Slow Travel in the Times of COVID

Travel has become, shall we say, complicated since the pandemic swept across borders and into the lives of the global populace. Anticipation has been replaced by anxiety and a lurking, ominous sense of second-guessing whether we should just stay put instead remains. But the desire to see family and to connect with those we love seems to triumph and we reason we have done all we can to stay safe while staying sane. The added layer of paperwork (PCR test, check. Vaccination status updated, check.) has heightened the pre-travel jitters, but with experience, it can be allayed. And so we boarded a plane 1/3 full to our Florida destination in mid-January.

Florida? Is you crazy?? Stepping away from the restricted measures in place in Germany (you can’t go to a department store unless you are fully vaccinated – and need a test if you haven’t been boostered) to an all-holds-barred loosey-goosey, no-mask-wearing community of folks was jarring. On a tip from one of the hotel managers, we entered a restaurant overfilled with people 60 and over who were dancing in the middle of the place, laughing, whopping and hollering (yes, there is such a thing) to be told we could wait at the bar (also overcrowded) at the center of the room. I was the only one wearing a mask as I asked about eating outside.

“Too cold.”

I held my breath, hoping I didn’t take a slice of corona with me as I backed out of the place. Apparently, people here don’t think rules such as social distancing or wearing masks apply to them. They don’t need it. They’ll be just fine. A vax? Yeah, no thank you. If it’s God’s will…

I met a woman selling vegetables at an open air market in Central Florida who had lost her 64-year-old husband (no pre-existing conditions, healthy as an ox) to the virus in September. The market vendors sold all kinds of things, including Rebel flags and supportive items of the former president.

“He went home to the Lord,” the vegetable lady smiled over her stacked tomatoes. “We were together 39 years,” she said with such acceptance, as if there could have been no other option. It felt fatalistic and yet somehow beautiful in the simplicity of it. For a moment I envied her grace for not fighting or clutching or clinging to something other than that which is. It caused me to relax just a little bit, as if all this angst hasn’t helped me one bit.

But then my survival instinct kicks in and I reailze that all that discipline and distancing have indeed contributed to the world to make it a bit safer. That you can still greet each other with a friendly wave and a smile while walking on the beach. That you don’t need to join the dancing retirees in an overcrowded space. That an airplane has the most tested people on the planet. That a rental car instead of public transportation can get you places safely. That traveling in the off-season lowers your chance of interacting with crowds. That visiting elderly parents is worth it.

Perhaps I too have found some grace to guide me through these times with less fear. That which is is that which is. Everything else is not.


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