Let me start this by saying that I DO NOT recommend traveling during the pandemic and if you choose to do so, you're an adult and it's because you are 100% committed to taking all the precautions necessary to keep you and your loved one safe.
Ok, now that we got that out of the way, I want to share about my pandemic travels because it felt like a beautiful reset button and I am so grateful that my man and I were able to get away from routine.
I was really beginning to feel like a hamster in a wheel. Really stuck in the rut of the same 'ol, same 'ol. The practices that previously brought me comfort and calm in their consistency began to blur into the same maddening schedule- wake, work, eat, sleep. wake, work, eat, sleep. wake, work, eat, sleep.
A few friends and I had talked about finding a safe way to meet in our old stomping grounds where we went to college and spent 4 glorious years. We missed each other, we longed for community, and sisterhood. We were all lonely AF and hungry for human connection.
So we planned it. It would be risky, but we would all get tested and then self isolate until we saw one another. J, my partner wanted to tag along and do his own thing which was perfect. I met him when I was a senior in college and had just returned from a semester in Spain. I returned to dreary Pittsburgh in January with broken Spanish (and a bruised heart) and was looking for other Spanish speakers to keep practicing with. Enter J - hot nerdy international student (think Hispanic Harry Potter) getting his Masters and yes, Spanish was his native language. Perfect.
Here was the travel plan:
- Go to Pittsburgh (via a flight) - this was the scariest and riskiest part. All my friends would be driving, so I was the "wild card." Spend the weekend with my girls and fuel up on cuddles, kisses, and hugs.
- Stay in Pittsburgh the following week, find a work-friendly AirBnb and work remotely.
- That weekend: drive to Catskills with sister and her partner, spend a week at a Mrs. Maisel-like resort and then an Airbnb we rented close by. Take vacation and unplug from all devices/work/electronics/etc.
If it wasn't for J's restlessness and initiative, I would have questioned the plans over and over. Thanks to him, he just went ahead and bought the tickets without waiting on me. I love initiative. They cost $140 roundtrip for us TOTAL so worst case we could bail.
Isn't it funny how when I was deep and miserable in something, there was so much RESISTANCE to getting out of it? Like once the opportunity came to change the situation, I questioned it, second-guessed it, dilly-dallied with my weak internal reasoning. All the sudden, I wanted to stay in the comfort of my discomfort.
Thank goodness J didn't fall for that shit.
THE TRIP WAS EVERYTHING I COULD HAVE EVER WANTED AND MORE.
First of all, I got to be in my college town. That was a dream. It felt exactly the same (and a little different) but mostly the same. Going there felt like traveling back in time. I loved its walkability, it's green-ness, the friendliness of its people. I loved the sunshine and the slowly encroaching fall. I loved seeing shoe stores, ice cream shops, and restaurants that have been there since I first lived there in the early 2000s. I also highly romanticize places I visit. My friend who was been living there since we graduated kept rolling her eyes and scoffing at the sweeping generalizations I was making about why it was such a perfect city. Two of my favorite city-seduction moments on the trip:
- J and I walked from our Airbnb to the other side of town, through 3 neighborhoods and we ended up in a super trendy neighborhood in an antique shop. I LOVE antique/vintage/second-hand stores and could write a whole post about that alone. We bought these cute little ceramic tomato salt-and-pepper shakers and I fawned over perfect dish-ware sets from the 60's displayed artfully in big picnic baskets. The owner told us that both belonged to her mom and grandmother. Anyway, we started making conversation with the owner about her beautiful collection and then learned that this vintage store was all a FRONT- the space we were standing in was actually her restaurant which obviously had been forced to close temporarily bc of COVID. In the meantime, she had decided to sell antiques. WHAT A BAD ASS. Talk about when life gives you lemons...
- On this very same walk, we came across a pinball machine arcade. You read that right, a business 100% dedicated to letting the good people of Pittsburgh play pinball machines. They sold old-fashioned sodas and water bottles for ONE DOLLAR and then sold tokens for the machines. It was dreamy, there was a whole community of bearded men in graphic tees playing cards and living to their hearts content. Reminiscent of how all my elementary school friendships began, one shy woman tapped me on the shoulder and led me to a free bonus game on a Simpsons-themed pinball machine. Maybe my hardened Miami heart has become too jaded, but she melted all the frost away. I felt like I was in the 80's and decided I never wanted to leave. When I did leave, as we all inevitably have to, I gave her my extra tokens. She would have gotten a hug too if it were safe! I also appreciated being in a city that could support a cool business like this one. https://goo.gl/maps/RBTjejcdeWpAZrjS6
We left Pittsburgh on a Saturday morning after spending all day in the Strip District, a place I used to frequent on the weekends in my heyday. Coconut cappuccinos, apricot biscotti, and spices in hand, I said goodbye to my beloved Pittsburgh- the city of three rivers that alchemized me into an adult and stores some of my best memories.
I was now ready to head into the next phase of our trip: vacation week.
We drove to upstate New York to stay at a family-style resort that included all meals and activities. It was in the heart of the Catskills, surrounded by mountains and green things. There was golf, kayaking, tennis, golf, table tennis, swimming, obstacle courses, golf, etc. etc. Basically, it was like going back in time when people played board games for entertainment (which we did several times by the way). I did find moments of exceeding boredom and anxiety (I tend to be an exploratory traveler and have a hard time sitting my ass in one place for too long) but it was lovely exercise in being PRESENT and finding joy in the simple things. I also learned that I fucking hate golf.
They also fed us 3 square very American (read: bland AF) meals a day in a big dining hall festooned with flags. Our tables were laden with no less than 7 different kinds of salad dressing and other assorted sundries. My favorite part was the daily weather reports from one of the owners who seemed to not know about smart phones and crooned on about how lovely a day it would be, even if it was foggy and cold. When we checked out after our 3-day stay, one of the owners insecurely asked us "did you enjoy yourself?" I assume because we: a Turk, Latino, and 2 identify-confused halfies were a good 30 years younger than the average population (and non-white), but you know, in our strange way we did.
WFH Tips if you decide to travel somewhere:
- Bring your mouse, keyboard, mousepad. I used an upside down bowl to prop my laptop at eye level and it made a very non-ergonomic kitchen counter SO MUCH better.
- Pick an area to stay in that is walkable. Being able to escape for lunch was a godsend and we would walk around and it would be just enough of a refresher for me to lock myself up in the Airbnb again to finish my workday.
- If you are traveling alone, great! If you're with someone, make sure the space is BIG enough for a scenario where you're both on important meetings and need to speak loudly.
- Speaking of the space, Airbnb has a great filter where you can search for places that have been ranked highly by business travelers e.g. speedy wifi, desks, etc.
- Pack a capsule wardrobe so you can travel lightly or have extra space in your luggage for goodies/gifts. I used this as my guide and didn't miss any of my clothes. https://inbetweenpictures.com/blog/carry-on-capsule-wardrobe-fall
- Find a space that will make you feel comfortable/"at-home" - remember, this is different than getting a hotel room, because this will be your temporary apartment and you'll be spending a heck of a lot of time in it. I wanted a full kitchen since I need to prepare alot of my own foods and it definitely helped.
+ Learnings from Traveling During COVID-19
- Bring a million masks- they get lost, dirty, etc.
- Bring Lysol wipes so you can wipe down anything public you're using.
- Get the nice hand sanitizer, the one you don't mind spraying on your hands a million times. I LOVE this one.
- Visit a place that is walkable or isolated and beautiful in nature, or a combo of the two like we did.
- If you're going to fly, fly into a cheaper city, rent a car from there and then you can mosey on to more "expensive" destinations. For example, in Pittsburgh, our car rental was only $30ish/day vs. NYC which had crazy rates. The other pluse of flying into Pittsburgh is that the airplane was almost empty.
- LOOK UP rules for the places you are traveling to! Depending on each state and where you are flying from, you may be expected to self-quarantine for 2 weeks before you move on.
- At the airport wait at a different gate if your gate is too crowded, just remember to set an alarm because we didn't and almost missed our flight!
- Nervous about flying on a plane during COVID-19? Fair- I read an article like this and it helped paint a full picture of what I would be getting myself into...
- Check with your rental car company how they are handling cashless tolling (since most states have that in effect right now.) Our rental car company would have charged us a $15 admin fee for EACH toll if I hadn't gotten a special toll pass and asked.