Dr. Tony Kireopoulos
Covid-19 has disrupted all of our lives. In no area has it disrupted my life as much as it has in terms of travel.
As a cancer patient, early in 2020 my doctor advised me not to travel. Not only was it generally not advisable in the midst of a pandemic; for someone like me, with a compromised immune system, it was more than a potential source for catching the virus. By then, all work-related travel was being canceled for many, if not most, people anyway. But this prohibition also affected me personally, as it altered my wife’s and my ability to go back and forth between our homes in New York and Arizona.
It affected me mentally as well. As a theologian working for a prominent religious organization, I had a portfolio that took me all over the country, and all over the world. Among many other places over a couple dozen years, in 2004 I went to Rwanda to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the genocide; in 2005, I went to Indonesia to witness the destruction caused by the tsunami some months earlier; several times I went to Israel and Palestine, to study and to bring first-hand experience to my advocacy for Middle East peace. All the while, my domestic travels took me to meetings and conferences in California and Oregon, Georgia and Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia, Minnesota and Iowa, and many other US states in between.
Given their frequency, my cancer treatments interrupted my international travel early on. With the Covid-19 impact on my domestic travel, the interruption was complete. Yes, travel can be difficult, as anyone whose job requires it can attest. But for me, it also helped to define my life. It was more than invigorating to rush to the airport and hop on a plane. It was life-enhancing. In short, traveling to meet with colleagues, or to deliver talks, or to work for justice and healing, is something I miss.
Truth be told, I do like the ease of logging into a Zoom meeting from the comfort of my own home. And I confess, I’ve done my share of calls still wearing pajamas! But I’ve got a little secret. Over the years, my family has been collecting coffee mugs, produced by a prominent and popular coffee company, that have illustrations of different cities and countries on them. We have 22 of them. And so, for the last year, I’ve been traveling in my imagination with every sip of coffee. Each morning, I ask myself, “where do I want to go today?” More often than not, I decide on London, where my daughter was interning, and Valencia (Spain), where my son is studying. My other favorites are Japan and Thailand, Copenhagen and Barcelona, New York City and the Hamptons. Because of the colors of the illustrations, Sydney and Brisbane also call out to me.
I know, it sounds like being homebound has affected my psyche. And it has, I guess. But just last month, after a complete response to my latest treatment, and with new airline sanitizing procedures in place, my doctor gave me the OK to travel to Arizona, and just like old times, I settled into my seat (after re-sanitizing it), and saw a future where travel, especially if buttressed by universal vaccinations, will once again be part of who I am.
Dr. Kireopoulos is Associate General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.
About this blog: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original author and were prepared in the author’s personal capacity. These views and opinions do not represent those of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, its member communions, or any other contributors to this site.