Yikes! I’ve forgotten travel rituals that help me travel

Traveling is like riding a bike — that’s what I thought

travel ritualsTaking long and short trips was something that I did consistently right up until the recognized start of the pandemic in March of 2020. I keep muttering to myself, “I know how to travel. Why am I so nervous? Could it be more than a year of stay-at-home living? Where are my travel rituals when I need them?”

After all, I had traveled to Cuba, Quebec City, Portugal, Venice, and Naples, Florida, with several short hops to Boston and Washington, D.C., in 2019 alone. Then, when I was fully vaccinated recently, I decided to visit friends in DC after 15 months of mostly not venturing more than 20 miles from my home in rural Maine. Little did I know that my forgotten travel rituals would be such a factor.

Getting the plane ticket was the easy part — packing, not so much.

You are being secretly taxed at airportsI was flying Southwest Airlines out of Portland, Maine, to Baltimore. The airport is just 50 miles from my house and it would be a short flight. I was a bit shocked that the flights to and from DC on the days I wanted to go were almost booked. That was rarely the case in the past. I guess lots of people have pent-up travel needs.

Packing, however, almost did me in. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve worn close to the same four outfits pretty much the entire 15 months of quarantine. Yes, I have a closet full of nice clothes to wear in a city or out to dinner, but I have rarely even looked at them, let alone worn them in recent months. My travel rituals were forgotten.

Normally, I would know before I even started what I wanted to bring on a trip. This time I had to painstakingly go through drawers and hanging clothes to first even find the outfits that might be appropriate. Then I agonized over what to actually bring. Luckily, though, the clothes still fit.

When I was traveling regularly, I had travel secrets forgotten for putting together all the toiletries I would need on a trip. In fact, I kept a special bag with my favorite under-four-ounce liquids in the quart-sized baggy required by the TSA always prepared. Even packed it for short trips when I wasn’t flying.

Extras, like quart-sized baggies, were nowhere to be found.

travel secrets forgottenWell, over the year-plus of staying home, my old baggy had been raided. This time I didn’t even have any quart-sized baggies, let alone the needed toiletries. This was another example of travel secrets forgotten: in fact, my baggies were just gone. Luckily, I had enough time to run to the drug store. There I bought, if not my favorites, at least most of what I needed.

On the day of my flight, I finished my packing but was barely able to zip my carry-on. Of course, I brought way too much but realized later I had forgotten some necessities.

Then it was off to the airport. I found myself thinking along the familiar, but also somewhat unfamiliar, way that this was the most I’d driven in ages. Luckily, I flew out of Portland and not Boston, as lines seem to never be very long in Portland. My TSA PreCheck allowed me to breeze through security, even though I got yelled at to move quicker through the metal detector. I had looked back to make sure my bag was going through the scanner.

Yes, the flight was on time and easy.

travel secrets forgottenI like how Southwest boards their planes and even though I was not in the first group, I got a convenient window seat. And, despite an almost-full plane, no one sat in the middle seat. Again, like the driving that morning, there was a familiar and also a very not familiar feeling about the trip.

I found my way out of the much larger BWI airport to the pick-up zone. I congratulated myself that I had made it. Somehow, that short trip had felt like a first after a hiatus of nearly 18 months since my last flight.

Seeing a different environment and people not in my “pod” made it all well worth it. I look forward to making travel part of my regular routine again. But, this is a cautionary tale for those who will be venturing out for the first time in at least a year. Take your time. Traveling after a long break is not quite like riding a bike.

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