July 20, 2020

Choosing To Travel Again... Carefully

I was supposed to be on a beach in Barcelona.

By now, I should have also gotten to visit my friends in the South of France, eaten my annual way through Paris, road tripped with my cousin through the Midwest, and met my nearly one-year-old nephew. 

I think we all have a list like this right now. That list of what our plans had been for the past five months before literally our entire world flipped over sideways. 

There is a strong chance I will be in one country for the entire year of 2020. The last year that happened was in 2010, when I was actually really content to just explore the USA because my home country was already big enough to last a lifetime. Volleyball opened up the entire world for me, and now the global pandemic has closed it all up again. 

I don’t moan and groan over not getting to travel. I am more frustrated when my PLANS are interrupted. Sometimes, yes, those plans are travel; but plans with my teams, friends, and families were what really suffered. Places are nice, but people are why I travel to 90% of the places I go to. 

I know I make it look all fun and adventure-y, but what you don’t see on Instagram are the six plus hours in the day just sitting or walking around talking, talking, talking. Catching up. Complaining about problems. Figuring out solutions. Making jokes about the problems and solutions. Telling old stories. Making up new stories. Eating our memories. And laughing. SO MUCH laughing. True, we can still manage this element of basic shared communication via the unbelievable technological resources at our fingertips. But we all know it’s not the same. 

Instead of going to France during Easter vacation, I quit my old job and started a new one. Instead of going to the USA during the Pentecost vacation, I started beach volleyball practices and organized an entire season that we still aren’t 100% certain will come to fruition. Instead of going to Barcelona with Marc this week, I ended up taking the train to Hamburg. 

Why Hamburg? Basically, anything north of where we live is always on the backburner. Northward is not an option during the Christmas break, and by the time summer does roll around, we want to be at a beach or a pool and expect the sun to blaze all day long. I have a pretty list of cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm, Malmo, Gdansk, Dublin, Belfast, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, etc., that I would love to visit someday...as long as conditions are favorable. 

While traveling outside of Germany is technically possible at the moment, it just didn’t seem like a good idea. The further I would travel, the more likely I would need to take an airplane. Other countries could end up on a required quarantine list after my return, and I would not have fourteen days to sit around while preseason was starting. So I took a glance northward, and Hamburg won. 

The hand sanitizer that had been accompanying me on trips for a decade took on a whole new value. I thought about how maybe I should try to match my mask with my clothes. I realized I would have to be super selective about my sightseeing plans even more than usual. I contacted various restaurants to make sure they would be open. I emailed where I was staying in advance and got tested for the virus before I left. 

I can say that while it did not take a significantly more amount of effort than normal, it did present a lot more anxiety! I have been thinking about timing, distancing, and being much more attentive to the people I am around.

[Side note: is anyone else concerned none of us may have fingerprints after all the hand washing and sanitizing?] 

It is overwhelming to be in a huge city again with so many people around. But I am taking my time, keeping my distance as best as possible, and wearing my mask. I feel generally safe as the majority of the population is making the same precautionary efforts as me. 

In the meantime, it felt absolutely awesome to get to plan a trip again and to wander around a new place.

I hope that when you are comfortable and allowed to travel again, that you can feel safe, happy, and grateful. Let’s not take our freedom of movement for granted ever again! 

More on Hamburg to come soon...