Did I travel for Christmas? Yes, I did. I have been traveling to see my best friend and her family for the Christmas holiday since I returned from Afghanistan in 2013. There was no way that I would miss this year, pandemic or no. Waiting at the airport, I connected to the public Wifi. A survey popped up asking about my travel patterns last year compared with this year. How much had COVID impacted my air travel? Tampa International Airport wanted to know.
How many times had I traveled in 2019?
5 or more?
Well, the answer was obviously “5 or more”. Hahaha . . . digital nomad I am.
Ok, what about 2020? As I counted my trips – Chile (once), Rhode Island (twice), Texas (twice), Nebraska (twice) – I realized that the answer was unequivocally “5 or more”. A global pandemic could not keep me from traveling.
In my first post from Omaha, I said that I “equate movement with life”. It continues to be true, and travel saved my sanity this year. I’ve been so grateful to see my friends, to receive hugs, a shoulder to cry on. So I offer here a short revisit of my (domestic) 2020 travel adventures.
Newport, Rhode Island: I had bought my ticket to Newport in February. As my friend, Trevor, and I monitored the pandemic, we agreed that we both felt comfortable with me traveling to see her in the third week of June. We hadn’t seen each other in a very long time, and were anxious for a visit as much as a respite from the self-isolation everyone was doing at the time.
The airport was busier than I expected. People were traveling. So many places to eat or drink were closed, that everyone lined up outside the one place open for coffee or food. I was never happier that I packed all the food in my fridge prior to a flight! I safely snacked in a quiet corner of the airport while waiting for my flight.
What a great weekend! We sat outside on her deck, enjoyed coffee or wine (depending on time of day). We even went to the beach; went sailing; found a local park for an afternoon stroll. What a good decision!
My second trip to Newport occurred in August (for my birthday). I’ve been traveling for almost every birthday since 2012, and I like the tradition immensely. Trevor graciously hosted me again, and we had an equally fabulous time. I love enjoying seafood and wine overlooking the water!
Dallas, Texas: It was a difficult year for all of us – in varying degrees, depending on our particular circumstances. Chatting with my best friend Lucy, she said, “you know, if we were together we’d be having a glass of wine right now”. I said, “don’t tempt me. You know I’ll buy a plane ticket!” She replied, “Do it! Do it! Buy a ticket!” We quickly conferred on dates, and I bought a short weekend ticket right there on the phone.
So the week after my June Newport trip, I was on my way to Dallas. We went indoor skydiving (so much fun!) and drank a lot of wine. The Tampa airport was consistently quiet; Dallas was fairly busy. But with each trip, I only gained confidence. I was as careful as one could be, finding quiet areas of each airport (regardless of how far I had to walk for my solitude), sporting one of my two N95 masks and bringing all my own food.
My second trip to Dallas was for Christmas, and so wonderful! It was the perfect way to end this difficult, seemingly endless year. I love how we kind of settle into the holiday. There is no rush, no stress. Christmas Eve is all about preparing for Christmas Day, which is all about presents, good food and drinks. Each day occurs without plan or schedule. The point is to spend time with each other. Some days, we walked to the park where both kids and dogs could run around happily. Some days, we watched movies or played board games. The kids love to help cook (and I love their assistance). Being Texas, we also sat outside to soak up the afternoon sun. It’s a special time together, and I’m so grateful for each year we’re able to spend together.
Omaha, Nebraska: I visited in July, and this was my last opportunity to spend time with Derek. He was obviously very ill then, but I loved the time with him and his family. They kindly invited me to join them on their family vacation to a waterpark in Iowa. The kids get several days playing in the water, and the adults get to enjoy outdoor grilling on the lake. As you can see, there were some beautiful sunsets (and a very hungry chipmunk!).
This was a special time for me. I hadn’t spent much time with Derek’s family before this trip. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know them a little better, to see them together and to soak up the memories.
We lost Derek in September, and I flew out once more for the funeral. Airports are a favorite place of mine, but the Omaha Airport brought only sadness on this trip. Even though I knew Derek would not be there to pick me up, I still expected to see him when I exited security. In my mind, that airport was ours. Without him there, my heart broke into a million pieces.
Other memories lived in the places we’d been, the university where we first met and the friends and family which surrounded him. I was not surprised by how many people showed up for the service. I was surprised and touched by how many people thought of me in their sympathies. Derek and I had not been together for long. I wasn’t aware that they knew how much we made each other tremendously happy.
The time was much more difficult than I anticipated. We knew Derek was ill, and I thought I was prepared. But I was a wreck the entire time. I could not leave Omaha, thinking it was for the last time. I could not leave without taking Derek with me, if only in spirit. I had to take him with me as I walked through the airport when I departed.
Some of you know that I kind of flew off an emotional cliff in October. This precipitated a trip to Virginia/Maryland to visit a host of friends whom I hadn’t seen in a year (or more). What a tonic for the soul – good friends, strong hugs, great conversation and the open road. By the time I returned to Tampa, I felt renewed. I was ready to dive back into some projects that had long been on the back burner.
I was also ready to move downtown! To a gorgeous apartment with a balcony that overlooked the river. After so many months stuck inside, I was ready to walk everywhere, sit outside with my morning coffee and take my new companion to all the local hotspots.
Haha! Who is this new companion? Oh, just the cutest, sprint-iest, friendliest, most adventuring Basset Hound mix you’ve every laid eyes on. He’s been a boon to my mental health. For as my brother joked in his best Jasper voice, “I can poop inside, or I can poop outside. The choice is yours.”
Sooo . . . I get outside at least four times a day. LOL
He loves car rides, good books (yes, that’s a history book) and walks (or runs) along the river. His philosophy on life is that every human and canine is a friend that he just hasn’t met yet! Perfect for me, as this is generally my life philosophy as well. Everyone wants to meet Jasper; so we make new friends pretty much every time we leave the building.
So happy new year everyone! 2020 was certainly a roller coaster, but it’s good for me to remember that it didn’t keep me from traveling! I look forward to many more adventures this year.