I think it’s probably an understatement to say that 2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget, no matter how much we would like to. The emergence of COVID-19 and the ensuing stay at home orders has created a legion of bread baking, home schooling, puzzle assembling adults who – for the most part – have done their bit to flatten the curve and help ensure that this pandemic doesn’t kill even more people than it already has. It is now late May though and many countries, states and localities have begun their process of reopening society and allowing people to resume certain normal aspects of their lives. This includes travel and many Americans have already taken their first hesitate steps back into the world, eager to leave home for a couple of days but in ways that are safe and responsible. Last weekend I joined those curious souls as I took my first steps out of my comfortable bubble and prepared for my first getaway in two months. I know everyone is curious what it’s like out there, so today I want to share why I went, how I prepared and what the experience was really like.
Why and How
I honestly wasn’t planning on traveling over Memorial Day Weekend. I thought my first trip would be in mid-late June, and that was a big maybe. But then a series of events occurred that made the recent getaway a reality. Sadly, my dog Preston passed away a few days before the holiday at the age of 16. I was and am devastated over the loss, and being at home never seemed so painful. It was at that moment when fate intervened. I received my first press trip invitation since all of this started to a luxury resort in nearby Pennsylvania. At first I was flummoxed and had no idea what to do. But the more I thought about it and the more I researched Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, the more I realized that this was the perfect first trip after quarantine.
I’ve been extremely careful throughout the stay-at-home period. I’ve washed my hands more than any human should, I wear masks, I am constantly sanitizing my hands and only left the house once a week to go to the grocery store and other necessary stops. I knew that in order to travel I would have to be able to maintain these standards, including social distancing. That’s one reason why driving is going to be my preferred method of travel for the foreseeable future and another reason why Nemacolin was the perfect trip. Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, it was an easy 3-hour drive from home along highways that frankly weren’t at all busy. Along the way I stopped at a couple of rest stops which weren’t busy and where patrons wore masks and stayed away from each other. Almost immediately I knew that I would be able to drive and maintain social distancing and other safe travel measures, which continued at the resort itself.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
One aspect I love about luxury travel is the high level of service and attention to detail that are hallmarks of the travel style. That’s why, at least in the short term, this category of travel is also perhaps best suited to maintaining the health and safety measures to which we are all now accustomed and that’s especially true at Nemacolin. The resort is particularly well suited to social distancing as it sits on 2,000 acres of rural Pennsylvania farmland. To further enhance this natural ability to stay away from other people, Nemacolin reopened with a forced reduction in occupancy and physical distancing measures in place. As an example, their on-property restaurants are not open for dine-in options, just carry out.
Nemacolin’s safety measures actually begin before one is allowed on-property with a temperature check at the security building. From there my experience checking into my room was entirely contactless. I was met by hotel staff who immediately ushered me to my room, provided me with my keys as well as an amenity kit that included a mask and hand sanitizer. This level of safety and attention to detail persisted whether I was on the golf course, at a private yoga lesson or ordering room service. All food at the moment is carry out only and room service is contactless, creating a truly seamless experience from start to finish. Of course, I knew all of this before I left home which is why I was so very confident that this trip was the perfect first foray back into the world. What was most reassuring though was that it worked in practice, not just on paper. That’s key and that’s how we will be able to return to limited travel moving forward.
Travel, whether an easy getaway like the one I did, or flying somewhere further afield will not be the same for a long time. We have all been cooped up in our homes for two months and the desire to leave and return to normalcy is strong. But that isn’t going to happen overnight. While it is possible to start traveling in a limited and safe manner, the trips won’t be anything like you’ve seen before. Masks and hand sanitizers will be the name of the game, as will social distancing and eating a lot of carry out. But you can still enjoy yourself, you can still get out there and stretch your legs but it’s vital you do so in a manner that is appropriate. This means masks, this means hand sanitizer, this means staying at least 6 feet away from other people. Essentially, you need to use some common sense. What happens if you don’t? Well, aside from putting many people at risk of infection you also risk this slight reopening being taken away from us. It’s lockdown or learn how to be responsible – one of those two things has to happen moving forward. If you can’t handle a mask, then it’s going to be a lockdown, pure and simple.
Believe me, no one wants life to return to normal more than I do. Travel is my career, it’s my passion and while I don’t necessarily mind being at home, I’m also ready to hit the road again. But there’s a reason why we spent two months in lock down. We did that to flatten the curve and safeguard the lives of millions. We’ve done well, but it’s not over even if the world is slowly starting to reopen. Yes, we can commence some limited travel but it’s on us to make sure we do so in a way that continues to be safe and responsible. For me, Nemacolin was the perfect spot in every respect from its large size and secluded location to the incredible measures they’ve taken to ensure a safe but fun environment. That’s key and that’s going to be how travel is for the next several months. So go, patronize Nemacolin or similar spots, hit the road and explore but please – please – be safe, not just for you, but for everyone around you.