health travel

The Duality of Travel During a Pandemic

by Myranda — September 11, 2021
Woman behind the wheel of a car. Travel during a pandemic.

Travel plays an important role in the life and sanity of many. But Covid-19 concerns make travel during a pandemic both satisfying and worrying.

On July 31, 2021 for the first time in almost 20 months, I set off on a travel adventure. I gassed up my car, fully stocked the bag I fondly call my snack stash, and got ready to finally go. And yet, part of me was… not.

Travel has been a large part of my life for about 15 years now. From that first time I decided I would stop waiting for a buddy and solo travel, I’ve taken at least one small trip and one large trip every year. I’ve done Vegas birthdays. I climbed to see the Rainbow Mountain in Peru. I’ve gone on cruises. Explored my favourite haunts in BC. I took five weeks to explore Europe in 2019, and in January 2020 was ready to start thinking about where to next.

But then… March 2020 happened.

The world ground to a halt, and so did my travel planning. As the months wore on, it began to seem like the outside world might never open to me again.

My dreams began to feature repeated travel themes. At night, when my subconscious brain had control, I’d frequently find myself back in Scotland, or somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Whale watching featured often in my sleep. My brother sympathetically pointed to this as a sign the lack of travel was harder on me than even I realized. And it was. Travel had become a part of my identity, and now it was brutally cut off.

Then restrictions began to ease in the Northwest territories. They are rather strict compared with most of the other Canadian provinces because of the limited resources in the North. Still, it seemed the goal posts kept moving. I became convinced we’d never reach the numbers where the Chief Public Health Officer would let residents return to the territory without quarantining.

We did, however. The new daily Canadian case count dropped below 1000 and our territorial residents hit the vaccine target. Those who are fully vaccinated can now leave the territory to travel within Canada and come back normally. I immediately planned a trip to Alberta, so see friends and family. If this pandemic taught me anything, it’s that time is finite. I needed to prioritize travel to see my grandparents over other adventures for this first time out. The plan came together easily.

The travel itself, however?

It wasn’t easy at all. No slipping back into comfortable patterns. The relief ran parallel with something new. An undercurrent of anxiousness. Potential danger lined things that I’d once felt were simple and safe. Travel during a pandemic had become a different beast.

For example, one of the highlights of travel is trying new food. Yet driving into Edmonton, fighting traffic and parking didn’t seem worth it because the idea of passing so many mask-less strangers was insurmountable. Wearing my own mask felt scary, too. I worried anti-maskers would harass me. That fear, at least, was unfounded. But shopping proved to be an odd experience, too. Instead of finding time to drift in different stores, my ventures became mission oriented. Get the thing and get out.

I don’t regret my travel during the pandemic. Not even when I became symptomatic upon my return home, voiding my exemption from quarantining after all. Even a negative Covid test – a new experience I could have done without, though not as bad as imagined – didn’t free me from that. It was incredibly good to see the people I love and miss, especially since we were taking precautions and being Covid-safe.

If that trip taught me anything, it taught me that I am ready to travel somewhat. I’m creeping toward thinking of my next trip, and preparing myself to fly again. I now know how it feels different, and I know I can handle it. This duality might be another new normal, but I can adapt. I can be a traveller again.

View of the road, sky, and trees on Myranda's travel during a pandemic
The road stretches out before us again, both literally and metaphorically.

You can read about this and other travel adventures Myranda has taken on her travel blog.

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