It sounds counterproductive, and zealots would probably label it as immoral and selfish, but vacationing during a pandemic was the best decision I could have made this year.
With everything going on, with the violence, the unrest, the lockdowns, the battle over the validity of the virus, the wildfires, and the isolation, the world weighs heavier this year. That’s a universal statement, and for many, the isolation isn’t something we’re used to. Paired with the ceaseless bombardment of the world’s ills on social media and through news outlets, it’s enough to fuel a deep level of despair.
In my own case, I often found myself grappling with a sense of nihilism before the pandemic broke out. I would wake up every now and then with an overwhelming sense of futility, as if nothing mattered. I would find myself disinterested in my own continued existence, waiting for my time to be served. Self-quarantining amplified these bouts of nihilism. I worked on my robot novel, which helped filter and relieve some of these feelings, but I needed more.
The moment hit when we were miles and miles away, out in the desert at night, watching the stars.
I love stargazing. I love the infinite multitude of space, of how vast and never-ending it is. There’s a majesty in staring at something that makes you feel small and insignificant, yet at the same time, covers you with a blanket of serenity. It’s a cliche, but our troubles truly pale in comparison to the sight of a starry sky on a moonless night. We’re but a blip, a molecule in a drop of water in the ocean.
My wife and I took precautions in getting to this moment. We brought multiple face masks to switch between. We frequently used hand sanitizer, and we used cleaning wipes whenever we checked into a new hotel. Most of our meals were either carry out or prepackaged foods we brought with us. We kept our distance from others, and for the most part, our trip consisted of lesser known or lesser visited national parks.
It was at Dinosaur National Monument, on a moonless night, where I saw the brightest shooting star I have ever seen in my life. It was almost like a horizontal flash of lightning crossing the sky, and it ended in flares of red falling toward Earth. It was in this particular moment, where I knew that we had made the right decision.
Everything would be okay, eventually. The world would carry on. Wonder and magic had not left us; we just needed to travel outside of our isolating bubbles to find it.
I made a vow after that shooting star. It would be my job, my meaning, to carry it out when we returned from vacation.