Traveling for the First Time Since the Start of the Pandemic

Sunday, October 24, 2021

I went to Atlanta! It marked my first time traveling by airplane since January of 2020, when I went to Florida with my BFF Rebecca. God, that seems so long ago. I was pregnant then, & there was no hint of a pandemic then. My, how life has changed.

I decided to go to Atlanta because another BFF, Sammi, lives there. She was going through a bit of a hard time, & I impulsively booked an inexpensive Southwest flight to visit her in a few weeks. 

When the time came to travel, I started to panic. It had been so long, & the world still isn't safe. I didn't want to be around that many people or wear a mask for that long or risk touching or generally interacting with other humans. I was worried, too, about all of the airplane shenanigans we've seen documented on social media throughout the past year, evidence that so many people seem to have forgotten their human decency since this pandemic began. 

The truth is, I almost canceled the trip. I wasn't feeling well, & I thought I might be getting sick, & I just couldn't fathom flying or being away from home. I was upset with myself about all of it, too, like, I used to be an expert traveler. What the hell has happened to me? 

But the flight came & went without a hitch. I have not, it turns out, forgotten how to travel. I was annoyed by the same things I always am, now with the added bonus of being pissed at people who have forgotten to fly during the pandemic (or maybe never knew to begin with). I was fortunate to find a window seat on my flight there, with no one in the middle seat. Sammi picked me up seamlessly from the Atlanta airport, & we were off! 

We rescued a kitten.

One of the first things we did was to rescue a stray kitten. She hid in the wheel well of Sammi's car when we stopped at a Korean bakery, & we took her home to clean her up & figure out what to do with her. This week, she's going to her new home at Sammi's friend's house, & I am so happy for her to have found a family so quickly. 

We studied civil rights.

On Friday, Sammi & I visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, "a museum and cultural institution that connects the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to human rights challenges today." 

It powerfully & straightforwardly tells the story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1906s, then ends with current civil rights movements in the U.S. & around the world. It was a really moving experience, & it left me with so much to think about.

We explored downtown Duluth.

Sammi & David live in Duluth, GA, outside of Atlanta, which is super cute & full of little shops & restaurants in a way that weirdly reminds me of Bethesda, MD, but with better weather. 

We got lunch && extremely bad service) from PURE Taqueria, then wandered in & out of the little retail stores, spending extra time at Hello Rainbow Toys & Personify. I bought a lot of stickers? Look, I don't know, either, but it made me happy. 


We visited a mandir.

We visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, GA, the largest mandir of its kind outside of India. The mandir's Arti ceremony is open to the public, so we sat on the marble floors of this incredibly gorgeous mandir & watched, rapt. 

Toward the end, an older Indian woman encouraged us to go to the front of the room to receive blessings. It was such an honor to be invited to witness the ceremony & to participate. 

We ate Asian sweets.

Duluth has a large Korean population & thus lots of Korean businesses. And while we didn't get to do as many Korean things as I would've liked (more food, please!), we did go to Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe twice so I could hoard Korean pastries. Pork, mung bean, salted butter, curried chicken... you name it, I tried it. I'll cut carbs some other day, man. This shit was so freaking good

We also went to H-Mart, an Asian grocery store chain, & while I could've spent so much time exploring the aisles, but instead, I instead honed in on the sweets aisle, buying flavored KitKats, amusingly branded candies ("chocolate tree stumps"!), '90s-eraKoala Yummies, & my mango fruitery jelly in a bear-shaped canister.

We recorded a TikTok dance.

I've been having some fun lately telling short, ridiculous stories on TikTok, but I've never ventured into the wide world of TikTok dances because, well, I am a 37-year-old woman with dignity & no physical grace whatsoever. 

But Sammi really wanted to do the "Linda & Heather Theme Song" dance, & I really wanted us to take photos in our matching skeleton onesies, so we, uh, combined the two for a fun & not-at-all humiliating result



We visited Ponce City Market.

Before Sammi dropped me off at the airport, we visited Ponce City Market in Atlanta, which is an amazing mixed-use space of bougie retail (think West Elm & Lululemon) & high-end food kiosks. 

We ate chicken tikka masala naan wraps & veggie puri from Botiwalla, sipped coffee from Spiller Park Coffee (where we swore we were standing in line behind Common), split a vanilla bean cronut from Five Daughters Bakery, & bought tchotchkes from Posman BooksSugarboo & Co.

My flight home went off without a hitch, & I arrived back in Cleveland rejuvenated — glad to be home but just as glad to have remembered, in person, that there's more to life than my own home. I am imminently grateful to said home for sheltering me from the storm of the pandemic for the past year & a half, but wow, I sure did miss other places.

And we're going to Virginia this weekend — driving this time — to spend Halloween with Mike's best friend & his family, including their toddler & newborn baby. I'm hoping to see some D.C. friends while we're there, if it pans out.

I'm just glad to see other people, to be other places, to experience other things. 

1 comment:

Anne said...

Totally feel you on the travel reluctance but so glad to know that it was an AWESOME trip and your flights went well! I am driving east for some time with my family (1 full day in the car...) but have to fly in January for work. So I didn't want to have to fly twice in a month. We'll see how things go! I'm heartened by your experience. :)

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