16 Things We’re All Looking Forward to Once Social Distancing Ends
Real-people share stories about what they're most looking forward to doing after self-quarantine restrictions finally let up.
With much of the country under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to help flatten the curve and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, “social distancing” is a term we’ve all gotten very used to. However, despite the knowledge that we’re doing our part to help others (and hopefully protect ourselves!) being cut off from friends, family, and favorite activities takes its toll. We spoke with people all over the country about what they’re most looking forward to doing when social distancing finally ends. These 20 photos define the era of social distancing.
Enjoying my bachelorette weekend
For Ashleigh Whitby, her bachelorette weekend in Miami—rescheduled from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend—is what keeps her excited through self-quarantine. “With all the stress of wedding planning and now the coronavirus, I’m looking forward to decompressing with my best friends on the beach!”
Whitby is especially excited to see her old friends, many of whom she hasn’t seen in years because of distance. “One friend is flying in from California, while I live in Georgia,” she says, adding, “I’ve been talking to most of these friends through Houseparty and FaceTime. My friends consist of college friends, friends I’ve gained through previous jobs, and family members. I have a large bridal party—nine bridesmaids—and most of them are actually friends from college at Mercer University.”
With the bachelorette party already rescheduled once, Whitby is simply hoping for the best and focusing on what she can control. “I am looking forward to surviving this pandemic and celebrating our love with all of our closest friends and family.” The date they chose is particularly meaningful: “We are getting married on my maternal grandparent’s wedding anniversary.”
Hosting a happy hour
The blogger behind the site ManTripping.com, a lifestyle site devoted to positive masculinity, James Hill has used the pandemic to work with other male bloggers on a live stream virtual happy hour. “To support people in the hospitality industry affected by quarantine, including bartenders, budtenders, musicians, winery, and brewery owners, we’ve turned the site into: ‘What are you doing to recover and how can we support you right now?'” he says. Once the quarantine is over, he plans to keep highlighting people who are adapting to today’s strange new reality. “It’s something that we hope to continue once things are ‘back to normal,’ though obviously there will be some transition in the process with topicality,” he adds.
Ironically, Hill’s co-host lives only two blocks away from him. “I haven’t seen him in over a month,” he shares. “Ultimately, I can’t wait to get back to a state in the world where Kevin and I can hang out with our favorite bartenders and restaurant owners and do meetups with friends again in person.”
Going to the movies
“I know it sounds pretty simple, but honestly, I’m so badly looking forward to seeing a movie again,” says Phil Kim, a teacher in Virginia. For Kim, who used to go to the movies once a month with his girlfriend, the most important part is simply being in a theater with an audience surrounding him. “Not too close, mind you… but not six feet away either. Just close enough, though. Close enough to hear the sounds of laughter, or sighs of sadness, or gasps of excitement.” He misses the moviegoing experience so much that he jokes, “It doesn’t even have to be a good movie. I’d happily go see a crappy movie.”
Going to Disneyland
“I didn’t realize how emotionally attached to Disneyland we were until we weren’t allowed to go,” says Melinda Jagger. “We have watched every documentary out there about the park and Walt since we’ve been stuck inside.” From the time her now five-year-old daughter was a toddler, Jagger, an annual pass holder, has been making trips to the park at least two or three times a month. “For most people, Disney is a big one time or once a year vacation, but for us, it’s become part of our ‘normal’ routine as a family.” She particularly misses Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure, as well as the poké bowl at Lamplight Lounge.
Currently battling breast cancer, Jagger is adopting a wait-and-see mentality about going back, even once the park is open. “The safety question is a bit loaded for me since I’m on chemo,” she says.
Still, Jagger is dreaming of the day when she and her loved ones can finally return safely. “Some of our best family memories are there and we can’t wait to get back to making more soon!” she says.
Returning to normalcy
Virginia-based Lianne Farbes simply wants to get back to basics. “I am most looking forward to getting my routine back!” she says. A morning person who gets up with the sun before eventually heading to her job as a beauty brand specialist, Farbes relishes her previous routine. “I have my matchas and head to the gym by 8:30. Wednesday through Friday I am usually in-store at one of my retailers,” Farbes says. “I have approximately 13 stores that I visit on a monthly basis, so I am always around people.” She doesn’t just miss seeing people she knows—she misses people, period. “My job is a customer-facing one, so I got to meet new people every day, which I didn’t realize how much I would miss now that it’s gone,” she adds.
Ultimately, it’s her friends and loved ones that Farbes misses the most. “It is hard to only see them over Facetime,” she says. “I have been trying to stay positive and creative during this time. I’m using organization projects around the house to pass the time. My birthday is on April 28 and this is the first year that I won’t celebrate with my annual solo trip to the spa. When all of this is over, I would love to make my pilgrimage and great my friends and family with a big hug.”
Taking care of my employees
Jamie Sigler O’Grady, partner of J Public Relations, an international travel and hospitality PR firm says she wants to get back to work. “I’m most looking forward to getting our business at JPR back up and running at regular capacity, telling our current employees that their 40 percent furloughs are done, and everyone will receive 100 percent of their pay and hours again and then starting to welcome back our team and family back that we’re laid off due to COVID,” she says.
O’Grady shares that the travel industry was severely impacted by travel restrictions and COVID-19, which has seen the closure of hotels everywhere—many of which O’Grady represents. “It has been devastating for JPR,” she says. “Hundreds of hotels throughout the world have been closed and we’ve seen so many of our colleagues and clients furloughed.” Re-opening hotels, welcoming guests again, and taking care of her employees is paramount.
Still, O’Grady looks on the bright side, believing that a brighter future for the travel industry is ahead. “We remain hopeful for the future and are counting down the days to explore the world. I remember thinking after 9/11 that no one would travel or board a plane again,” she says. “Our industry and Americans have proven to be some of the most resilient, and I have every ounce of faith that we will come back stronger, more united, and full of adventure once this passes.”
Doing Pilates workouts for my back
Gloria Yang can’t wait to get back to her pilates classes. “I tried my first reformer pilates class in November 2019 and instantly fell in love with it,” says Yang. “As someone a bit curvier, it’s hard to find exercises that won’t hurt my back or hurt my knees, or ones that feel effective even with modifications. But with reformer pilates, I feel completely supported. Instructors are there to make sure my back and my neck aren’t hurting but that I’m still engaging in all the targeted muscle groups for each exercise.”
Yang shares that the classes immediately helped with her awful back pain, which she used to get acupuncture, cupping, and massage for every week just to feel decent. “It used to hurt my back to sit in a car for more than 30 minutes,” she says. “After a month of the reformer, two to three times a week, that stabbing back pain was gone and my core was much stronger.”
Although she’s tried streaming mat classes online, it doesn’t replace the machine for her, not to mention the stability and support of a live class. “I also miss the camaraderie of my classmates as we show off our cute grippy socks!” she says. “I can’t wait for my class to resume so I can have a proper workout again!” These are 13 everyday habits that could (and should!) change forever after coronavirus.
Grocery shopping solo
“Once there’s a vaccine and life is semi-normal again, of course, I’m excited to see family and have lunch with friends, but I’m also very excited to wander around the grocery store by myself,” says Kristen Orlando, an Ohio-based author and business owner. “I usually do it a couple of times a month after preschool dropoff. It’s a shopping trip just for me and the random stuff I want, not a normal family grocery haul.” For Orlando, pandemic grocery shopping is very different from grocery shopping at leisure—ideally, minus her three-year-old daughter. “I take my time, go up and down all the aisles, grab a roasted chicken for my lunches or chocolates or flavored coffees,” she says. “Things I don’t really need but just want for the week. I miss that.” Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim of coronavirus grocery shopping panic.
“Mine will sound so shallow, but I look forward to looking like myself again,” says Aly Walansky, a Brooklyn-based writer. “I want my hair done, I want a brow wax and tint, and I need my nails done. It seems so silly in the big scope of things but it’s what I fantasize about—oh, and also going out for a martini with friends and maybe some sushi!”
Walansky, who typically covers dining, travel, and beauty, goes at least once or twice a week to a new restaurant or bar, usually on assignment. The lack of routine is just as difficult as the lack of little treats to look forward to.
“I feel like so much of why this quarantine is hard is because we don’t feel like ourselves, we don’t look like ourselves, and we’re not acting like the version of the selves we’ve always been…or at least seen ourselves as,” Walansky says. “So a return to that normalcy—seeing my favorite blowout gal, having nice nails, going to my favorite bar and ordering that martini—it’s just….being me again. That’s what I keep missing and craving.”
My son’s return to school
“Before the quarantine, my family and I were in the process of moving to Burbank,” says Trinea Moss, mother of a nine-year-old boy outside Los Angeles. After learning about the massive effect the coronavirus was having in Italy, she made it a priority to enroll her son in his new school on the day of the move. “Good thing I followed through on my plan because the same day I registered him was the same day they shut down the schools. Talk about cutting it close,” she says.
Moss understands the desire for parents to get their children back to school for some family normalcy, and quality adult time. However, her primary concern is her son’s wellbeing itself. “See, my son has no siblings, so he doesn’t get to interact with other children at home. I grew up as an only child, so I understand the good and boring times of not having other kids around,” she says. For Moss, the time with her son is a delight. “I love spending time with my son,” she adds. “To keep things fun at home, we have added movie fun nights to the rotation and game nights. All have been insightful, fun, and cool.”
However, she remains preoccupied with what the world will look like after things resume to normal. “I can’t stop thinking about the next couple of months when my son and all these kids go back to school,” she says. “What new rules will the districts incorporate? Will it be harder for kids to make new friends?” Moss admits that, as a mother, she’s concerned. “I pray that all children everywhere will not be afraid to be social,” she says. “I hope that this part of their lives won’t have a negative effect on the children’s social interactions in the months and years to come.”
Celebrating my daughter’s graduation properly
Kim-Marie Evans, a Connecticut-based mom of four, says, “As much as I love having my college kids home, I miss visiting them on campus. My kids aren’t the only ones missing their college lives, I am too.” Evans is particularly disappointed for her daughter, who will be missing out on college graduation. “My daughter is graduating with a double major and almost a 4.0, she doesn’t get to walk—and I don’t get to cry and watch her and take photos,” she says.
Evans shares that her daughter chose Kansas because of the traditions there, where she is a fifth-generation legacy. “The senior walk through the campanile is steeped in tradition, and all the things she and her best friends have looked forward to for four years are just gone,” she says.
Once her daughter can finally come home, Evans plans to celebrate however they can. “I am trying to turn this into something magical and memorable,” she says. “We are going to recreate graduation in our backyard and do some keg stands! She has a good friend who lives in Phoenix and if we can get him tested we are going to have him come here also and we’ll do a big thing for the two of them.”
Gladly do basic chores outside the home
“My wife and I both work and have a three-year-old. When this first started, we thought it would be two weeks and be a breeze, like an extended snow day. Wow, were we wrong,” says Adam Weinstein of Atlanta. They quickly found the challenges of working from home with a toddler overwhelming. “At one point, he was watching TV most of the working day and we said, ‘Enough,’ and actually found a part-time nanny. It was a difficult decision to weigh the risk of bringing someone into our home, but for our sanity, we had to,” he says.
The thing he misses the most is the simple freedom of being able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants—even formerly dreaded chores. “I used to loathe having a weekend packed full of plans of things that I didn’t want to do and would be happy if someone called on me—now I would do anything to be dragged to IKEA for four hours!” he says.
Jetsetting home to see my family
“As a full-time digital nomad on assignment about 330 days in a given year, you’re inclined to believe that while I’m temporarily hunkered down in a minimalistic bungalow in a sleepy Thailand beach throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, all I’m fantasizing about is packing my suitcase and jet setting once again,” says Olivia Balsinger, travel journalist and editor. However, she’s actually dreaming of the comforts of home.
“The destination of my dreams is emerging from the arrivals terminal, with my mom and dad waiting to give me the warmest sandwich hug possible,” she shares. Pre-pandemic, Balsinger led a glamorous life, reporting on places as far-flung as the Maldives or the Ritz in Paris. “My life has always been in the fast lane, and it will be again,” she says. “But this pandemic has made me realize it’s sometimes been too aggressively fast.”
The last time Balsinger physically touched her parents was over Thanksgiving. “I had exactly 36 hours home in my whirlwind of travels.” The last words to her parents were, “‘I’ll see you soon,'” she recalls. Now, she calls her public school teacher parents nightly—”three minutes after they finish their Zoom lessons for the day”—to begin the best part of her day. “We check-in with one another on opposite ends of the planet: I make sure they aren’t going grocery shopping together even though they are normally glued at the hip (they aren’t) and they make sure I am safe motorbiking to the grocery store and wearing SPF 50 (I am, mostly).”
Away from her family with no hope of returning, for the time being, Balsinger suddenly notices—and misses—the little things. “Inevitably they will start giggling like teenagers and even teasing each other’s hair. Have they always been this adorable? Why have I never asked them the secret to a youthful, generous marriage? And most importantly, why did it take a global pandemic and isolation to reconnect to the two individuals who gave their everything to allow me to travel the world and pursue my dreams? I know the first thing I am going to do when this harsh reality runs the course, but for now, I’ll settle for my daily 11:35 p.m. FaceTime date,” she says.
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Introducing the grandparents to their newborn
After moving from California back home to Kentucky in the middle of the pandemic, just before many states instituted shelter-in-place orders, Robin Phelps can’t wait for her infant daughter to meet her grandparents. “I’m most looking forward to letting my grandparents hold my newborn baby they’ve never met!” she says.
Despite being back in Kentucky for five weeks, some of Phelps’ family has yet to meet the new baby. “We normally would have been there weekly by now,” Phelps says of her extended family, including her 90-year-old grandmother. She explains that they were afraid of getting stuck in California for months when the pandemic hit, as they were already planning a move back to Kentucky. “We moved plans up two months and left two days after shelter-in-place orders were given.” However, the timing of their move meant the family has been confined to their new place. “People are asking, ‘How’s Kentucky?'” she says, adding they reply, “Um, we don’t know?”
Phelps, her husband, and her five-year-old daughter are riding out the stay-at-home orders working from home, homeschooling, walking to the pond daily to feed the ducks, and taking care of the baby, but the thought of seeing family again is what gets them through. “Both of my grandmothers love babies—they had 12 between them—so they will be overjoyed to cuddle her! Now to be able to watch her grow in person rather than FaceTime/photos will be worth it all.” Family is, after all, one of the 12 wonderful things that will never be canceled.
Moving back to the United States
“I moved to London in 2005 but went to Maine a minimum of twice per year, including for entire summers. However, since having my children in 2015 and 2017 and getting to spend an extended part of my generous year-long maternity leave there, I have felt more connected,” says Kat Kristiansen, writer of the family travel site TriplePassport.com. She’s looking forward to leaving London and returning to Maine once they’re safely able to do so. “In 2018, my husband and I bought a house in Cape Elizabeth that we plan to raise our family in once our time in London is over,” she says. “The pandemic caused my husband and I to rethink our timeline and see if we can move sooner.” She’s hopeful that they can return to Maine this summer safely. “We all love it there and even my children feel like it is home despite being born and only having lived here.”
Having a face-to-face connection with my children’s therapists
Camille P., a mother of three young kids and a middle school teacher outside of Boston, says she is looking forward to having two of her kids get to see their therapist in person again. “Virtual meetings suffice for now, but there’s no substitute for in-person, face-to-face conversation and therapy—especially for kids who need environmental context and input in order to process effectively.” She adds that the pandemic is already hard for families with neurotypical children and for families with kids who have learning disabilities, special needs, or mental health challenges, it’s even harder. “The added layer of a differently functioning brain adds a layer of complexity to an already tenuous situation,” she says.
During this time, she says, allowing kids to feel their emotions and work through them in an emotionally healthy way is the most important thing, even more so than academics. “This has been my focus as a parent and also as a teacher,” she shares. “I hope that what comes out of this experience is a better understanding and reinforcement of how showing up, participating, and keeping social connections are vital to society. I look forward to being present with family and friends when we’re through this.” Next, find out how a guidance counselor is keeping her kids calm about coronavirus.