The long road back to travel: When we’ll finally be ready to fly again
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We’re about to be on the road back to the airport.
Soon, we’ll climb into our black Honda sedan and take Interstate 45 north into Houston, just like we’ve done hundreds of times before en route to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to start other exciting adventures.
But instead of driving all the way to the airport, we’ll head farther south into Houston.
Yes, we’re on the road back to the airport. But we’re not trying to catch a specific flight. Instead, we’ll be on our way to receive our second COVID-19 vaccine injection.
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Putting travel on pause
For my wife and me, there have been no recent trips to the airport. We are both now in our 70s — a vulnerable age group. We have adhered to and exceeded the suggested safety guidelines, which included canceling many trips and staying close to home for almost a year now.
While many people, including our daughter (TPG’s Summer Hull), have been able to take precautions on the road and travel safely, even the strictest of protocols wasn’t enough for us to feel it was worth the risk in our situation.
The vaccine, however, will hopefully be the game-changer that puts us on the road back to the airport. Our second dose of the Moderna vaccine is right around the corner and we were fortunate to get an appointment with a small clinic just 30 minutes from our home.
Other than some arm discomfort, we had no adverse reaction to the initial shot, and we’re eager for the second — and the promise it carries of a more normal future.
So, when will we finally take the drive all the way to the airport terminal?
A slow return to travel
There’s still a long way to go before the vaccine is widely available in the U.S., so even though we’d love to go wheels up as soon as our second shot has taken full effect, we’re going to return to travel in phases.
Like most travel enthusiasts, we canceled and postponed many trips last year because of the pandemic: a journey to try and see the northern lights in Canada during the winter, a fall trip to see the golden aspens ablaze in Colorado and more were all put on hold.
While we were (or still are) disappointed in putting these adventures on pause, we’re grateful we stayed healthy and have not suffered as so many others have.
We’d love to see the airline industry continue (or maybe even expand) their safety measures for the next year or two. Empty middle seats and limited capacity would make us feel safer, personally, though we recognize that as passenger numbers increase, there’s a real cost to those decisions.
We will always opt for a window seat as a personal preference and also as a buffer from other flyers. In the near future, we can’t imagine a travel scenario where we wouldn’t wear a mask, or where we’d be indifferent to physical distancing precautions and sanitization measures. The dramatic decrease in flu cases this year demonstrates the value that self-protection can afford on many levels
We hope we’ll be flying again by early summer. But, many circumstances will dictate the how, where and when of that boarding call.
Widespread vaccinations, a low positivity rate and a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations will all be factors we consider. A 5:30 a.m. midweek flight from Houston to Denver might be a good starting point for an adventure in the great outdoors.
Dreaming of future trips
Crater Lake in Oregon is still calling out to us, and our seats at the Red Rocks Amphitheater are waiting for concerts to begin again. And we know the snowy slopes up north will be groomed the next time we buckle our boots and step into our bindings. Heck, maybe we’ll have unlocked even more senior ski deals by then.
We’re excited about boarding the Cumbres and Toltec train on the border of Colorado and New Mexico, and we want to hike to The Wave in Arizona again and walk the winding floor of deep slot canyons. We long to hear the distant bugle of a herding elk, and the snorts from bison swimming the Yellowstone River.
After more than a year at home, we’ll undoubtedly see in full color and hear in surround sound when we are out exploring the world once again.
While our car has a full tank of gas for the much-anticipated trip to receive our second vaccine, our travel bags aren’t really packed just yet. We don’t have a seat assignment or even a confirmation number for our first flight following the pandemic.
But, we are now confident this will happen sooner than later, and I trust that we will view our opportunities and experiences with even more joy and appreciation than ever before.
Perhaps, we’ll even find joy in our own travel rustiness. At future TSA screenings, maybe we’ll wonder aloud if our laptop can stay in the bag, and if we need to take our shoes off. We’ll ask if our masks can stay on. We’ll ask, are we still trusted travelers?
But we’re not worried about that right now. Instead, we’re focused on the long, but hopeful road back to the airport.
Featured image by Nearmap / Getty Images
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