Time does that, and we have just had an unreasonable dose of time to push us into forgetfulness. The past fifteen months have undone that which we have done for so long: evolution interrupted. So it is with travel.
For the ten years before Covid, I had turned myself into an efficient traveler. Yearly trips to the AP English Language reading sent me to Louisville and Kansas City and Tampa. Other trips included Portugal and Spain and France and Germany and Guadeloupe and Mexico. And while I was never at the level of the business traveler, I did evolve efficiencies.
I wore a sport jacket and pants and close-toed shoes so that I looked like a pro. This did not just get me respect or any magical treatment because I looked like I subscribed to one version of the culture wars; this had a calming effect on the professionals who got me to the airport and through security and onto the plane and to my destination. They could see that I was prepared, and by putting myself in their perspectives I was able to better tailor my experience to their expectations, providing them with a small respite among hordes of flip-flops and baggy shorts and bare midriffs. They love boring, and I was happy to give it to them.
So the shock was there when we traveled to New York City to catch a plane to Grenada to meet up with our sailboat. We were thrust into the habit of traveling, and though between Chantal and me we have no shortage of experience, we were still rocking on our heels, from the time we hit traffic near JFK to the masses of lines at the PCR Covid testing area in Terminal D to the streamlined car rental experience to the cacophony of bizarre calls and replies heard throughout the night in the hotel.
Still familiar were the lines. Technically still supposed the be socially distancing, that is largely gone, and that was the other jarring things: an absence of reference. Where are we in the pandemic? Vaccinated but masked? Tested but lined up together? The plane was another shock: each party had its own row, so Chantal and I spread out over three seats in row 9 of an A320. The plane was perhaps a quarter full. I sympathize with the airlines over their lack of heads, but I loved the experience of a mostly empty cabin: no jockeying for the bathroom, no cramming with strangers at your elbow, no goats and chickens and emotional support Shetland ponies wandering the aisles.
Listen: The newness of a new land. Sounds of scooters and the constant tapping of horns, as collective-style drivers ply the narrow roads of Grenada. Smell: The rich, humid air, redolent of vegetation and hot pavement. See: The vast Caribbean Sea stretching before the beach, bisected with freighters and sailboats; the roads snaking traffic all morning; the people, moving according to the climate. Taste: Fast food with purpose and flavor, like street vendors or food trucks who devolved back to brick & mortar. Senses become overwhelmed until they become acclimated. Then, more travel.
Now we will learn together. Will it be the same as it was before? Of course not. Nothing is ever the same. Now we will add the experience of Covid to our realities. We will (it is hoped) retain those things that effectively improved our lives, jettison those that did not, and travel together to the future. We will mix a cocktail of remembering and forgetting and find the newness of our destinations shaping our world again, teaching us, making the old new and the new the way forward.