This past year going through a pandemic has taught us so many lessons and caused so much heartbreak. I’m the first to say that I realize how fortunate I’ve been compared to so many with everything that life has thrown at us in this last 365 days. I’m heartbroken over how many people we’ve lost, how many jobs are gone, how scary it’s been to go through watching loved ones sick with COVID, something I witnessed personally as Nick fought through the virus just a couple short months ago. And while we’ve lost so many huge things this year, it’s also worth noting all the little things that we used to take for granted that were lost and we don’t know when we’ll get them back. Things like being able to jump on a plane and head somewhere to explore. Things like being able to book a hotel somewhere for a night without worrying about if we’ll get infected or infect someone else. The idea of exploration has been taken from us this year and I miss it, more and more with each passing day. We’re all going through a collective grief right now, for our previous lives before COVID, for the people we’ve lost, for the jobs that aren’t there anymore but we’re also grieving the things we loved, the moments when we really lived our lives to the fullest that we could. Those important, small moments are also worth grieving and until we can get back to living as fully as we did, it’s important that we acknowledge what those small things meant to us as well.
For me, on top of all the heartbreak this past year, what I miss most about my life prior to COVID is that feeling of exploration, of being some place different than I’m used to, somewhere to just wander and see this incredible world. I miss that intoxicating feeling of landing in a foreign country, not sure what to expect but so excited at the prospects. I miss the aromas drifting from cafes as you wander through a place and seeing people live their lives. I miss heading out that first morning in a new place, eyes open wide to see the world in front of me, rain or shine. I miss the stress of navigating in a foreign language and not being sure of what you’re ordering at a restaurant. I miss the colors, the sounds, the scenes.
I miss the moments when your jaw literally drops at the beauty around you, when you realize how big and beautiful this planet is. I miss the magical moments when the snow starts to fall or fields of purple open up in front of you as you drive around the bend. I miss moments sitting quietly taking everything in, just witnessing everything in front of me. I miss the moments in a crowded airport, people coming and going, different languages being spoken. I miss the buzz of a city alive and of early morning explorations when everyone is still asleep. I miss the cultures and the languages. I miss the different foods and trying new things.
Honestly, I miss it all, each and every day. Sometimes it feels like a dream, our lives pre-COVID. And all those years traveling, taking every vacation day and using every deal I could find, we traveled for years on a small budget, making the most of each dollar spent on $200 roundtrip tickets to Stockholm in the middle of the winter and taking advantage of each and every mile we earned from credit cards. We were probably wearing ourselves out, tired all the time from travel, jet lagged going to work when we’d return, probably spending money we should have saved at the time, but you know what? I wouldn’t do it any other way, especially looking back now.
Everyone thought we were crazy when we went to Europe for a long weekend or booked tickets to Machu Picchu on a whim. Everyone told us to stop traveling so much, that we had the rest of our lives to see what we wanted to. And I’m ever so glad we didn’t listen. I’m so glad we witnessed so much of the world prior to COVID because I’m not sure what those places will look like now, I’m not sure how much longer we’ll need to not be traveling. I’m not sure that those experiences would be the same going forward and those feelings we felt, the scenes we saw, the moments we experienced, it’s a bank of memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I miss exploring. I miss traveling. I miss everything out there in this big beautiful world.
So the lesson is this: don’t let other people tell you what kind of life to lead. Don’t let anyone make you stop doing something you love. Don’t let life pass you by without pursuing the things that make you feel alive, no matter what someone else thinks of it. And if you haven’t gotten the chance to yet in your life to travel, once our pandemic nightmare ends and it’s safe, book that flight, see those places you want to see, experience those moments that only travel can give you. As much as I miss exploring and as unsure as I am about what the world will be like post-COVID in terms of travel, I’m actually so excited to get back out there, to see the world with fresh eyes, knowing what it was like to have that option taken away. I’m actually so much more grateful for what travel brings, what exploration brings and I hope I don’t take it for granted ever again.