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A year and a half into the pandemic, Domini Clark knew a trip to Greece, a country she always dreamed of visiting, would be restorative.Handout

Domini Clark is an editor at The Globe and Mail.

Recently, I had the privilege of taking my first international trip in 18 months. I travelled to Greece, working remotely for five days from a suburb south of Athens, and then spending a long weekend in the capital city itself. Yes, it was hot as Hades, even before the fires broke out.

The decision to board a plane and crack open my passport was not one I made lightly. But as I wrote about in an earlier Amplify, when you travel solo as a woman – as I did often in the Before Times – you’re no stranger to weighing the safety pros and cons of every adventure.

Did I trust my two doses of Pfizer to help keep me safe? Yes, although I understand they do not guarantee 100 per cent protection. Were my travel companions vaccinated? Yes. Did Greece have public-health protocols in place? Yes – and in some cases more so than in Ontario. Want to eat in a restaurant? Be prepared to show proof of vaccination.

And, just as I always have done, I made a list of precautions I would follow: stick to outdoor attractions only, avoid crowds and dine outdoors when possible. So … basically what I do at home.

Ultimately, that’s what made me book the ticket. I live in one of the worst postal codes for COVID-19 cases in Ontario. The risks I take on a day-to-day basis are no greater – and likely even worse – than those I experienced in Greece. After a year and a half at home, I liked those odds.

So what was it like to travel? In terms of the logistics, not too bad, considering. It was very much business as usual, just with masks and a lot of hand sanitizer.

But when it came to the experience – of exploring a destination, encountering new people, food and things – well, I was rusty. I missed out on seeing some sights because of poor planning. I underestimated the toll the heat would have on my body and mood. I forgot the importance of always carrying a water bottle.

It was also all rather emotional. I didn’t cry at the airport, which surprised me. Pre-pandemic on average I would depart on a plane every six weeks, for trips as short as three nights and as long as one month; I could probably walk through Toronto’s Pearson airport blindfolded. No, my tears came as I bit into a gyro on a restaurant patio during my first lunch outing. It hit me that, for the first time in my life, I was having Greek food in Greece, a place I had dreamed of visiting for years. I was in another country again. Finally. Most significantly, I could feel a part of me that had lain dormant begin to reawaken.

As it has been for probably everyone, the pandemic has been a period of great change in my life. In February, 2020, I was happily single, globetrotting frequently, decorating my new downtown Toronto condo rental and collecting stories to tell at cocktail parties and swish work events. Come August, 2021, I was approaching the one-year anniversary with my new guy, staying put while decorating my new house in Hamilton and staring at a pretty blank social calendar. I went from a single, jet-setting, big-city girl to a committed, homebound, Steeltown gal.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled with my relationship, property and being close to my parents again. But I was starting to worry I had lost part of myself.

Travel for me is not just an excuse to take a bunch of pretty pictures. Exploring the world, gaining new perspectives and seeing issues through the eyes of others has helped me grow, become a better person and, most importantly, heal from trauma. When I feel my mental health beginning to fail me, I know that the right kind of trip – combined with therapy, medication, exercise and support from loved ones – can help get me back on track. Travel restores my confidence, sparks enthusiasm for life, reminds me of my place in the world and makes me feel whole.

So, yes, I partly went to Greece for the sheer fun of it. But I also went because I needed to know I was fully intact. I wasn’t suffering pandemic-related mental-health issues as much as other Canadians, but I was definitely languishing, as a popular New York Times article so perfectly put it.

The moments I feel most alive – and the best version of my joyous self – typically happen in new environments. I had to make sure that was still possible. I had to make sure the essence of what makes me Domini remained. (I’m happy to report it’s still there.)

I understand there are people who will consider my decision to travel internationally irresponsible and selfish. I doubt I will be able to convince them otherwise, but I will say this trip was an excellent reminder of the power of travel to bring us closer together, to make our 7.6 billion lives seem more intertwined. When you fly halfway around the world and everyone is still wearing masks, it drives home how this virus truly affects us all. When the Acropolis was closed because of extreme heat the day I returned home, and fires threatened the homes of people I had just met, it made those shocking images in the news that much more gut-wrenching. And I could not ignore the fact that my flights had contributed to their cause.

When I travel, if I am lucky, I feel a sense of wonder that makes me feel small, in a good way. As Julia Baird writes in her book Phosphorescence: “When you shrink, your ability to see somehow sharpens. When you see the beauty, vastness and fragility of nature, you want to preserve it. You see what we share, and how we connect.”

After so many months of separation, I’d argue that’s a good thing.

What else we’re thinking about:

I’m trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible as summer winds down, but I do have to pull myself away from the TV now that I’ve recently discovered the BBC series Call the Midwife on streaming service BritBox. It’s charming, just dramatic enough and provides some insightful history lessons through a female lens. And with 10 seasons already filmed and more to come, it should see me through to the new year.

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