A few weeks ago, I read in an article online that Italy would be reopening to American travelers. No surprise – there were hoops to jump through, none insurmountable as far as I could tell. A COVID test to take pre-flight, the now ubiquitous mask that must be worn at-all-times, and of course the vaccine and proof thereof, which we had crushed enthusiastically into our passport wallets the very moment we received our second doses.
And so from that article, read in passing, the seed from which the plan for our next adventure would grow had been planted.
But, it had been a long time – especially for our family, so accustomed to travel. Pre-COVID, we had ventured to parts unexplored (at least by us) every other month or so. And now … well, we discovered we were a bit out of practice. At first, I couldn’t think where I had put the suitcases. We only ever carry our bags on, so they are small things; gliding little roller bags with hard sides and just the right number of zippers and pockets. But they weren’t in the closet and they weren’t in the shed. Not under the beds or in the attic. Finally, I found them – dusty, but waiting in the linen closet under some winter coats that don’t get worn in Texas.
And so, many of the typical pre-vacation things were like that. I can’t remember the exact formula I’d developed for packing, or the exact system for Tetris-ing the liquid containers into a quart-sized Zip-loc bag. Instead of the second-nature event traveling had once been, it now seems like a skill I used to excel at but have now strangely forgotten; sort of like the way I curled my hair every day in high school but now couldn’t repeat to save my life. Familiar, but no longer innate. How many shoes does one need for a week? Do I need to pack sunscreen or would it be better to buy it there? None of the decisions are all that important individually, but added together present a growing body of proof that I’ve simply lost my touch.
Then, there’s the destination. Italy is open, the whole of The Boot available for our enjoyment. Is it time to finally explore Puglia? Should we shuffle down to Sicily and stay in Taormina? What about Calabria, Venice, or the obligatory trip to Pisa to “lean” next to the tower? No, of course, our first thought was Amalfi. We’ve been there eight times between the two of us and have traveled from Salerno to Sorrento and visited every little coastal gem along the way; but, it simply doesn’t matter. We need the comfort of a familiar place, we yearn for a visit with the friends we made there, the restaurants we’ve been to, the beaches we like best, the shops where we’ve bought souvenirs, and boats we’ve previously rented. We’ve been closed away from the world for so long … it feels like perhaps baby steps are best – that the first stop away from home should be our home away from home.
So, at this writing the trip is still two weeks off, but our bags are already packed. The clothes tucked away to wrinkle in their special pouches. Our toiletries sit out on the counter, ready to be zipped shut and whisked into our carry-on bag. Our son’s tablet has been loaded with movies and his favorite TV shows.
We are ready, and if we’re a little rusty with this whole traveling thing, we won’t be for long. More travels are already booked, more seeds planted … and away we’ll go!