On Monday this week I boarded a plane for the first time since March 13th.
As someone who pre COVID-19 traveled about 125,000 miles per year, the last three-plus months have been strange for many reasons, including because all plane travel in my life came to a complete halt. I have had many conversations with myself about how much I have missed flying, I have loved and reposted travel memes about “walking down the aisle again,” and have told anyone willing to listen about how I could not wait to get back on the road.
Now that I have done it, however, I am not sure that is the full truth and nothing but the truth. After imagining for so long how it would be to get back on the road, here is what I learned on Monday. ( For context, I flew American Airlines, from New Orleans to Washington National, a flight leaving at 7:30 am).
- If I am honest with myself, I must admit the day leading up to this flight was filled with anxiety (which I have never had about traveling, ever). Anxiety at leaving my two kittens (who have I become?!), and anxiety about the actual travel experience. Would I be safe? Would I remember what to do?
- I was surprised by the number of people at the airport. I imagined it would be deserted, yet the crowd felt relatively normal for an early morning flight.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people wearing masks. I can count on one hand those who had their masks around their necks instead of in front of their faces.
- The only face shields I saw were those the TSA personnel was wearing as I walked through security. I imagine this is because they ask travelers to lower their masks (to check facial features against your ID).
- Few of the amazing restaurants in the new New Orleans airport were open. Emeril’s was… and the very nice gentleman who brought me coffee (Carlos) told me that some places had not yet reopened, and some only were open 11 am to 6 pm.
- I missed random conversations with strangers, such as the one with Carlos. While I am not one to have random conversations with strangers, I apparently do so at airports, and I enjoy them.
- Everyone on board wore their mask and kept it on for the duration of the two-hour flight. I wore a N95 mask, and while it was uncomfortable, it made me feel safe.
- The mood on the plane was definitely subdued. Lots of empty seats, everyone being very careful with their personal space, flight attendants definitely caring more for our “safety” than our “comfort” – no food or beverage service for example.
- I forgot how beautiful the clouds are from 30,000 feet up in the air. And how that view helps my creative thinking.
- Overall, traveling was like getting back on a bicycle. Call it muscle memory or automatic pilot… that memory kicked in the minute I walked in to the airport. Checking in. Working at the airport. Working on the plane. I didn’t have to think about it, I just did it. I am grateful for that muscle memory.
Did I love it? No. Do I think I will be back to flying 125,000 miles per year anytime soon? No. Will I be anxious next time I fly? No. Did I feel safe? Yes. Do I miss my kittens? Yes.