Travel Stories from A Vaccinated Life: First Flight Back

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I’m writing this post from an airplane. It is my first flight since February 2020. Pre-pandemic, I traveled all of the time for both work and fun. As I sit in my seat recapping the last few hours, I realize how rusty I am at regular life.

Vaccinated travel

Is Travel like Riding a Bike?

This trip is for work and my initial challenge was that I no longer remember how to dress professionally. You would think that I would be excited to wear things that haven’t seen the light of day in so long, but I felt like I had nothing to wear. What did I wear for work?!?! I don’t seem to have anything appropriate. This lack of practice also posed a problem for packing. I hope I brought pajamas…

On to the Uber. First I had to re-download the app. Apparently my phone decided that I was done with ride apps. Or maybe it thought that I would never go anywhere again. Same phone, same. Once the Uber app was up and ready to go, I could not remember what to choose. Uber X seemed unnecessary for one person, but my other options were fancier. So Uber X it is!

I had not been in someone else’s car, let alone a stranger’s car, in over a year. It was unnerving to release control. Although, I was able to enjoy the freedom to place an Instacart order on the road since I left my family with no food. It turns out that they still need to eat while I’m gone. And apparently, I’m still in charge of making that happen when I travel.

Once I got to the check-in area, it would appear to an outsider that I had never flown before. I needed help like a novice on the self-service machines and had to read the instructions so carefully to tag my bag. Oh, and don’t forget the couple who had to chase me down because I left my boarding pass on the machine. Rookie mistake.

Thank goodness my TSA pre-check was still valid. I did get pulled aside because there were too many zippers and buckles on my clothes and I set the machine off (another rookie mistake). If I also had to take everything out of my bag and take off my shoes, that would not have ended well. I would probably be sitting here now with one shoe and no laptop.

I finally made it onto the plane with one more extra TSA bag check. Maybe my zippers and buckles make me look suspicious. I did check my bag for my one night trip because, as a reminder, I no longer remember how to travel and definitely had no idea how to get my hair gel under 4 ounces. What did I do before?!?!

Vaccinated travel

It is Now a Different Bike

And now I sit here. Wanting to relax and watch my downloaded shows, but feeling anxious. I’m about to have my first in-person meetings in 17 months. I have to hold myself together all day without easy access to snacks or a mute button, all while wearing a mask. My recent foray back into a social life has taught me that I have lost a lot of my social skills. At lunch with some friends last week, I could not think of any of the words I wanted to say. Socializing with close friends left me tongue-tied — something I had never experienced before.

The truth is that we are not the same people we were before the pandemic began. We have been through a traumatic period where normal life came to a halt. Just like anything else, if you don’t use your skills, they become rusty. And therefore, we need to be kind to ourselves.

Getting Used to the New Bike

We can’t expect to jump back into life as we know it. And the new Delta variant is keeping us on our toes. Slowly we will shake off the cobwebs and regain the life skills we took for granted. That takes time and effort. How to live in society will come back to us eventually, but we will make mistakes and have awkward moments.

We also have an opportunity to do things differently. I know I have learned a lot over the last 17 months and as I remember how to function, I also plan to use what I’ve learned to create change that will make my actions, relationships and choices in line with how I want to live not how I have always lived. And next time, I will remember no zippers on travel day.

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