Thursday, August 19, 2021

Pandemic-Era Travel: Crested Butte, CO

Last week, K and I took our first plane trip in the 17 months since the world first shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of K's closest friends was having their wedding in Crested Butte, Colorado, and it was very important to K that we attend. (K was also in the wedding party.) COVID conditions in some parts of the US deteriorated significantly between when we first started planning our travel in early July and when we departed last week, which caused us some concern. But ultimately, because K and I are fully vaccinated; have no significant COVID risk factors; and only have direct social contact with fully vaccinated adults - additionally, all the wedding events were also fully outdoors - we felt safe taking this trip. 

Crested Butte is a very small town in a rural area, where all the major activities are outdoors. We didn't even dine indoors anywhere once we were there, as it was very comfortable to sit outside and eat everywhere we went. (K and I haven't specifically decided to stop dining indoors at restaurants in NYC, but it's also been three weeks since either of us have sat down at a restaurant here. Also, NYC law will soon require guests over the age of 12 to present proof of vaccination in order to do various indoor activities, including eating at restaurants.) 

Plane travel to Crested Butte from NYC is a bit long and difficult, and one pretty much needs to take a long drive from whichever airport one chooses to fly into. (I'm not really able to drive, so K needed to do all the hard work for us on that front.) We took connecting flights through Dallas/Fort Worth airport, which was extremely crowded. We couldn't really avoid being unmasked briefly to eat and drink while at the airports, though we did our best to find quieter spots in the terminals with fewer other people when we needed to eat or drink. Throughout our trip, people were very good about masking at the airports and on the plane - as US federal law requires - except when actively eating or drinking. 

It's fairly expensive to travel to and stay in Crested Butte because it's very much a resort area. I'm not sure if it gets even more expensive during skiing season, but it was already fairly pricey to travel there in August! It's such an incredibly beautiful place though, and once you've arrived, there are so many lovely hiking trails and places to go biking that are all easily accessible, many of them right near the town. K and I were quite busy with the wedding activities - and we also struggled with altitude sickness in the first two days of our brief trip - so we didn't have that much time for hiking or walking, but we were able to try out the "easy" Meridian Lake ("Long Lake") trail

My colleagues and I have all been obligated to work in the office full-time since mid-July, something that isn't likely to change, even with the new challenges caused by the Delta variant; the start of the school year; and how children under 12 still can't get the COVID vaccine. I don't worry about my own health and safety due to this workplace policy, but I do feel like it has a significant effect on my risk tolerance for other activities. 

If I'm required to go to the office every day no matter what - in a setting where my supervisors have... not yet been inclined to announce any protocol for quarantining or testing, even if a colleague has possible COVID symptoms, something that may become more of an issue in fall and winter - there doesn't seem to be much point to making special efforts to avoid any other indoor setting. K and I do continue to strictly adhere to mask-wearing indoors in public at all times, except when actively eating and drinking. This... makes me an outlier at my workplace, and in NYC in general these days. Though I believe my colleagues are 100% vaccinated at least, and the vaccination rate in Manhattan where we work is also extremely high, well over 70% of the eligible population. 

I'm definitely feeling so much ambivalence about everything these days, particularly as to COVID-related matters. I'm also deeply aware that I'm extremely lucky not to have any close friends or family under age 12, who are immunocompromised, or otherwise high-risk that I need to worry about. So many people are being put in impossible situations all over the US right now, particularly as to childcare and schooling. 

Things just feel so strange and uncertain on the COVID front, especially with the recent rumblings about how American adults may eventually be getting third booster shots of the mRNA vaccines before the end of the year. All this is while my relatives in Taiwan may not even be able to get their second shots by then, and there also doesn't seem to be any firm predictions about when children under 12 in the US can be vaccinated. 

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