It’s such a weird time not only to be a travel blogger but a free spirit who just wants to get out and experience the world while she has the time. I definitely needed to come to terms with the fact that I am not actually wasting my days by staying at home or traveling locally. I am doing what’s healthiest for myself and those around me.
Thanks to unforeseen circumstances, I left Germany right in the middle of the pandemic, which inevitably meant getting on a plane. I really had no idea what flying was going to be like, but I also didn’t have a choice but to brave those eight hours across the Atlantic. There were about 100 seats in my section and maybe 10 passengers total who all seemed to keep their masks on the entire flight. I had a row to myself and all rows except one surrounding me were open. So my flight was basically empty, but also fewer people are traveling internationally than domestically, so I’m curious if I flew within the U.S. if the flights would be more crowded. In general, I’ve heard from other people who have flown that they felt safer on the plane than they did in restaurants or their local grocery stores, and I have to agree. Considering people aren’t even wearing masks in my enclosed apartment hallways, I am safer just about anywhere—certainly on a plane where both the crew and passengers are being extra cautious.
The two things I can’t recommend enough to bring on your flight are disinfecting wipes and warm layers. While I trust the crew to sanitize the cabin, it doesn’t hurt to wipe down all the surfaces of your seat and row. Multiple people on my flight seemed to be doing it, so I didn’t feel like the only clean freak on board. Also, the air conditioning was on at full-blast, as it should be to keep the circulation going, so my flight was very cold, and I didn’t have enough layers in my carry-on to keep me warm.
Since this major flight, my family and I have gone on some long-weekend local trips. We spent a week at Bethany Beach, five days at Deep Creek Lake, four days in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a quick two days in New Jersey once we were allowed into the state.
I have felt safe on all of these vacations except in Charlottesville, where we had to stay in a hotel because Airbnbs were outrageously expensive. We noticed multiple times passing through the lobby that the front desk staff were not wearing their masks properly or at all. Another time, we needed a plunger—the hotel had poor plumbing, just wanted to clarify it wasn’t our fault :)— and when the receptionist brought it to our door and handed it to me, she wasn’t wearing a mask. So not only did we have face-to-face contact, but she walked through the halls and elevator without a mask when the sign entering the hotel specifically said there is a statewide mandate and masks are required. This definitely angered me, and all I could do was write a bad review and try to avoid hotels like this one in the future.
In New Jersey, on Long Beach Island, our hotel felt safer with its outdoor hallways, and even the other guests were more considerate than in other places I’ve been. And we got to go to an alpaca farm, the best outdoor tourist activity I’ve gotten do since the pandemic started!
We’re only doing outdoor dining, which makes going out to eat a pain sometimes, especially when you’re on vacation and don’t have a choice. In Charlottesville, it rained our first three days there, and it was really stressful for me trying to find places that not only had outdoor seating but COVERED outdoor seating. This instantly narrowed down our options tremendously, but we were still able to find good restaurants; it just required a bit of a headache on my end trying to do research.
I hope restaurants will invest in tents and heaters to make outdoor dining a possibility into the winter. My best advice is to always have a blanket in the car for the colder nights!
But I will say I totally disagree with having an outdoor tent thats almost entirely enclosed and has heaters inside, because doesn’t that mean you’re basically dining indoors?
At least when dining outdoors, I get better natural light for my food photography and nice views on a sunny day! I even got to go to an outdoor Oktoberfest at Silver Branch Brewing Company in Silver Spring (and won the fashion contest, by the way).
The good thing that has come out of all this travel is an appreciation for where I live. The pandemic has forced me to only explore Maryland and its surrounding states rather than jet-setting off to a new country, and having just returned from being abroad for three years, I feel more connected to my home than ever. I have time to try all the local restaurants on my list, visit the different breweries in the area, go to the familiar spots I loved before moving to Germany and discover new ones.
Until my Deep Creek Lake vacation in September, I had never been farther west in Maryland than Hagerstown in my 25 years of life. But that trip took us to a whole other part of our state that we knew nothing about, and we loved the peaceful hiking trails, waterfalls, and even the climb up to Maryland’s highest point, Hoye Crest.
We revisited Shenandoah National Park for the first time in years on the way home from our Charlottesville trip, and with the changing leaves, we had a gorgeous and grueling hike to Chimney Rock on the Riprap trail. Yes, the Blue Ridge mountains will never compare to the Alps, but they are breathtaking in their own right, and most importantly, they are close to home.
As I start to reconsider the idea of domestic travel, there are so many parts of America left for me to explore, too. I want to hike in as many national parks as possible, and those also happen to be the trips where I don’t have to worry as much about COVID canceling plans or closing tourist attractions that I want to see. At the same time, the list of restaurants I want to try in Baltimore and Washington grows exponentially by the day, so if I’m stuck with some adventures only at home for a while, I won’t complain!