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Life’s a Beach By Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Entomologists recently encountered a parasite they believe lay dormant for an entire year, and bugologists warn it’s back and spreading rapidly throughout the world.

Last week, I fell prey to the insect—I was bit by the travel bug.

After suffering a year of daunting daily COVID-19 case counts and unfathomable loss of life, the casualty of travel pales in comparison. Nonetheless, as we emerge from a devastating 12 months of isolation and despair, those bitten by the bug are rediscovering their wanderlust.

To mark the one-year “Corona-versary” lockdown, I spent hours surfing airline and hotel websites.

Like many vacationists, it’s been more than a year since I boarded an aircraft. But it’s finally time to trade hoarding toilet paper for amassing frequent flyer miles.

As much as I look forward to traveling, soaring into the sky sends me into a panic; and just thinking about flying, I break into a cold sweat.

But after a year of sheltering in place and hunkering down at home, I shoved my fear aside and focused on the fun of planning a family vacation.

I began scouring websites to find the best airfare. It’s a task that in the past produced nausea, but this time I found myself giddy with glee.

I relished the enjoyment and excitement of plotting our travel plans. And it seems I’m not alone; the Institute for Applied Positive Research found 97% of individuals polled report feeling happier when they have a trip planned.

Worldwide, explorers are eager to recoup the year in lockdown, and the pent-up demand for travel is real.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is hiring 6,000 new security officers around the country, as summer 2021 could be the biggest travel season in decades.

A market analyst within the travel and tourism industry, Longwoods International, tracks our travel habits.

Longwoods’ latest research reveals that 81% of people polled plan to travel in the next six months. This number is the highest since the start of the pandemic last March.

The surge in spring and summer travel is a sign that we’re hungry for a taste of our pre-pandemic lives.

Whether it’s zipping suitcases for a much-anticipated trip to the grandparents or a bucket list expedition, travelers are taking to the roads and the skies.

After locating and dusting off my loyalty program passwords, I phoned a hotel reservationist to rebook the prepaid stay I had nixed more than a year ago.

The abrupt agent I spoke with said there were no rooms available for my selected dates. She advised me to revise my dates and cautioned, “Call back soon—reservations are going quick.”

Skeptical, I took to the internet to book the trip myself. But as I searched travel sites, I discovered soaring room rates, sold-out airplanes, and nonrefundable cancellation policies.

My frustrations mounted, and soon I began to think, perhaps, that in the past year I had romanticized the notion of globetrotting.

My longing to travel clouded my thoughts, and visions of unspoiled sandy white beaches almost eroded my pre-pandemic peregrination pet peeves.

I closed my eyes, traveled back in time, and saw myself in the zigzagging long lines at TSA, waiting with my shoes off, jacket off, jewelry off, liquids out, electronics larger than a laptop out, as an agent pawed through my personal possessions.

After clearing security, I boarded the crowded plane to begin battling for overhead luggage space and elbowing strangers for the armrest.

Then, minutes before takeoff, I settled in, fastened my seat belt, began to relax, and it commenced—the kicking against the back of my seat for the next five hours.

Suddenly, my eyes sprang open, I felt a slight sting and then a familiar itch. The bug was back.

I’m not sure what travel will look like post-pandemic, but I’m ready—there is only one remedy for this travel bug’s bite.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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