As the pandemic fades into our memories, new opportunities begin to rise. We can now sit in crowded cafes, have meetings in person and meet people without only seeing the top half of their face.
When I went to buy a plane ticket for a trip I’ll be going on this summer, a certain discomfort came over me because I have never flown on my own. After pondering why I may be nervous, I realized that for the past three years, travel was a touchy subject because of the shutdown that came with the pandemic. Being in lockdown allowed the majority of the world to wrap up in the comfort of their own home – any thought of being put in an unfamiliar space physically was out of the question.
In a Washington Post article, Jen Rose Smith discusses her personal experiences with traveling and how it has allowed her to feel more free. Breaking habits, trying on new versions of yourself and seeing what is beyond your own everyday surroundings are just a few things people can do to go outside their comfort zones.
Now, with being curled up in our homes for such a long time came the comfort of connecting with others through phones. On social media, anyone can search whatever article they want that tells them exactly what they want to hear. Oftentimes, if they see something that challenges their own perspective, they have the power to simply leave the site. Comfortability has become more accessible through screen usage, and as the pandemic loosens its grip on society, we face a world that requires adapting to becoming uncomfortable once again.
Most recently, I decided to leave the Starbucks line at the IMU, and instead walked to the one on Kirkwood. It was a good break from the school scene and reminded me that the world is bigger than these four years here at college. Like Smith describes in her article, when we allow ourselves to be surrounded in unfamiliar environments, we can look at the world with fresh eyes.
Some parts of the world are able to breathe again with the fading of the memory of the COVID-19 lockdown. Parks are filled with kids hugging and going up to each other again, classrooms don’t have that empty feel because of social distancing and hanging out with friends – hopefully – doesn't involve a fear of contracting a harmful disease.
When all of those restrictions were in effect, we were forced as a society to separate.
As we were forced to stay behind closed doors, our personal walls seemed to also become strengthened. By sitting at home all day every day, I myself even began to forget that there were others around me experiencing the exact same things.
With less exposure to the outdoors, people were reduced to being seen through a screen. Any expression from body movements was lost, and the softness of someone's voice was lost through distorted audio of our computers.
Now, people have been thrust into a world different from the one before and during the pandemic. The dependence on technology and the normalized screen-to-screen interactions continues to bleed into my generation's everyday life.
So, now, travel has become more important than ever. By being able to see what is past the screen we hold in our hands, we can begin to let go of what was and allow ourselves to embrace what can be. We need to accept the discomfort of seeing opinions that don’t align with our own and being surrounded with an unfamiliar physical space. Once we realize that we are more than a person on the other side of the screen, it can become easier to see the humanity in one another.
[Related: COLUMN: Creative ways to reuse everyday items]
Discomfort brings room for growth because it forces us to become confident in something we thought we couldn’t face.
I can see how when traveling, we may truly realize that they are not alone in their problems. It’s a part of being human to have ups and downs. I’ve found that the simple act of going to different study spots around campus has the power to bring peace of mind because of the opportunity to see new parts of the campus. So, simple break ups of a regular habit can make your own life seem more like a journey where you’re constantly turning a new corner, never quite sure where it will take you.
Carolyn Marshall is a sophomore majoring in media studies and English.