Leaving the neighborhood felt momentous.
In 15 months, we’d ventured beyond our city limits once, to an AirBnB in the local mountains where we’d brought our own food, avoided almost everyone, and wandered outdoor trails.
So that practically didn’t count.
This trip was different. We were hitting the freeway for three days away. We’d stay in a hotel. We’d see other people. We’d eat in restaurants, albeit outdoors. But that was fine. It’s hard to say “no” to dining al fresco in our neck of the woods.
My husband and I were on different ends of the spectrum. Once we were fully vaccinated, he was ready to make plans. He had a wish list of locations to visit and things to do. I, on the other hand, was willing to discuss going out to lunch.
So, even with years of vacations behind us, this felt like the trip of a lifetime.
It’s Okay to Tiptoe Back into Travel
We agreed to go to Santa Barbara, about a three-hour drive from home. Ideally situated between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it was the perfect place to celebrate life after 2020.
From the comfort of our car, I was able to both take in the view and avoid crowds. Many of us are still hesitant about being in large groups of people. We’re feeling the after effects of all those days and weeks when we were afraid of our groceries or packages from UPS.
It will take some time for our nervous systems to adjust. So we must be gentle with ourselves as we venture out. It’s okay to do only what feels right or to take things slow.
There’s Life Beyond the Back Yard
I live in a wonderful place, and my home surroundings sustained me in 2020.
But even though we weren’t ready to head to an airport, we were eager to experience someplace else. Feel a different breeze. Hear other sounds in the early morning. Gobble up scenery from other vistas.
It took my eyes a while to adjust. It had been a year since I’d seen sunlight dancing on the surface of the sea. Or seabirds diving in search of dinner.
I remembered what it feels like to appreciate our home and be inspired by other locales. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. One makes the other more precious.
Unexpected Emotions Can Bubble Up
I thought I was prepared… for the interactions, the sense of “newness,” the joy of reclaiming life beyond our front door. I was taking it in stride, comforted that people were still courteously wearing masks or being mindful of their distance from each other. Happy to see others enjoying time with friends and family. Elated to be moving around in the world.
I was delighted by how eager people were to engage with us, to ask where we were from, to smile. The sun warmed us, the sea breeze cooled us, the promise of better days ahead uplifted us.
Then my sandwich arrived.
We were seated for lunch at an outdoor table overlooking the ocean, listening to the waves wash up and back along the shore. The waitress set my plate down, and I began to cry.
I shed quiet tears for which I apologized. I couldn’t control this unplanned reaction, and I didn’t try. It was a lovely sandwich, but that of course had nothing to do with how I felt.
Gratitude for everything poured out. Relief flooded through me.
It’s in these moments that we fully realize the power of our resilience and the fragile balance in which each day magically unfolds. We’d like to bottle our appreciation and drink it when we become complacent. We want to remember how to release the fear so we can bask in the warmth of hope.
My husband and I didn’t travel far, but we were transported.
We were given a new frame of mind, a fresh outlook… one we hope to carry with us in the months to come as the world continues to open up, and we continue to do that, too.
How is it feeling to travel again? What has your experience been as you’ve re-entered the world? Please join the conversation!