Summer is here as the public starts to travel in a pre-COVID society
Where will you go first? Hopefully by the time this column reaches you, the idea of travel and just getting out to enjoy life has finally returned.
So much has changed over the last year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and, unfortunately, many of those changes were undesirable. However, there were two changes that were positive from this wheelchair user’s half-joking manner.
First, there was the rise in curbside delivery offered by many restaurants and stores that saved a couple of transfers in and out of my van. Second, there was the increased distance between tables in restaurants that made wheelchair navigation so much easier.
I’ll gladly give up that increased maneuverability to once again see bars, restaurants and other facilities packed with people enjoying themselves in a pre-pandemic manner.
The reality, even at the time I’m writing this in April, is that there’s definitely light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. I hope that you, like me, are ready to roll out, soak up a little summer sunshine and return to some of your favorite activities.
Whether it’s dining at your favorite restaurant or attending a concert, a play or sporting event, I’m certain you’ll be a little more appreciative of the experience. Last year definitely gave all of us a heightened awareness that it’s the simple things in life that matter most.
Every summer, my family holds a reunion the last weekend in July. It’s normally held at a family member’s home, but last year it was set to be a camp-out at a Minnesota state park. Reservations were required a year in advance, so everything was arranged, pre-COVID-19, in 2019.
Since becoming a member of the wheelchair club, tent camping has never appealed to me, so my favorite campgrounds are named Marriott. But since this was a family event, I reserved an accessible cabin at the park. These are no frills, one-room, wooden-floored boxes with two built-in bunkbeds and “luxurious” plastic-covered mattresses. There’s no bathroom or running water. Accessible public bathrooms and showers are located down the path from the cabin. You supply your own bedding and also need to bring a cooler, as there’s no refrigerator, either.
The summer of 2020 arrived, and so did all the COVID-19 restrictions. The traditional campsites were open, so our reunion survived, but cleaning and sanitizing a cabin was too much for the Minnesota state park system, and my reservation was canceled. I was secretly happy to make a reservation at a nice hotel a few miles away and drive to the reunion each day.
So, what will 2021 bring? I just went to the state park website to check on the cabin for this summer and found it’s back in business, but the accessible unit was already booked for the weekend of our event. The hotel I used last year does have availability, and there’s a great bar and restaurant just down the street, so looks like I luck out again.
If your travel plans are more grandiose than camping at a state park or bellying up to the neighborhood bar, things may be more complicated for quite some time. Going on a cruise is something that doesn’t appeal to me. The thought of cramming that many people into such a confined space always made me claustrophobic.
I’m guessing the cruise industry will not be back to business as usual anytime soon. I have many friends who are avid cruisers, and for them, I feel bad that this enjoyment may now forever be a difficult choice.
I’m an avid scuba diver, and with the many international travel restrictions, I haven’t been in the water since December 2019. I had a trip scheduled to Roatán, Honduras, last July, but I’m sure you can guess what happened. I’m currently looking at my options and hopefully will be blowing bubbles in warm water with friends and family sometime this summer.
Whether you’re diving in the Caribbean or having dinner and drinks at your favorite place isn’t what’s important. What is important is the fact you’re doing it again.
As things do return to normal, I have just one small, selfish request of the restaurant managers: Don’t push the tables quite as close together as they used to be.