Last week I took a trip to Montana. I was let go of a job I had just gotten due to COVID reasons and felt defeated. I spontaneously bought some plane tickets a couple weeks ahead of time and began to shield myself from the world. I wanted to make sure I was healthy while in the airport, plane, and in my old town.
I felt great leading up to the trip, so all the updates I received from the airline about masks, rules, and the cleaning procedures did not wig me out. I only got nervous as I drove up to the airport, took my final breath of fresh air for 6 hours, and strapped my mask on. I got my ticket from a kiosk because of United’s insane rules with Basic Economy, and made my way to security. I breezed through the line, but there was a guy breathing down my neck while waiting to put our things through the scanners. I contorted my body to be out of his way, and this is when the nerves truly began. To my horror, they didn’t have any way of wiping down the bins you put your things in, nor did they have anyone spray them before new users touched them. EW. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like those security bins are definite germ hubs. AND THEN, my bag got pulled aside to be checked (of course). I had to wait quite some time before a security agent began to take my stuff backpack apart.
To my horror, she placed everything onto a table. I had just watched her place another lady’s items on that table and not wipe it down afterwards. AH! I quickly asked her if she could clean it. Thankfully, she obliged, before she proceeded taking every single item in my overly stuffed bag out. She could not find what she was looking for and once every item of clothing, bag of snacks, and books were all out, she found what she was looking for in my first aid kit. Then she left me to repack everything back into my backpack. It originally took me 30 minutes to pack that bag, but now, surrounded by people rushing to the train, I stuffed everything into my backpack in less than five. I cried.
I was so frustrated by this interaction that I didn’t know how to carry on. I boarded the train without touching anything and stood with my feet wide apart in order to keep balance. I ran off the train when we arrived at the B gates, rode the escalator up, and then a wave of people were coming at me.
Stress. Stress. Stress.
Y’all I had not been around that many people since March 2020. It freaked me out. Yes, everyone had masks on, but I just felt attacked. There were people who were eating just out in the open, people dodging in and out of the crowds, and honestly, people EVERYWHERE. Haha, I mean, of course there were, it’s an airport! I was so stressed out.
I was so relieved when I finally boarded my flight. First of all, my flight attendant told me I was pretty. Then, I got a window seat in the very last row which I ended up having all to myself! It was an ideal situation. I was the last one off the plane, and the last one walking through the small airport in Kalispell. I was so happy to be in Montana after a year away.
My friend ran up to me in the airport, and all my stress was gone. I was happy to be taking my mask off finally! The next five days were kind of a blur. I visited all my old stomping grounds, saw a few friends, met a lot of cute dogs, and spent some time in the great outdoors.
I was surprised by how different Montana was from Colorado in terms of COVID restrictions, though. For instance, the grocery stores had people without masks, employees who had their masks pulled down, and a lack of hand sanitizer. While I was out on runs, people did not move to the edge of the sidewalks, but stayed right in the middle. It was kind of a culture shock to be honest. In Colorado, masks are everywhere. Sure, they fall below noses sometimes, but at least people are considerate enough to wear them.
Despite all the feels, I was able to take away 2 key things about traveling during COVID from this trip.
1 – WEAR A MASK
This is easy. Obviously airlines require masks as well as most establishments, but you can always wear a mask. Yes, sometimes you may feel peer pressured out of it, but if you want to stay safe for yourself and loved ones, just wear it.
2 – JUST STAY CLOSE TO HOME
As much as this may suck, just stay close to home. I bet there are some towns you haven’t driven through not too far from your house. All the stress I had on this trip was not worth it. Yes, I loved being in Montana, but it was a completely different experience compared to what it used to be like.
Ultimately, COVID is scary because there is a lot we do not understand. The case numbers are at their highest in the US, and it’s best to play it safe and stop the spread. Traveling will still exist once there’s a vaccine, so for now, I encourage you to explore your home state with close friends and family.
Stay safe, y’all!