What I Miss Most About Traveling

Lost in the clouds. It’s become a familiar place to me. A place where I can recharge, a place where I can reflect, a place that despite my fear of flying, has become one of my favorite places to be. Why? Because looking out the plane window reminds me just how big the world is. It reminds me that there is still so much to explore.

I had big plans for 2020. My goal for the year was to visit one new state, one new country and one new continent. It was going to be my biggest year for travel to date. Hiking through Utah, site seeing in Belgium and camel riding in Morocco. I had it all planned out. But then, something completely unexpected happened. COVID happened. By March, my travel plans became, quite literally, impossible. Instead of traveling the world, I’d be quarantining at my parents’ house in Rockledge, Florida.

I’ll never forget the plane ride down to Florida. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The airport was a ghost town. Everyone was wearing masks, people stood uncomfortably far apart and our flight was so empty that they asked everyone to board at once. I felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic zombie movie and only me and the twenty other people boarding the plane had survived the carnage. The flight itself was operated by a skeleton crew. No food or beverages were served and for three straight hours, I sat with my hands in my lap, trying not to touch anything. It was scary. It was sad. That place which once felt so familiar, felt foreign and frightening.

Now, almost five months later, it’s time to go back home to Boston. Since March, the furthest I’ve traveled has been three miles down the road and the closest I’ve come to human interaction (outside of my immediate family) has been waving at the mailman through our dining room window. I had avoided booking a flight home for a while. I’ve gotten used to my new routine — family breakfasts, movie nights and not having to grocery shop. But the truth is, the longer I stay, the longer I avoid making travel plans. And I miss travelling! There are so many aspects of travel that I can’t wait to experience again: the people, the food, the culture. Hell, the other day I said to myself, “what I would give to feel jet-lag again…”

The nostalgia is real. We spend our days reminiscing about the way things “used to be” and I can’t tell you how many of those memories revolve around travel for me:

Watching movies on the plane. It all starts with that first flight. What better way to pass the time than by getting lost in a movie? I am all about in-flight entertainment. I love watching movies on planes because there are minimal distractions. I don’t care what the genre is, so long as it’s a good story. That said, I am a sucker for Nora Ephron. If a flight offers Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally, consider my next two hours booked.

Arriving at your destination. Never in a million years did I think that I would miss waiting in line at customs to get my passport stamped. Or, the sound of the seat belt sign being turned off once I’ve arrived at my gate. After a long plane ride, nothing is more exciting to me than these little signals indicating that I’ve arrived at my destination. For me, this is when all of the anticipation I’ve built up for my trip materializes and I am ready to embrace my new environment.

Local food recommendations. Normally when I arrive in a new city, I come prepared with a list of restaurants that I’ve carefully chosen from the internet. That said, no recommendation is better than one from a local. I’ll never forget my first day in Sweden; my brother, his girlfriend and I were sitting on a bench in Old Town, Stockholm deciding on where to have dinner. As we were discussing our options, an older gentleman sat down next to me. Humored by our indecisiveness, he leaned over and suggested Gästabud, a cozy restaurant known for its traditional Swedish dishes. Had he not come over, there is a strong chance we would have never stepped foot in that establishment. And let me tell you, it would have been a damn shame because I still dream of that slow cooked pork cheek with cherry sauce to this day.

Curated playlists. Almost every trip I take has a Spotify playlist associated with it. This started four years ago when I spent a week driving around the Ring Road in Iceland. Seven days is a long time to be in the car, so to pass the time, my friends and I took turns playing music from each other’s iPhones. My roommate provided all the pop hits, my cousin had rock and roll classics and we even sprinkled in some Disney for good measure. We had so much fun singing along to the songs of the Ring Road, that I decided to compile all the songs into a playlist. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I play our Ring Road playlist and it brings me back to our amazing trip to the land of fire and ice.

Experiencing new cultures. Several years ago, my family traveled to Bella, a small town in Southern Italy for my cousin’s wedding. I didn’t know at the time, but in some regions of Italy, the bride and groom walk to the church together. Charming, right? Well in Bella, the ENTIRE town accompanies the bride and the groom to the church. It was incredible to see a crowd take over the streets of Bella just to escort the soon-to-be-married couple to their wedding ceremony. I took a photo of my cousin and her husband amidst the crowd that day, and it is one of my favorite memories of that trip.

The unexpected surprises. I think it goes without saying but watching the US Women’s National team win the World Cup in France last year was an experience of a lifetime. The energy and passion of those women was truly inspiring. However, there is one other highlight from that trip that was even more momentous for me. It was the night of the semi-final game against England. Still amped from our win, my girlfriends and I stopped at a bar by the stadium for celebratory beers. It is important to note that not only was I the only single person in our group, but I was also the only straight one. While at the bar, we befriended a group of girls (all of whom were gay) from England who bought us champagne in honor of our victory. I started chatting with one of the girls — she asked how we all knew each other. I explained that five of us played on a club soccer team together and two were significant others. She looked at me inquisitively and asked me if I was gay. I told her I was not. She responded with “damn,” which made me laugh, and then casually mentioned that she had a good looking, single male flat mate back in England who she was looking to set up. She pulled up his Instagram to show me proof — she was right, he was very cute. She said she had a feeling we would hit it off and encouraged me to message him. Thinking nothing of it, I did. Within minutes, he responded. We continued to text all night and for the remainder of my trip. He was super sweet and very engaging. After two weeks of texting, he offered to fly to the United States to take me on a “proper” first date. At first I thought, he must be crazy. Who in their right mind would fly three thousand miles to go on a date? But then, feeling a bit like Lizzie McGuire on her school trip to Rome, the words of Hilary Duff popped into my head: why not take a crazy chance? So I said yes. I’ll never forget how he lost his luggage on his way over, but still managed to bring me a bouquet of flowers. We just celebrated our one year anniversary and my first trip since the start of quarantine will be visiting him in England.

Traveling brings back so many wonderful memories for me. What do you miss most about traveling?

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