- Katie Nave is a freelance writer based in New York.
- In early May after getting vaccinated, she and her partner went on a 4-day trip to Savannah, Georgia.
- Although it was at first unnerving to go maskless, Nave says the trip felt exhilarating and peaceful.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
I went on my first date with my now-boyfriend in March 2020. Two weeks later, COVID-19 took over, our home of New York became the epicenter, and we restricted our dates to Friday night dinners at home. Thanks to our recent vaccinations, we’re slowly taking our relationship out into the “real world.”
One month ago, in celebration of our collective birthdays and Moderna jabs, we took a trip to Savannah, Georgia for four nights. We packed our masks, hand sanitizer, vaccine cards, and a healthy mix of anxiety and excitement for the trip. Here’s what it was like to travel after living in lockdown.
I initially felt conflicted about traveling out of state.
We’ve both taken the virus seriously by wearing masks, keeping our pod small, and respecting the quarantine rules.
As star students of Dr. Fauci, our decision to take a flight was thought over carefully. Even with antibodies, the idea of cramming onto a plane with strangers felt wild. Sure, everyone would be mandated to wear a mask, but they’d also be sipping, snacking, and readjusting throughout the flight.
Ultimately, we decided the risk was low as long as we took the proper precautions. We knew we wanted to keep the flight short, so Savannah became our choice location, with only two hours from takeoff to touchdown.
Since this was our first trip in a long time, we decided to stay at the TWA Hotel the night before our flight.
The hotel is a fun 1960s throwback with a sunken lounge and a heated rooftop pool. Our room was located near a runway so we were able to watch the planes come and go silently — the glass is very thick — before our trip.
The next morning, we left our room and took a quick AirTrain right to our terminal.
It was overwhelming to go to the airport and get on a plane again after so long.
As soon as we walked into JFK Airport, I was paralyzed by the bright lights, crowds of people, and logistics of getting to our flight. As a person who’s often anxious, it was a true test of my coping skills.
I felt especially nervous as we stepped into a terminal elevator only to have a cluster of people follow us in. Normally, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I take deep, calming breaths, but in this case, it felt unfortunately necessary to hold my breath.
After an ID mishap (TSA PSA: Do not travel with a chipped license), we booked it to our gate and eventually landed in our seats at the back of the small plane, right outside of the bathroom. I remember thinking it was wild to sit so close to a stranger that I could see even the faintest freckles on their arms. Thankfully, I locked into an exceptional book and was able to feel a rush of excitement as the wheels lifted off of the runway.
We got to Savannah in two hours and hopped into an Uber to our Airbnb.
While researching for the trip, we’d been intrigued by photos of the oak trees covered in Spanish moss and cobblestone streets in the Savannah Historic District, so we booked an Airbnb apartment there for the first two nights of our trip.
It was perfectly located outside of Oglethorpe Square, where we got coffee each morning and sat and watched squirrels tussle under the sun. Our culinary tour of the town took us to a casual patio overlooking the river, outdoor snacks on the go, and a romantic evening cozying up at a bar and ordering intricate cocktails.
While it wasn’t as jarring as I’d imagined, there was an obviously more lax approach to masks while dining out than we were used to in New York.
When I put my face covering on to go to the restroom at one restaurant, a server looked at me curiously and said, “Oh sweetheart, you don’t have to do that.”
Embracing the haunted history of Savannah, we took a boozy walking ghost tour with fellow out-of-towners who also had an affinity for the open container policy. Visiting the Colonial Park Cemetery and The Marshall House, a former hospital during the Civil War, hit extra hard as our guide described the horrors of two yellow fever epidemics.
Exploring downtown Savannah while maskless, with the warm breeze on our faces, felt exhilarating.
Since the streets weren’t crowded, we embraced the CDC’s recent announcement that vaccinated individuals can safely spend time outdoors without masks.
Still, I found myself wearing my mask under my chin or wrapped around my wrist at all times, perhaps as some sort of declaration that, yes, I do believe in science and will cover-up at a moment’s notice. I doubt anyone was judging me, but I was ready in case they did.
While shopping Broughton Street and touring the SCAD Museum of Art, we happily followed the “masks on indoors” policies. Much to my relief, it seemed everyone around us peacefully adhered to the rules as well and I felt safe throughout our visit.
For the final two nights, we visited an eclectic nearby beach town.
The locals and tourists alike were extremely friendly on the island and it quickly hit me how much I’d missed conversing with strangers. Still, I never quite figured out if it was appropriate to casually ask someone if they’d been vaccinated.
While most of our time in Tybee was spent outdoors enjoying the beaches, perfect weather, and our cottage BBQ, we lived it up the final night by going out to a local bar and singing karaoke. Masks were on while indoors around others, but came off momentarily while performing onstage.
After packing up the next morning and arriving at the airport for our return flight to New York, I swiped through photos in my phone, reliving all of the best moments of the trip.
Overall, it felt incredible to be able to travel again.
I’m very aware of the privilege that we hold to be able to safely travel. The global vaccine scarcity is devastating with the reports that 85% of shots received worldwide have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Less than 1% of doses have been administered in low-income countries. The pandemic is clearly not over.
Given these facts, it initially felt selfish to travel during a global pandemic, but I’ve come to see that it was a good choice for me and my partner. We stayed safe throughout, and it was quite amazing how quickly we recalibrated to “normal” life. The mental health benefits of this trip were much greater than any vacation I’ve ever taken, as it gave me great hope that, at some point, we’ll fully return to the ease of normal life. It was healing to have this experience with the person that I love and, thanks to science, I’d do it all again.