First, let me just start by saying when I titled this post with the phrase “post-COVID”, I am in no way subscribing to the idea that we are beyond the pandemic. I still wear a mask in public. I still encourage others to do the same. What I mean by the title, is this was the first time I traveled *since* the pandemic. In fact, it was the most I’ve EVER been out of the house since the pandemic!
And let me tell you, it was ver, very weird.
But let me also tell you, it was refreshing, exciting to be around humans IRL again, and it was super relaxing having a change of scenery than just my home, the grocery store, and the dentist office as I’m in the process of getting a crown placed on my back molar. But while I was on vacation, I wasn’t thinking of dentist appointments or workouts I was avoiding; no, I was having fun with my best friend, my mom.
I’m super lucky to have grown up with a close mother who is really truly my best friend. Yeah, we might disagree, argue once in a while; and she never gets tired of *always* being right, but we have a great relationship for the most part.
And it was her idea to get away for a few days to warmer weather. Our favorite vacation spot is around Orlando, and my cousins and their adorable new babies / families live in Jacksonville Beach. So we decided to start at Jax Beach to visit fam and enjoy the majestic sound of the ocean waves, have some fun in Disney Springs for some awesome Margaritas by the Disney Lake, and end our trip in Savannah for some epic benya’s by the River.
But let me tell you, I did have to think a bit before saying yes to the trip. While my mom’s plan sounded good from the start, I had one thing on my mind from saying yes right away: COVID-19.
Yes, that infamous pandemic that turned the entire world upside down and transformed yours truly from just an introvert into a full-pledged hermit, never leaving her home except when running out of coffee and food or the dreaded dentist appointment. But what made me say yes to adventure despite my worry of spreading or catching this truly awful disease? Well, it was a couple of things, actually.
The first, was my mom took a road trip in about November 2020 to visit her brother and family in Wisconsin. So from Greenville to Madison area is around 873 miles or 12 hours via car. And my mom isn’t always in a huge rush on road trips. Unlike my dad and my brother, instead of making it on one go; she likes to stop for breaks, lunches and stay the night at a hotel, cashing in her well earned points of years as a traveling salesperson. So she probably stayed at four different hotels back in the fall in 2020. At first I was very worried about her safety when she first told me about the travel plans for herself to visit my uncle and her nieces and nephews. But she said she did a lot of research on hotels were handling the coronavirus crisis.
She said that hotels are cracking down on Lysol-ing the rooms to kingdom come, being diligent on washing the sheets extra, extra well … closing down pools and easing up on common areas like breakfast bars and such, and encouraging customers to wear masks. On top of all that, she brings her own Clorox wipes and wipes down the major hotel surfaces she’d come in contact with and washes the hotel dishes and cutlery herself also.
So, when her and I were talking about our little Florida get-away, I remembered when she visited WI in the fall and how easy it was for her to avoid getting sick thanks to the hotel chains taking the Covid thing seriously (hey, they didn’t want bad press of their customers getting super sick!) and that helped me relax a little bit.
The other thing was my mom got COVID for real for Christmas when a visit with their close neighbors, who conveniently failed to mention that they had been exposed to Covid earlier (they only found out themselves after the fact). First my dad got it and his wasn’t that bad, only lasted a couple of weeks and no fever. Then my mom got it, and it was far worse because of her history with Asthma. But luckily they have a great family Doctor and he prescribed her the anti-bodies right away. Thanks to his due diligence of keeping an eye on her and taking care of her, truly thank God she was okay. It was a scary and stressful time for all of us, but luckily they both were okay. I took a test and was negative, so good news there too.
It was because she already had the anti-bodies that put my mind at ease about her traveling again, and me traveling with her.
I still take the COVID very seriously, and bring my own hand wipes everywhere and always wear a mask. But knowing she already got it and lived, was a little bit pressure released. Not to say she can’t get it again, but you know, the fear wasn’t as strong especially with all the precautionary measures she applies herself.
So yeah, when my mom first asked me to run away to sunshine beaches and a girl’s trip to Florida in a pandemic world, I was a little hesitant for a moment. But then I realized it’d been a couple of months since her COVID scare and that she had the antibodies treatment, and I recalled the safety measures of the hotel chains she stayed at in Wisconsin, the same one’s we’d be visiting in Florida. And I remembered how careful they were with their cleaning and COVID protection measures. And so, with some reserved I said yes.
And then as she kept e-mailing travel tips and plans, I actually got to become very excited! Bye-bye end of the winter rainy blues Greenville, hello sunny Florida! And dare did this pale introvert dream, a tan? So, I began packing and preparing, complete with a pack of hand wipes and my usual chic leopard face mask of my own, and then it really hit me. This was travelling during COVID season.
But by then my many trips to the grocery stores has prepared me for COVID 19 etiquette.
Wear a mask, try not to sneeze in public, nod politely at fellow maskers, scowl at anti-maskers and then everything would be just fine especially if you wash your hands pronto when getting home (I wash mine with Dawn dish soap just to be extra safe).
And for the most part, the trip was just fine, indeed. And we truly had a great time. But it wasn’t the same majestic feeling of a wild and free traveller as vacations might have felt in the past.
Yeah we were having fun on the beach, but I found myself how many humans were on the sandbank having fun – without masks – while I was imagining nasty germs emitting from their mouths. But I admit, a few minutes of feeling the powerful ocean waves gently tickling sand underneath my toes, even I was starting to relax and have some proper fun! Then a margarita at the hotel bar, and dinner with my cousins and their new families and I was happy to be out agian! And dare I say it, I missed people IRL, guys!
Sure you got your Twitter, Facebook and zoom meetings; but nothing beats a smile in real life, and yes I washed my hands like cra-cra, but it felt so amazing to be around people in person, by my family and enjoying the sun, drinks and the history of Jax Beach and St. Augustine coastline.
I was super glad we drove because both my mom and I agreed that we weren’t ready to airplane travel during a pandemic. Packed like sardines in a crowded airport / airplane for hours at a time? Yeah, I shudder just imagining it!
Our first night at the hotel we ate at Bahama Breeze (the meal was just okay but it was fun to be in Orlando!), and the next night after a day of girl time window shopping, we totally had a blast at Disney Springs!
But the drive from Jax Beach to Orlando was super pretty! Thanks to advice from my cousin-in-law the night before, both he and my cousin gushed about how pretty the drive was over the St. Augustine coastline to Orlando. Yeah it was super longer by the comparison highway route, but it sure beat sitting in traffic with no scenery. This way, we got to look at pretty coastal lines from the Atlantic ocean and we both ooo’d and ahhh’d over the pretty and fancy upscale beach houses with amazing views; imagining what the #beachlife style must have been like.
That night we ate at Bahama Breeze as I was craving seafood having had stared at the ocean all day whilst driving, and of course a couple more margaritas! Hey, when on vacation!
But the reason we went to Orlando, aside from the nice weather, was Disney Springs!
Disney Springs is a bit like Disney World, but on a lower scale. It’s mostly just shops, eating and drinking. What’s not to love?
We had such a fun time at Disney Springs! It really is our fave place to visit. You get the flare of Disney fun without the long lines or the big price tag of the Disney parks. They have totally changed it from the last time we were there back in 2019!
They’ve gone super Marvel-centric and Star Wars crazy in their shops. But they also kept the traditional of Disney Springs with the Mickey themed store (I was geeking out over the Tangled lanterns!) and some traditional Disney movies like a Snow White candy shop with the wicked witch’s carmel apple. They looked so good but I was sure it would ruin my crown in progress so I was a good girl and avoided candy. Plus, we were saving room for pizza!
Our hotel room was pretty cool because it had a double room, so we each got our own room and bath, shared with a common kitchen area and living room.
One of me and my mom’s things is binging HGTV, ever since I was in high school that’d always been our favorite to watch together. And since I don’t have cable or Discovery+ it was a real treat for me too to catch up on some of my favorite shows and spend some quality time with my mom. We also ordered a Chicago style pizza the next night at that cool hotel, and it was so nice to chill and binge HGTV.
The next day, armed with our face masks and hand wipes, we did our usual window shopping at HomeGoods, Ikea and Costco. Then we treated ourselves to pedicures. I was impressed with the pedicure place because they made us take a survey indicating neither of us had any symptoms, and also made us wash our hands on site before sitting down in the salon style chairs. So yes it was another reminder that we live in a COVID age, but it was nice to see the salon taking it seriously too.
I asked my pedicurist if they shut down last year, and she said for a few months. She also said that usually they were jam packed with customers, and I looked around and only saw a couple of other ladies other than me and my Mom, so that made me very sad indeed. The COVID was definitely an impact to our economy, and small family run businesses like that salon, was a reminder of who the weak economy hit the hardest. But I was glad we were there, and able to help support that family. My feet were glad too! Because it’d probably been almost three years since my last pedicure! Damn did my heels need it! But by the end they felt baby soft smooth and I felt like I was walking on clouds.
That night it rained pretty heavily in Orlando, which was great for sleeping in as the thunderstorm didn’t start until early morning, but unfortunately it knocked a whole bunch of palm tree residue onto my mom’s car, so that was a little funny because we weren’t used to dealing with palm tree dust!
Another day of window shopping, HGTV hang out and the previously mentioned Chicago style pizza from Uno (we are from Chicago originally, so it tasted like heaven!) and we were both ready to mosey onto Savannah, our last destination of our getaway.
I’ve only been to Savannah once before back when I first moved to SC and was more social in 2014, but hadn’t been since. It’s a gorgeous town deep in history – both good, bad and haunted history. Both me and my mom (my mom especially) have had ghostly encounters in the past, so at first I was very much looking forward to a guided ghost tour at night in Savannah, ghost tours being super popular for tourists.
But it was *way* colder than either of us were expecting for the first week of March. Yes we both checked the weather app, but the “Real Feel” felt way colder in person! But we still had a great time.
We had a wonderful dinner at the Pink House, spoiled by the waitstaff and manager, Waymond, who had amazing customer service. My mom is a huge fan of their Beach Palmer’s and although they were too sweet for me, I enjoyed seeing my mom so relaxed and having a good time. We shared some oysters and each had some shrimp pasta, so good! I was still craving seafood from seeing the ocean so much, lol. But super yummy!
Then the manager let us go downstairs to the tavern, a cool underground bar / cellar connected the the old home, that felt like walking onto a pirate ship. Very cool ambiance and again perfect staff and service. We had to let them know the manager gave us special permission, because they only accepted people with reservations into the tavern, to avoid being over-crowded for COVID precautions. I appreciated that they let us in, and they did a good job of spacing the tables to keep six feet apart. And I found out that the tavern and the Pink House was reported as haunted, and our server said she heard a ghostly voice while on shift! I thought she was very brave still working there, but it did seem like a fun staff and I was happy they were doing so well. It is definitely an awesome spot to dine at, just make sure to make reservations in advance!
But yeah, as far as that ghost tour I was so excited about in the planning stages, the reality was it was too cold for either of us. Plus, we both agreed the thought of wearing face masks would make the experience, less enjoyable. I was also concerned what to do for the second day in Savannah while we waited for nightfall for the ghost tour, as there wasn’t a whole lot to do other than tours. A lot of the shops on the riverside boardwalk unfortunately didn’t survive the COVID economy, and it was super cold – too cold to check out the nearby Tybee Island beach. Originally I was thinking of a day at Tybee beach as I’d been there before and loved it, but it was not looking warm enough to even desire a drive by. So, we agreed to skip the ghost tour and save it for warmer weather and when masks are no longer needed.
So our trip ended a day short, somewhat due to weather and the COVID dampening the usual joys of travelling, but it was also because we were both ready to be home. We planned the trip to be flexible, so we can leave whenever we wanted.
We ended the trip on a high note, sleeping in and then going to the riverwalk for a wonderful breakfast and the most picture perfect delicious benya’s ever! Of course, I’ve never had any before in my life but dang was I impressed! We totally needed a second order for those babies! And, a nap after such a heavy breakfast! We did walk a bit down the river to walk off our meal, but again, the cold of the waterfront (and me being horribly out of shape!) cut our adventure a little shorter. If more shops were open, we probably would have lingered but it appeared to be mostly bars, a candy shop that we did cruise through and only a couple of souvenir shops. Not the shopping experience I recalled from last time. A grim reminder of the COVID era we live in.
But we had a good drive back, and it felt so amazing to be home.
Although, I’m very glad I went! It was so fun to see family, to be around humans again and to get away for a couple of days. Four days was just enough for me, but like I said, had a great time! I was making friends with everyone, chit-chatting in the elevator saying hi to people we passed, complimenting people’s fashion or their cute doggies. For the most part everyone was pretty friendly. It made me miss the days before COVID when I was active in my Meetup groups, and it made me miss having friends IRL, as much as I love my Twitter oomf’s! It’s just not the same.
But then getting lots of kitty cuddles, kitty love and a relaxing night of watching Disney Plus, and I was happy again to be in my hermit routine.
Still, I think I speak for nearly everyone that we can’t wait for the COVID era to pass us. I don’t think things will ever truly be as they are, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it was time for us to get our security up and be respectful of our personal bubble. But I do miss shaking people’s hands during introductions and meetings, and giving people hugs without worrying about spreading COVID.
How about you? Have you done any travelling since the pandemic? What are you most looking forward to when things get somewhat back to normal? And what changes of the pandemic era do you wish would stay? Leave a comment below!
Until next time, stay Geeky, Creative & Safe!