Bay Area (and the amusement park) shut down in March 2020. And while I could have found a way to travel during lockdown, we chose to follow the fairly strict recommendations of my county.
With long Spotify playlists and bags full of not-too-healthy snacks, all of us vaccinated people set out for Seattle to visit my oldest son and his wife, whom we hadn’t seen in two years. This time, we had a little dog with us, which turned out to be easier than I thought it would be and more entertaining. There are lots of pet-friendly hotels! And at least one coffee shop.
In our case, months of deprivation led to appreciation. I looked on things with fresh eyes—the northern Central Valley with its fields of sunflowers and almond trees wasn’t just a place to pass through on the way to somewhere else; it looked beautiful to me. Oregon’s rivers seemed so exotic—we don’t have legit rivers in the Bay Area. And the Seattle area, with its ferry boats and miles of deep, green forests was stunning. We took a ferry boat over to Bainbridge Island to visit a friend and loved that we could drive onto a boat and get off and drive wherever we wanted on the other side.
But the best thing? Hugs. We could hug each other. We could talk and see each others’ expressions without masks–and not through a video screen. Zoom kept us from complete isolation, but we were made to see, hear, feel and connect with each other in person. Nothing substitutes for that, long term.
My husband and I are big fans of British comedy. On a show called That Mitchell and Webb Look, there’s a repeating skit called “After the Event,” in which contestants play a game show after a fictional apocalyptic event has decimated their society. It’s obvious that this event has maimed and deeply affected the contestants. The audience is warned to “REMAIN INDOORS” and not to think about “The Event.”
Will COVID be our “Event”? It’s possible that something worse will come along in our lifetime. But now, most of us have the ability to go outside, hug one another, see each other in the flesh, and travel (to most places). I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can.
Have you taken any big trips, post-lockdown? What was it like?
I have to clarify (because he will read this) that my husband Pete (third from the left) chose to fly to Seattle rather than do the road trip portion with us. And that’s okay! He loves both us and trips, but long car rides with very talkative people and loud singing along to playlists are not his thing.