No Escape

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Typically, we’d be traveling this time of year. Autumn is a favorite time of year for us to pack some coats and gloves, get out of town and go on an adventure. The weather in Texas is mostly the same in October as it is in August, so a trip to a locale with some fallen leaves, cooler temperatures and an excuse to put a chunky sweater to use is always welcome.

But not this year.

Obviously, with a toddler who thinks the purpose of a mask is to tear it off as quickly as possible and our U.S. passports making us personas non grata, we have no plans to visit one of our usual haunts. London, Yorkshire, Edinburgh, a road trip around Ireland – all these past trips seem so much more exotic now that they are firmly out of reach.

We had considered a flight to northern Michigan to visit family and apple, but with a recalcitrant mask-hating child, even that’s a no-go. We thought to venture over to New Orleans – only five hours by car – but with the uptick in extreme weather and restaurant shutdowns in the Big Easy, it seemed like a lot of driving for an uncertain, long weekend.

It’s a struggle; the whole of 2020 has been. But I could not have conceived of how much having our wings clipped, so to speak, would impact our lives. We may travel more than most, but I had not realized that it wasn’t just a hobby for us anymore – instead, our adventures had become tradition. May is for the Netherlands, Paris or exploring the UK. June and July are for Italy, Spain or the French Riviera. August or September are for going to Michigan, October is for England, Ireland or Scotland. November is New Orleans, Las Vegas or L.A. And December is for some place cold and wintery to spend the holidays. Usually Paris, but Copenhagen and Traverse City have also been popular picks. This year, all those traditions have been cancelled. For our family, it has seemed as if summer itself was cancelled, and now, autumn too.

Who are we without our escape plans? What is our family without our vacations to research and look forward to? How can I, a travel writer, write about travel when I’m not going anywhere?

Even if you don’t travel as much as we do, I’m certain that most everyone’s travel plans, big or small, have been impacted by the pandemic. Options are few, safe locations worth visiting without worry have dried up, and the virus doesn’t look like it’s packing up and going back to the underworld it came from anytime soon. But it isn’t as bleak as it seems.

Without our traditional travels, we’ve spent more time working on our 1906 bungalow. We spend more time getting to know a gaggle of neighbors who we socially-distantly hang out with every Friday. As a couple, my husband and I have lived in seven different places together, and we’ve never made friends with our neighbors until now, when the virus has made us slow down and stay home. With money saved from not traveling, we’re able to sit still long enough to plan a bathroom renovation. We’ve had more time for playing in the sandbox with our son, and more motivation to build that sandbox, put up some swings and construct an outdoor playhouse. All things we would never have done if we were off gallivanting, as usual.

Typically, we’d be traveling at this time of year, and hopefully next year, we will. But for now, we’ve found a little joy in exploring our neighborhood, our home and our own backyard.

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