Traveling In A Pandemic

The euphoria hit me after I passed the ID checkpoint and got clearance to enter security at JFK. The pace of my heartbeat quickened and my breathing paused.

I was about to do something I haven’t been able to do since January. I was about to travel. I mean, really, seriously TRAVEL. I was about to fly halfway around the world and step foot on foreign soil. I was about to hear the rhythms of another language. And I was ready to, quite literally, follow the paths of the ancients.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in different ways, some more than others. The numbers are inconceivable: 230,000 American lives have now been lost, and almost 1,200,000 people worldwide – people who won’t be there in a few weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones, people who won’t be there to offer succor to friends and family in need, and people who won’t be around to tell family stories and inspire laughter. And tears.

The premature loss of that many hugs is simply devastating.

So when I say I’ve missed traveling, I understand the position of privilege from which I make that statement. And even so, I’ve missed being a part of the greater world – smelling new scents, hearing new voices, seeing new sights, and tasting new flavors.

The distancing the virus requires to protect each other demands our humanity and kindness, but in the process strips us of some aspects of that humanity. And now I want to take some of that back. Safely

The airports are empty still, as I am clearly an exception; the world, for the greatest part, remains at home. The parking lot in Detroit holds but a fraction of the cars it once harbored. And the terminal at DTW is still empty, even if it is getting somewhat busier.

The flight from DTW to JFK was far from filled for last night’s positioning flight.

Because of the NY state quarantine I stayed in my apartment all day ordering in, working, and watching the view. When I finally gathered my things and went back to the airport, there was absolutely nobody else at the security checkpoint, which I’ve never seen at JFK before.

And when I got off of the plane in Istanbul, the airport was similarly desolate.

Yes, my friends Butterblogger is back in Turkey. When I was last here with Dan, I knew I’d be returning – just not under these circumstances. I had planned to pass this week in Thailand, but then the pandemic happened, and Thailand is closed to tourists. So I looked into alternatives, and in September when I booked this trip, the options were few. The Caribbean is mostly open, but it’s still hurricane season. And some countries, like Croatia and Egypt require negative COVID tests 48-72 hours prior to arrival, the logistics of which created too much insecurity. Turkey was the best option.

Even after settling on the location, this trip has been fraught. Considering every change to every leg that has taken place, I’ve had 10 unique round trip flight itineraries to get to this point.

And yet, here I am, having embraced the challenge of getting out of the country (which was a fun riddle to solve).

I’ve packed my masks, my sanitizer, and my hiking poles for a physically distant and healthy week. I’m confident I can do this safely, and it helps they are plenty cautious about the virus here – Turkish Air in fact gave us an aggressively large bag of cleaning supplies and masks.

I’m sitting in the airport in Istanbul with one more leg to go to get to my destination, far south of here.

Butterblogger, at long last, has left home again, and he is giddy about it.

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