Living Madly – On the Road Again
By Emilie-Noelle Provost
Much of my professional life has been spent writing for the travel and tourism industry. I’ve written dozens of articles, reviews of restaurants and hotels, copy for websites, and reems of text used in marketing materials and on social media.
In the first decade of this century, when the company was still in its infancy, I worked as an editor for the now-ubiquitous travel site TripAdvisor. From 2011 to 2021, I wrote the Travel Advisory column in Merrimack Valley Magazine. I’ve created blogs for hotels and tour companies, written pieces for Foder’s and Frommer’s travel guides, and, for more than eight years, wrote the marketing and social media copy for our own Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In the course of all this, I was fortunate to visit some of the world’s best hotels. I was flown to resorts in Bermuda, Nantucket, and Puerto Rico so I could write about them. I enjoyed myriad gourmet meals, visited luxurious spas, sipped cocktails at glamourous rooftop bars, and wiled away afternoons on white-sand beaches. I learned a lot about the history and culture of the places I visited, and talked with interesting local people from all walks of life.
In addition to the travel I did for work, for much of the last 20-plus years my husband, Rob, and I have spent most of our time off experiencing as many places as we could. We’ve tipped back shots at a vodka distillery in Russia, eaten reindeer stew in Norway, discovered the gravesites of voodoo priests in New Orleans, trekked to a banana plantation in Guatemala, lit candles at a mountaintop monastery in Spain, and watched house-size ice burgs break free from glaciers in Alaska.
All of this came to a squealing halt in March 2020. Like everyone else, we hunkered down and waited for COVID-19 to run its course. For more than two years, the only time we left Massachusetts was to hike in New Hampshire. We let our passports expire.
Earlier this month, I flew on an airplane for the first time since September 2019. Having heard horror stories about people getting stuck in airports, missing luggage, and unruly passengers attacking flight attendants and/or one another, I was hesitant about doing it. At best, I expected the experience to be unpleasant.
To my surprise, though, the trip was uneventful. Waiting in line to get through security, being among thousands of people from around the world, overpaying for bottled water, all of it felt normal. Even more surprising was that for the first time in recent memory, I felt normal.
As I sat at the gate waiting for my flight to board, possibilities for future travel seemed to blossom: Maybe we could hike in Scotland next summer, I texted Rob. A poster advertising Montana as a vacation destination got me thinking about Glacier National Park and its adorable mountain goats. I wondered how difficult it would be to plan a road trip across Newfoundland by ourselves. And perhaps we could go to Montréal for Labor Day Weekend?
Even more surprising, after the plane had taken off, I pulled out my laptop, opened the Word document for my long-neglected third novel, and started writing—something I hadn’t been able to do in more than two years. By the time the flight landed, finishing the book by the end of the year felt possible.
Having the ability to work on my manuscript again has made me feel even more like my old self. (I wrote about not being able to concentrate post-COVID-19 in my May 2022 Living Madly column.) Diving into other long term writing projects now feels less daunting, even like fun.
I don’t know what the future holds for the travel industry or COVID-19, or even for me. I don’t know what “normal” will look like in the world going forward, how long it will take us to get there, or what additional hurdles we might need to overcome along the way. What I’m sure of is that for those of us lucky enough to have so far made it through this pandemic, some version of normalcy is once again possible. The road might be full of potholes in places, but the trip is worth taking.