Traveling in the middle of a pandemic

Student continues with spring break vacation despite COVID-19 outbreak


Megan Lawrence

A student and her friend sit side-by-side on an airplane wearing surgical masks.

Claire Lawrence, Opinions Editor

Everyone I knew had plans for spring break. 

Almost the entire theatre department was bustling about their upcoming family trip to New York City or L.A. or wherever else, and I was one of those many students. My best friend and I had an entire vacation planned with our moms that we booked months before coronavirus started affecting our society. Some of my other friends discussed how their out-of-state plans had been cancelled because of concerned parents or travel restrictions, and they voiced their panic about my friend and I still planning to leave the state. Luckily, our parents weren’t all that worried about travelling in the middle of a growing pandemic, so our trip continued as planned, and we got on a half-empty airplane headed to Fort Collins, Colo..

I am not the best flier. I have always been terrified of planes and being stuck next to strangers in a crowded tin can flying through thin air. Not to mention you are also sharing artificial air that continuously circulates the cabin with every other passenger. When travelling, I wasn’t sure what I was going to face. I almost expected airports to be in full apocalypse mode, but everything seemed to be running as normal. TSA had the same producers, little stores and restaurants were still open and there was still a decent amount of people walking around. The only noticeable thing, other than the occasional person wearing a mask and/or gloves, was the precautions airlines were taking. Everyone had to sit with at least one seat in between them and another person, despite their relation. On my flight back, flight attendants were even more persistent with getting people to wash their hands for 20 seconds after using the lavatory and covering their mouths when coughing because the severity of coronavirus in our country had increased. 

When we got to Denver, and I was finally able to get off that suffocating plane, we made our way downtown to do some light shopping while waiting for check-in. Our parents booked us a house on Vrbo, so we weren’t staying at a hotel or resort (I’m sure if we were, our trip would’ve unfolded much differently). It was around noon and the streets were mostly empty, but all restaurants and stores remained open. Later on in the trip, we learned that the day after we left Denver and headed to our rental home in Fort Collins, they shut everything down. Fort Collins had most activities still open, though, so we went about our scheduled vacation plans like normal. We hiked along mountain trails and played in the snow while also stopping at local thrift stores and sharing meals on fancy restaurant patios. We spent the first half of the trip like any normal trip would be spent, without any real extra precautions other than sanitizing. 

On the morning of our third day, though, the situation changed dramatically. We were walking to a small cafe for breakfast only to notice that Fort Collins had followed Denver and shut everything down. Signs on almost every store’s door told would-be customers that they were closed until further notice because of the rise of coronavirus cases in Colorado. From coffee shops to souvenir shops, the entire city was now void of tourists and looked somewhat of a ghost town. We then realized we would have to spend the next few days of our trip inside the house with limited contact to the outside world. So, we hunkered down on the tiny couch in the living room and proceeded to binge watch several series and movies while munching away at leftovers. There were still places delivering food and allowing for pick-up orders, so we weren’t starving or entirely banned from our home. 

Being in an airport or an airplane when a disease is spreading at a rapid pace kicked my anxiety levels up a notch

Flying back to Texas honestly couldn’t have come quicker for me. After hearing LISD cancelled normal school operations until April 5, I was ready to get back home and see the rest of my loved ones before eventually being confined to my room for the rest of our “extended” spring break. The airport in Denver was completely barren when we showed up, and many more people were wearing masks. Security lines were quick and short and some TSA workers were also wearing gloves and masks. There was a surprising amount of people on our plane ride back, but thankfully we made it home safe and sound, without any troubles from the airline or other travelers. 

I got many texts from people that were surprised to see I was out and about pretending like nothing was wrong. In reality, I was actually terrified the whole time. Being in an airport or an airplane when a disease is spreading at a rapid pace kicked my anxiety levels up a notch, and I was on constant alert to remain secluded from others and to not touch anything I didn’t have to. Sure, it felt a little stupid walking around wearing masks, but I still felt safer knowing I was not only keeping germs away from me, but also keeping my germs away from others. I’m incredibly thankful I was able to go on my trip despite travel bans and other worldly concerns, and I’m glad I was able to make it home safe before things got worse. Travelling in the middle of a pandemic was definitely an experience I’ll be telling my grandkids, but not a journey I wish to ever take again in the future.