When Connection is Essential: Traveling during the pandemic
With the COVID-19 curve not as flat as medical experts had hoped, we entered the last full season of 2020 with many of the anxieties and worries we faced in March. Over time, we've sought to make the most of virtual gatherings to connect for everything from social events to professional undertakings. And for most, we've stayed put. Not venturing too far from home. Exercising safe measures for our well-being and that of others.
As a single professional working from home, I've personally faced the range of emotions around deciding whether to travel during COVID-19.
Do I put myself and potentially others at risk by traveling?
Is my desire to see loved ones in-person, as opposed to through a computer screen, selfish and irresponsible?
And if I go, how do I get there with minimal exposure to others?
Have you found yourself in the same dilemma?
Come May, I was cancelling pre-booked flights that airlines kept shuffling around. However I couldn't ignore a nudge in my heart. A voice spurring me to not completely abandon my plan to travel home and surprise my Dad for Father's Day. After several months apart, I start to long for these times with family. They ground me and fill my heart with joy and gratitude. I hadn't seen my Dad since Christmas, and I really wanted to go...
So now the barrage of questions came flooding in...Do I fly or drive? Stay at a hotel or seek a host? Travel over two days or three? Take this route or that one? Researching how airlines and hotels were adapting to the times and tracking case numbers and quarantine regulations for every state on my route became a daily practice. I found myself praying very specific prayers and seeking advice on if it was even wise to go home and potentially put my family's health at risk. A decision that seemingly took little-to-no thought just a few months prior was now consuming most of my energy and playing at my heart strings.
As I wrestled with making 'the most responsible' decision, I repeated one of my favorite scriptures, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6
These ponderings led me to find out from other disciples what had them traveling during these unique times and how they came to their decision. And I discovered I wasn't alone in the back and forth of thoughts, emotions and decisions around traveling during a global pandemic.
Relocating cross-country during the pandemic
"The Spirit God gave us does not make us afraid. His Spirit is a source of power and love and self-control." - 2 Timothy 1:7
One sister faced the type of travel that involved boxes and packing tape, better known as relocation. After facing some challenges earlier in the year, Terry decided it was time to move from California to Florida. She wanted to live near her spiritual family and be a little closer to her physical family on the east coast.
When I asked her to share about the emotions she experienced while making her travel arrangements, she expressed "I felt many emotions. At times I was excited to be traveling since the country was for the most part on lock down. But there were times I was nervous, anxious and fearful to travel across the country with a major pandemic going on, as well as traveling alone."
Overall Terry reports that her experience turned out great! She shared what made it standout from lengthy road trips in the past. "I had to be more conscious about where my stops along the way were going to be, like going to the restroom, filling my car up with gas and the places where I was going to stay. When it came to preparing for my nightly stops, not only did I have to figure out who was going to be home to host me, but I had to find those who felt comfortable having me stay in their homes while I was traveling from one location to another."
Terry questioned, "was I going to practice social distancing, was I ever in contact with anyone that contracted the virus or was I ever sick? I also had to be concerned about the same things with them."
One of the advantages she shared about traveling during COVID was how it forced her to cut calories and spending. "One thing I wanted to make sure I did while traveling during the pandemic was to limit the amount of stops I made along the way. One way I did that was to pack all my food for the trip. Not only did it limit stops along the way, but it also helped me not to eat junk food and save money."
Not only did God protect Terry on her journey that tracked close to 3,000 miles, he also provided her the opportunity to grow in self-discipline!
Facing grief during the pandemic
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." - Matthew 5:4
Unfortunately these unprecedented times have left many grappling with the pain of losing a loved one with limitations on being able to fully extend or receive comfort. Social distancing guidelines have left many faced with putting their loved ones to rest in unconventional ways and leaving some with little sense of closure. For Julie, whose grandmother passed away this summer, she shares about her decision-making process to travel to the funeral.
"It would have been the last time I could say goodbye to my grandmother since my aunts were transporting her to Dominican Republic," she expressed. "After a lot of praying and taking into consideration what the process would be like at the funeral home, we decided to travel and come back on the same day."
Julie and her family traveled from Massachusetts to New York to attend her grandmother's funeral. Upon reaching their destination in New York, she "found it shocking to see how many people were out and about without a mask on and not following social distancing."
However, Julie is extremely grateful for the opportunity she had to honor her grandmother's legacy and extend the love of Jesus to her family during a difficult time.
The peace of God
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7
Not only has the pandemic drastically impacted most people's lives physically and financially, it has adversely affected many on an emotional and spiritual level to a greater degree.
For one sister, making the decision to travel to visit her family was 'essential'. Katherine lives in Boston and regularly visited her family in Miami, Florida before the pandemic. "I definitely prayed prior to traveling, for God to be in control and for me to be able to trust him," exclaimed Katherine. "I also prayed for him to give me peace as I was feeling anxious about traveling in the middle of a pandemic. It crossed my mind many times to cancel the trip, but I also needed this for my soul.
To be around family, in a different environment, breathing some fresh air from the south and just break my regular routine as I was preparing to go back to work."
When asked about her emotions upon making travel arrangements, Katherine shared "I felt anxious at the beginning and scared, but later prayed and asked God to be in control of my trip. When I told people I was going to Miami (a city with high numbers of COVID at the time) and hearing people’s negative comments about how it was a bad idea for me to go there, I felt even more anxious and doubted that I made the right decision. I later felt more at ease, and after coming back from my trip, I went to get tested. Thank God my test came back negative."
Upon arriving to her destination, she discovered that the city had a curfew time. Despite what she saw in the news, Katherine stated "most people were being careful and wearing their masks at all times. Places were not overcrowded like I expected it to be or how they presented it on TV," she explained. "I went to the beach there and it was not crowded at all and people were pretty distanced from each other. Restaurants had outdoor seats and others were still closed."
In the end, Katherine stated "I learned to trust God and to let him take over situations, and most importantly, any negative emotions that may arise from difficult and challenging situations."