By Daniel Dunaief
I’m not much of a planner. I put together professional plans, creating a schedule for stories I’d like to research and write, and I coordinate calls and meetings all week, but I don’t tend to go through the calendar to figure out when to visit socially with friends and family or to attend cultural events.
This summer, however, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to look at the calendar and consider a wide range of activities that would have been difficult or impossible a year ago.
I’m delighted to plan to visit with my extended family. I haven’t seen my brothers in over 19 months. I have visited with them on the phone and zoom, but that’s not nearly the same thing as seeing them in person, throwing a ball with them, flying a kite off the beach or just sitting on the couch and having a free-flowing conversation.
I am also delighted to consider planning a trip to museums. On one of our first dates, my wife and I went to the Metropolitan Museum, where we wandered slowly through the exhibits, continuing to build on our relationship even as we studied the artifacts left behind by the generations that fell in love and married hundreds of years earlier. I recall wandering through those wide hallways close to a quarter of a century ago, listening to my wife’s stories and delighting in laughter that, even now, provides validation and meaning to each moment.
I am hoping to travel to Washington, D.C., this summer, to see the air and space museum. Each of the planes hovers overhead, and the space capsules from the early days of the NASA program are inspirational, giving me a chance to picture the world from a different vantage point, seeing the shimmering blue waters that cover the Earth.
I have watched planes fly overhead throughout the pandemic, but I haven’t ventured to the airport or onto a plane. I’m looking forward to the opportunity that flight provides to turn trips that would take over 10 hours into one- or two-hour flights.
Visiting family, friends and strangers in different areas, eating foods that are different and unfamiliar and experiencing life outside of the small circles in which we’ve restricted ourselves opens up the possibilities for the summer and beyond.
My son can prepare for the start of college and my daughter for a return to college with the hope that they can enjoy more of the academic, social, extracurricular and community service experiences that they imagined when they envisioned these years of growth, development and, hopefully, independence.
I spoke with a scientist recently who told me that the inspiration for a work he’d just completed came from a conversation he had during a conference a few years ago. He had been sitting in an auditorium, listening to a speech, when he and a stranger exchanged thoughts about the implications of the work. From that interaction, he started a new project that became a productive and central focus of his research efforts. As soon as conferences are back on the calendar, he hopes to return to the road, where such unexpected and unplanned conversations can trigger inspiration.
To be sure, I recognize that the realities of travel and planning don’t always dovetail with the hopes and expectations. I recently visited with our extended community at a social gathering, where I stood downwind of someone who wore so much cologne that I couldn’t taste the food I was eating.
I’m sure there’ll also be lines, traffic jams and literal and figurative turbulence as I leave our home cocoon.
Still, this summer, I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to do so much, including and especially, the chance to plan.