Arriving at the Eiffel Tower with a bag of dirty laundry wasn’t how I’d imagined my first day in Paris would go.
It was May 2019. I was nearing the end of my study abroad experience in Oviedo, Spain. Classes had just ended, and we had a few weeks to study for our final exams — time I thought I’d use to travel, of course. I’d spent a few days in London before heading to Paris — all with a tiny backpack of dirty clothes I didn’t have time to wash in London.
I’d planned to spend my first evening in Paris atop the Eiffel Tower, eating dinner and watching as the sun set over the city. Instead, I found myself in a laundromat involved in a bilingual group call to the laundromat’s helpline with an elderly French woman, a young man from Mexico, and a woman from Uruguay after the stupid machine ate my coins.
Moments like these, oddly enough, are some of my fondest memories during my travels abroad. Anyone, after all, can tell you about his or her amazing trip through Versailles, but how many people can describe participating in a real-life version of the game “Telephone” in a dinky laundromat in Paris?
It’s these moments I think back to at the height of my wanderlust — and those which propel me through my pandemic-related travel doubts. These memories and their wonderful absurdity convince me, vaccinated as I am, that the benefits of traveling outweigh the risks in a pandemic that just won’t go away.
I’ve heard about many people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, asking themselves about domestic and international travel right now, as winter approaches.
“You never know. You could still catch COVID over there even if you’re vaccinated,” some say. “And then what would you do?”
In fact, one of my sister’s oldest friends fed her some version of that as the reason why she couldn’t come to her long-awaited wedding in Scotland this January — a wedding she’d been more than happy to attend before COVID-19 threw a wrench in things.
I understand where she’s coming from. A year ago, I might have been nodding my head. But now COVID-19 vaccines are available to more people than ever before, and I know she’s just as vaccinated as I am. Sure, there’s a risk you might get sick even though you’re 100% vaccinated — in fact, my sister did while attending someone else’s wedding in Scotland.
Yes, it might derail your trip. Perhaps you won’t be able to leave, and maybe you’ll have to scramble to get tested, deal with local authorities and find another place to wait it all out. But that’s a very big “maybe” — and giving into it comes with an even bigger cost.
She’ll miss one of her oldest friends’ wedding. She’ll miss dancing with Scotsmen in kilts, drinking a glass of Glenfarclas with the locals. She’ll miss visiting castles, bundling up against the wickedly cold Scottish weather, meeting new people and a score of other experiences that I, in my secondhand knowledge of Scotland, can’t even dream up right now.
Well, I’m going to my sister’s wedding, and I can’t wait. I’m not going to let fear of a breakthrough infection stop me from visiting Scotland — or traveling to any place thereafter.
And who knows? Maybe this time I’ll get lost, dine with a few locals and have an even more absurd story to treasure and tell next time.
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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