Travel Restored

Travel is back on the menu!  I’ve completed one (very safe) trip, got another (very safe) trip I’m on right now (more on that later!), and I have a bigger trip on the calendar for August, followed by the Red Bull Discovery Lab in September.  Indianapolis, Denver, Miami cruise, and Boston, respectively.

I feel really blessed to still have these opportunities with everything that’s happened in the world over these last few months, and I’m glad to see that escape room businesses have found ways to get past this hurdle.  Travel is a strange experience nowadays, with many restaurants and landmarks still closed or limited, but it’s still nice to be able to see a different part of the country.

Our Indianapolis trip was May 15 to May 17, only a few weeks ago, but it was noteworthy because Indiana was the first state in the eastern part of the midwest to open up.  So on the trip, Christina and I delighted in the few places that had just reopened; Hobby Lobby, a few escape rooms, bookstores, nail & hair salons (Christina, not me!).

We stayed in a part of northern Indianapolis called Keystone Crossing, but most of our trip was spent further north.  The city of Indianapolis had additional restrictions imposed between when we booked and when we had our trip, so Kokomo was the main town we explored.

The most shocking site was when we saw a Bob Evans restaurant that was allowing dine-in seating.  After Wisconsin started allowing businesses to reopen, this became a much more common sight for us, but the first time we saw one in several months, it was a shock to see.  The place looked very busy, though, so we opted to still get our meals curbside.

Since this trip, I’ve found that bookstores have been my favorite place to visit as businesses reopen.  We visited a mall that had barely reopened, with only a pretzel joint and Books a Million available, and I found a great 2000 piece puzzle that I’ve been working on for a few days (lots of colorful ice cream on it!).

The Indianapolis trip also marked the first time we played escape rooms in person since the lockdowns began.  We played four rooms on the trip, and it was a breath of fresh air.  Even with the play-at-home options that have been keeping us going, it’s still exhilarating getting to run around a room again.

Tourism in the Age of COVID

While Christina and I are aiming to see and experience as much as we can even during this time, COVID-19 introduces an unusual wrinkle into any travel schedule.

In an escape room, you’re usually trying to figure out how to get out of a confined space.  In this day and age, the biggest puzzle is sometimes how to get in.  When visiting an unfamiliar restaurant, there are now many questions to ask.  Can I dine in?  Do I need to wear a mask?  Do I call ahead?  If I call ahead, how do I pay?  How do I let them know I’ve arrived?

Thankfully, every escape room I’ve interacted with recently has provided clear instructions on how to safely get to my game session.  There was one exception- we drove an hour to an escape room in Indiana and no one showed up at the business to let us in (the owner eventually refunded us and apologized about the booking site being active).  But for the most part, escape rooms have been the easiest activity to get back to.  Restaurants have been much harder.

COVID has also put us a little more on edge than we’ve been in the past.  I have the benefit of always having been cautious about gas pumps, bathroom door handles, and other people’s sneezes.  Still, I find my habits have changed.  A few days ago, I was about to enter a store and a lady entering ahead of me let out a few nasty, uncovered coughs.  I turned around and went back to my car.

This upcoming Thursday will be my first time on a plane since February, and it’ll be interesting to observe how COVID impacts flying habits.  I’m not at all opposed to forcing people to wear masks on planes; I’ve had some horror stories (feeling a wet spray on the side of my face when someone behind me coughs), and I seem to have a habit of being seated next to the miserably sick, so anything to clean up the flights is fine by me.

The virus has also impacted the way I feel about travel insurance.  For the first time in my life, I’m considering the insurance a good value.  Flights and cruises are now prohibiting customers with any kind of temperature, which means if either Christina or I get any kind of illness, or even a bad cold, we might need to forfeit our trip’s value.

For the same point as the above, I’m also being exceptionally cautious about where I go and what air I breathe.  When any kind of illness could mean hundreds in forfeited travel expenses, there’s a big incentive to keep my risk low.

All that being said, I’m exceptionally glad the world as we know it is starting to come back, and I can’t wait to start exploring again.

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