Traveling in the Age of COVID

This blog post has been fermenting for about two months on my laptop. I will be honest, I’m salty about my inability to travel during 2020, but I recognize there are greater issues that my privileged whining about travel. But as I recently had the opportunity to talk about my travels and this blog in particular with Dr. J on her podcast The Ludicrous Uterus, I was inspired to return to this piece and get it out in the universe. In another note, please check out The Ludicrous Uterus podcast and blog, Dr. J’s insightful and conversational approach to talking about sexual health is inspiring and just fun to listen to.

This summer presented a host of issues limiting travel opportunities. I mean, COVID happened. And is still happening. Since March, I’ve watched my professional and personal travel plans fall to wayside, trip by trip. First was a conference in Portland followed by a mini vacation in Portland, Mt Hood, and Bend. Next up was another conference in Boston. Then the summer plans fell, one by one. Family trip to the Bahamas for some much-needed sunshine, camping locally in Brooklyn for the 4th of July, camping trip in Asheville with a big group of friends and dogs, week in Slovenia glamping and guzzling wine, and last, but certainly not least, a small ship cruise around Croatia. DAMMIT. I haven’t been on a plane since November. My passport is dusty.

Let me take a moment to express my gratitude that none of my family or friends got sick or lost their jobs and I am healthy and able to work from home. I recognize many people suffered financial and or health loss, and I am not discounting their experiences. And I have been fortunate enough to sneak in some great, safe, socially distant local trips throughout New England to Connecticut, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island and day trips to the Rockaways and Governors Island here in New York City. But this is a travel blog sans travel in 2020. What did you think I’d write about?

In August, I took my very first workcation. My friend Craig and I packed up his vintage Land Rover with a week’s worth of snacks and steaks, warm sweatshirts for cool nights, and the world’s cutest dog (my little Boozer!) and headed up to Vermont. We rented a cottage in South Hero, which is nestled on the bottom of Grand Isle on Lake Champlain, just outside of Burlington. After picking up linens from the friend whose family owns the cottage, we picked up some additional groceries and headed into Burlington to get a late lunch/early dinner at American Flatbread, which is not only delicious, but features local beer from Zero Gravity. Then we headed to the island to unpack and enjoy the view of the lake from the deck and gaze at actual stars.

Full disclosure: I’ve been here before (both American Flatbread and Zero Gravity) as in I mean I’ve been to Burlington. Once for a leadership conference in college (yes, I was a big nerd) and once a few years ago while presenting at a research in science education conference (ok, I’m still a big nerd). I’ve even been to South Hero, but this time I had an entire week to work and play from here!

South Hero and Grand Isle were much bigger than I expected (and hillier, as I learned on my run in the morning). Running on the island was enjoyable, since I quickly moved back and forth between views of farms and of Lake Champlain, the roads were mostly empty and quiet. I spent a lot of time kayaking in Keeler’s Bay, which was calm and full of aquatic plants and awesome birds. We took Boozer for a long walk on the Colchester Causeway, which was trafficked by many bikes but offered gorgeous views of the lake from either side of the path. We even saw some mink swimming in the water and playing hide and seek in the rocks. There’s a bike ferry, up and running, to take you across the broken bit of the causeway (make sure you wear a mask!). We enjoyed the restaurants we visited on the island and was pleasantly surprised by the one winery, Snow Farm, which had some solid wines, including a maple one (great for a glass, I can’t imagine drinking a bottle, but so good).

We ventured into Burlington for beer, beer, beer. Foam Brewers had great beers and views of the lake. They seem to have new beer on tap every day, when we stopped by to pick up some cans to go, the brewers were cutting cantaloupe in the back for a new concoction. We had stops at Zero Gravity and Citizen Cider as well, which is available in New York City, but had some cool local cans I hadn’t tried yet. One day we took a trip out to Stowe and hit some breweries there for pick up (Alchemist! Who doesn’t love Heady Topper?) and to sit and enjoy. Boozer really enjoyed von Trapp Brewing, which is up, up, up at the Trapp Family Lodge. Let’s face it, Boozer loves any place where he can sit in the grass and get lots of attention.

While in Stowe, we also stopped by Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream (no tours during COVID, but the scoop shop is open!). Oh, I also discovered the joys of local maple ice cream, or maple creemee, which is a soft serve delight (make sure you get one at a farm). Anyone who really knows me, knows I love ice cream. Ice cream is my major summer food group. On the way back from Stowe, we had a doggy play date with a hometown friend who lives in Vermont, who shares my lifelong love of swimming (we swam together both age groups and varsity) and unusually sized dogs (her Great Pyrenees is 105 pounds, my chihuahua is 6 pounds). We had fun catching up and walking the pups, enjoying a gorgeous sunset.

Sounds like I had a lot of fun, but I was working too. Key aspects of a successful workcation: reliable wifi, schedule your meetings together in either the morning or afternoon, schedule your fun activities and workouts, start your day early, and work outside as often as you can. We had an awesome deck with lots of morning sun, so I worked from the deck the entire time. August is my slow season even without the pandemic, so I usually have projects I can work through without too many meetings. Working in the warm sun while in full view of a gorgeous lake makes remote working more bearable.

So, as I headed into Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, I geared up for a few more trips out to Block Island, where I could enjoy some more quiet island time in the off season, away from others. This summer was, well, different, but I’m know I will be able to get back to my normal travel soon enough.

Boozer scamming on steak night. Again.

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