I Miss Travel & Strangers I Haven’t Met

As we traumatized ourselves watched the second “Presidential” debate the other night, Vice President Joe Biden mentioned that Dr. Fauci claimed that Americans are likely looking at mask-wearing and social-distancing measures not only well into 2021, but also likely into 2022.

My heart sank. I realized that we were probably not setting foot on an airplane for at least another year, maybe more.

This thought was followed immediately by a shower of guilt, as what right do I have to complain? We have Enough (with a capital E) when so many others do not right now; I am mindfully grateful for that, and focus on it often.

When you love traveling, but not enough to endanger your loved ones or someone else’s loved ones: Look, bitches, I went to Paris!

I miss living in a world where I don’t have to worry if merely breathing in the same space, taking my germs from here (St. A) to there (Denver) and everywhere (else!), might result in people across a city, state, or country getting sick and dying. Where I can visit my sundry friends without worrying about carrying a deadly illness between them all.

I won’t be the reason a friend (or someone they love) gets sick or dies.

Painful reality: I may not see my father or brother, my little nieces, or my best friends until 2022; while yes, we could certainly drive to see them, we have to be next-level safe due to Jason’s health—and between my essential-worker friends, teacher-friends and parent-friends (who regularly have household members attend school), we simply won’t right now.

I won’t watch my husband die, so help me God. Moreover, I will not risk leaving him alone. He’s once a widower, and I won’t risk twice, not when common sense and nesting together can prevent tragedy in its elegant simplicity.

Could a meteor fall out of the sky and strike me dead tomorrow? Yes—that’s just my time to go if it does. But the same way I don’t drive drunk and always wear my seat belt (even though others do and don’t), I won’t live carelessly; we are vibrantly alive, deeply in love, and generally safe right where we are.

Adventures await us on the other side of this pandemic. I can’t help it if I’m a little impatient, though.

I miss experiencing the Global Narrative.

We all are but one character in a massive world story; to travel is my favorite way to participate. Every place I go, I wonder: Who and what’s stuck around? Why? What was important enough to keep? What did people gloss over? What has been lost? What shame did we try to bury? What does that say about our current shame? And amid all the ugliness, where did and do people of all kinds find joy and beauty?

The truth of the Global Narrative is in the heart and art of people around the world—and I miss it and them.

It turns out that you can miss a stranger that you’ve never met.

In traveling, you find these stories of the global narrative bursting in every crevice—pieces live in museums, in art, in laughter and sorrow, in playing children, in the very people who make up the fabric of a community. The more you see, the more listen, the more you let curiosity guide you, the more you understand, the more puzzle pieces click into place as people share their stories, be they in social media, books, newspapers, or message boards. Sometimes you look backwards on your travels and realize you were (or more likely are) part of the problem—which allows you to engage in the work. You can’t stop causing problems if you don’t know even that problems exist; travel provides a key part of the puzzle to help click progress into place, as there is no teacher or book like experience.

To do better is to be better.

There is also certainly something inherently selfish in travel.

It leads to our own edification, our own collection of experiences, our own memorable joy; while we can perhaps give wisdom to others based on these experiences, or perhaps buy local and support artists around the world, these experiences are entirely our own. Yes, travel experiences can and sometimes do make us into better people who learn to contribute in different ways to society, but often, we simply travel for fun.

I’ll admit it: I miss being a little selfish. Travel was the time I successfully allowed myself to put down the glass; to actively disconnect from the horrors of the world, the pressures tugging this way and that, the politics I can’t seem to turn away from, even when it literally damages me from the stress.

Travel was an extremely privileged form of radical self-care.

I miss finding release, that ease and temporary peace in traveling. Finding the romance, free of outside pressures. Finding our inner children and setting them free to wander, explore, climb and play. Right now, even heading outside is dangerous, as every reasonable person avoiding virus-infested indoor areas is out and about, packing formerly crowd-free outdoor areas—another risk of which we must be cognizant.

In staying home, there is no simple release in the day-to-day pressures of living; we can’t go anywhere, and I can’t exactly drop the parrots off at a sitter’s house. They are my ever-present toddlers-with-pliers, and while I adore them and am dedicated to them for life, I would very much like a quiet afternoon sans screaming and squawking and repetitive talking.

Travel allowed me to responsibly walk away from my real-life responsibilities.

The Silver Lining

I want to lead a life I don’t regularly need to escape from; quarantine living is helping teach those skills, however unwilling I am a student. I am learning to live and thrive in less space; to mindfully appreciate every novel experience; to cherish the things I once took for granted.

Of course, that makes it sound like I’m peacefully meditating my days away.

I’m not.

TheAwkwardYeti is LIFE. Click for more comics.

I’m often squirmy, itchy for new scenery, pacing the walls of our home and arguing with myself over what my heart demands vs. what logic necessitates. Annoyingly, science and logic always win, but I also can also live with myself knowing I am not the reason someone has unnecessarily died.

But I’m also finding more moments of stillness and joy: in celebrating the body that carries me in daily yoga; in forgetting the world for a single moment as we tumble on the floor with our dogs; in nesting into our beloved home; in losing myself entirely in new worlds as I spin the tales of my romances.

This, too, shall pass.

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