It’s mid-June, and I should be returning from a week with my mom, aunt, and sister in Memphis, TN. But I’m not. I am home in my pajamas, a pastime I’ve adapted to over the past few months.
This time last year, I’d already been on three vacations and was preparing for my “hot girl summer” filled with back to back vacations and weekly excursions with my posse. From June to September, I traveled to Florida, the Bahamas, did a three-day cruise, spent a week in New Orleans for Essence Fest, and another week in Jamaica celebrating my sister’s 32nd birthday/Labor Day.
In between all of my “big” trips were concerts, wine festivals, weekend getaways to D.C., Maryland, and New York to hang with friends, happy hours twice a week, a trip to Atlanta, spa days, and big work events that I helped plan.
This year was supposed to be no different. Actually, it was supposed to be better. I turned 29 at the top of the year so I was committed to making the last year of my 20s count with extensive travel. I started it off with two trips to the Sunshine State. In January and February, I went to Florida: once for a late birthday celebration for myself/a late Christmas gift for my man - the second time was for a work retreat in a part of Central Florida I’d never even heard of but enjoyed nonetheless. We then celebrated Valentine’s Day with a Boyz II Men concert.
Florida would be followed by my first international vacation of the year. For March, I booked an eight-day vacation to spend in Switzerland. While there, my friend and I would take a flight to Barcelona for a four-day weekend.
I had nothing planned for April but was excited for what was supposed to be the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration in Memphis because we’d always wanted to go. There was also a weekend in Atlantic City planned especially for my mom, that included a concert starring her favorite singer, the legendary Patti LaBelle.
My “hot girl summer 2.0” would start in June with a seven-day cruise to Barbados, July was an extended stay in the DMV area filled with crab boils and clubbing in D.C. and we’d probably hit a few wineries in VA.
August was a big trip: a nine-day vacation in London spent sightseeing, stalking the royal family, tickets to see ‘Sister Act’ on Broadway with Whoopi Goldberg reprising her role as Delores, a day trip to Paris and everything in between. It would mark my second time in Europe. The first was a nine-day tour of Paris with one day in London. This time, we decided to reverse it.
The fall would be chill with a final trip in December that I’d dreamed of taking for years: a winter getaway at a lodge with winter sports and activities instead of the typical Christmas at home.
All was well until March 16, when I got a text that the City of Philadelphia was shutting down all non-essential businesses in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus. It became a reality in that very moment that not only would I not be traveling anywhere, but life as I knew it would be altered indefinitely. What a difference a year makes.
Of course, I’d followed the news intently before my city shut down. At first, I chalked up COVID-19 to media hysteria, an election year ploy, and every other conspiracy. But once my friend texted me that our flights from Switzerland to Barcelona were canceled two weeks before I received the shutdown text, I knew it was only a matter of time before the U.S. followed suit.
Just three days before receiving the text, I spent an evening at a local black-owned restaurant throwing back shots and nibbling on crab cakes. Little did I know that within a matter of days, I would be married to my home, unable to leave for anything except to get groceries. My social life that included bar hopping and jet-setting would be replaced with FaceTime calls to my loved ones throughout the day and home-cooked meals.
Just like that, I received emails almost daily that all itineraries for my planned vacations for the rest of the year were postponed or canceled altogether. Without question, I received some refunds - others provided travel credits for future dates.
I’m an optimist, so I was not upset or discouraged. But, I did not know when I could resume travel plans. As the reality of this virus became more grim, I wasn’t even sure that I was interested in jumping back into traveling when allowed. It didn’t seem worth it to me to travel with war-like protective gear only to get to my destination and not be able to fully partake in the city or country because their bans haven’t been relaxed yet. To me, the trouble and the risks weren’t worth it.
So, instead of getting bent out of shape about not being able to live out my “hot girl summer 2.0,” I focused my attention elsewhere. I moved into a new apartment in November 2019 and upgraded from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom. I didn’t need furniture, but my home was not decorated to the extent that I desired. Prior to the shutdown, I kept putting off making my new house a home, simply because I was never home.
Luckily, I was one of the employees who was not affected by the shutdown as I’d already been employed with a remote company. As a full-time writer, I didn’t have a space carved out to work. Instead, I worked from my bed or in my living room on my couch. I’d been saying since I moved that I wanted to make part of my second room a home office and finally had the time to do so.
I made creating an affordable home office space my first “project” and priority. It’s made such a difference in my productivity and the overall atmosphere just makes me feel that much more official. The second half of my second room is a media space, used for watching television and listening to music.
My second project was my backyard. With summer quickly approaching, I wanted to create an outdoor space for both relaxation and entertainment. I also did a few other touch-ups around my apartment as far as hanging artwork, making things more accessible, and reorganization to keep my apartment clutter-free.
Aside from getting my home in order, the mental reset that the shutdown has provided has been amazing. I’ve become so used to work and being on the go that I forgot how to enjoy the simple things: watching a movie, binge-watching on streaming services, listening to music, taking on creative projects, and not being consumed by my phone all day. I’d been desperately feeling the need to get back into a routine of reading and journaling avidly, and the opportunity was now. Breaking the routine of being on autopilot has been beneficial mentally and spiritually. I never had, nor made the time to actually do, things that I truly enjoyed before the shutdown.
Despite how great things have been, I’m not naive to the challenges millions are facing in this country and around the world, nor am I free of fear. I’ve had the same concerns as others throughout this time: staying safe when going out, missing family and friends, worrying about whether the economic issues will eventually hit my home, and overall empathizing with what people are dealing with.
But, there’s been more good than bad that has come out of this for me personally. It’s been a reality check. I’ve had a reminder of what’s important and just how fortunate and blessed I’ve been. Traveling is amazing, but it’s not the end all be all.
Do I want to get back to traveling again ASAP? Of course. But more importantly, I want to be safe and healthy, and I want the same for everyone else. I want to be sustained with food and shelter. I want to be able to see my loved ones. That’s what I truly care about at the end of the day.
What I’ve discovered during these few months of the shutdown is that what I love the most about traveling is not necessarily the places I’ve been to. It’s more about the memories I’ve made and who I traveled with. Being in this shutdown, I have been limited to who I can see. The beauty in it all is that it’s brought me and the people that I love the most even closer.
So, while I patiently wait to be able to add more stamps to my passport, I relish in what I have now: my faith, my family, my friends, my health, my home, food, and of course my new office space.