This past Memorial Day weekend here in California was something to behold. I didn’t “Get Back Out There!” with the masses: cinema, airport, beach or on the road. But apparently close to half of my entire state was on the move. It’s not that I didn’t want to travel this weekend. And I wasn’t put-off by the idea of crowds, waiting in lines, or chasing a small square of beach for my umbrella. But I felt a kind of post-pandemic lifestyle Stockholm Syndrome. The relaxing of restrictions — the open-door to the Covid cage we’ve all lived in for over a year — felt surreal. I didn’t trust it enough to do what I really wanted to do: get on a plane. Going anywhere. So, I looked out at the world but still felt captive. Why?
My process took more than a minute. What was at the center of my reluctance? Mulling over possible travel destinations, I came up with reasons why each one was flawed. Complications of travel to certain countries. My preferred hubs weren’t available. The hassle of trying to use my boatload of free-miles. It just felt like too much. Really? I scolded myself. “When did you become such a ninny?” What’s happened to me, in my deepest inner places, during this past year of captivity? The answer is simple: like a lot of people who can, but don’t want to return to The Office, I’ve become used to the Pandemic Lifestyle.
My longest continuous adventure abroad (so far) lasted several months. We visited eighteen countries around the world. The speed and intensity of that experience lingered long after the final leg of my journey: a flight from Athens to San Francisco. It was a strangely-wonderful feeling. When I stepped off the plane in the U.S., my disorientation was more than jet-lag. My own language sounded foreign. I had currencies from several countries in my bag, but no coins of my own to even buy a coffee. Which time zone was I in? My body had no idea.
The total travel-daze I felt wrapped-in, like thick eiderdown, was proof: I was in The Zone. Constant travel is tough at first, but then there’s a kind of rhythm to Change. Culture. Language. Food. Customs. Moving through situations with ease and confidence. Almost forgetting entirely about ‘home’, and the desire to ever return there. Uncertainty and newness abound with constant travel. Adapting quickly becomes an exciting challenge. A kind of endorphin-rush that I’ve never found an equal to. The total opposite of the Pandemic Lifestyle. To the “This is SO not me!” fog I feel myself coming out of.
My Pandemic Lifestyle went way beyond a relaxed approach to hair, makeup and clothing. I became obsessed with cooking, so: avant-garde cookware and gadgets. I re-discovered my passion for painting, playing the piano, and sewing. Gardening. Podcasts. Streaming. Race-walking. Naps. My cats and dog loved every minute of it. Comfort. Predictability. Sameness. “Who is this person?”
With some gentle, but honest introspection, I’ve been reassured. I’m still the intrepid traveler I’ve always been. My Memorial Day holiday-weirdness was simply a reminder. The ordeal we’ve survived – and the grief many survivors are still feeling – was a Shock of epic proportions. So it feels like the right thing to do, taking some personal time to re-assess. To feel. Damage has been done. Our fears were real; and deadly for some. It’s ok that I’m hesitant and tentative, still captive to my trust issues. Before I “Get Back Out There!”, I’m giving myself some latitude here and now. To listen; to observe; and to gather more data. I already know a little about the new adventures that are waiting for me, ‘out there’, when I’m ready. And when I’m ready, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing, I’ll know it.