Why my first post-pandemic flight will be to Little Rock, Arkansas
As another vaccine becomes available and we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, a lot of us are planning our first post-pandemic getaways. For some, that will look like a two-week vacation to your favorite tropical locale. For others, it might mean finally checking off one of the destinations on your bucket list. But for me, it will look like a two-hour flight and an hour-long drive back to my hometown in Arkansas.
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Like most people, the coronavirus pandemic put a serious wrench in my travel plans for 2020. But as a single, 20-something year-old-woman who lives approximately 800 miles from my entire family, the pandemic didn't just mean canceling my trip to South Africa or putting a hold on my plans to see the northern lights — it meant not seeing family and friends from back home.
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Almost three years ago, I moved across the country for a job. I knew no one in Charlotte, and I'd never lived anywhere but my small town in Arkansas. And while I've never once regretted that choice, it has meant seeing my family and childhood friends only a select few times a year. Staying grounded in 2020 meant canceling my yearly girls trip with my best friend since junior high. It meant missing the baby shower for the person who's been by my side since birth (literally — our parents were best friends, so she was at the hospital with her mom when I was born). It meant not seeing my Lola. The only times I did make the trip back to Arkansas, I made the 12-hour drive (24 hours round-trip) instead of flying to avoid airports.
And I know I'm not alone in this. So many people missed birthdays, weddings, holiday gatherings and more in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
The funny thing is, I used to absolutely dread the flight from CLT to LIT. There are only a handful of nonstop flights between the two airports, and they are all American Airlines flights on CRJ-900 aircraft. Overhead space is minimal and legroom is nonexistent. But after over a year and a half, I'll be grateful for the flight even if it's not the most glamorous. I'll be ecstatic to see the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) in all its brown-carpeted glory.
Sure, I have a number of drool-worthy points redemptions on my list for the next couple of years once I'm vaccinated and the CDC lifts its advisories on nonessential travel (hello, Seoul). But the first destination on my list is the Little Rock, AR, airport. You know what they say — there's no place like home.
My first post-pandemic trip won't be to a tropical island resort or a high-rise hotel. Instead, I'll be spending time on a fishing boat with my mom, hiking the Ozarks with friends and playing Mahjong with my Lola and the rest of my dad's side of the family. But I have a feeling that this low-key trip back home will still be just as memorable as the bucket-list destinations on my list — especially after not seeing some people and places for so long.
I'm in the last group eligible to be vaccinated here in Charlotte, NC, so I've still got some time before I'll be able to book that flight back to Arkansas. But I've never been more excited for such a short flight to such a small airport.