It was really never my intention to avoid travel after Willa was born, but as you all know the pandemic hit in late March 2020 when she was just 7 months old. We hadn’t gone anywhere as a family or separately at that point because we didn’t want to expose an infant to unnecessary germs, then with the pandemic we really did not want to be traveling.
Earlier this year, I began making plans with my team (Grogu) at work. In general, each team at work plans to meet up once per year either virtually or in person and we thought it was time for our first Grogu meetup. We set plans for Nashville, TN in late July because why not plan our meetup for the hottest time of the year? Anyways, those plans were well on their way when, to my surprise, another meetup popped up for me to attend! Our group of WordPress.com Happiness team leads decided to meet up in Madrid… one week before my trip to Nashville with my team. Which meant 2 week-long trips back-to-back after having not traveled in 3 years.
After talking things over with Anthony, it was clear he was up to the challenge of caring for Willa alone for 2 weeks (with a brief break in the middle). I want to note that he was not a “single parent” during that time, nor was he “babysitting”.
So a few weeks after my sabbatical ended, we headed to the airport. Willa was so excited to explore the airport and said she would “wait right here until mommy gets back” 😬. Anthony was able to convince her to head home and the rest was history. They had a great time while I was away, scroll down if you want to see some of the pics Anthony sent while I was away. Off I went for my first flights to Madrid after a quick stop at TSA (so thankful for TSA PreCheck that came with Global Entry!).
Of course my first flights in so many years would be long! Once in Madrid, I met up with 20+ WordPress.com Happiness Leads like myself and also virtually connected with a handful more. We had a great week learning about each other and ways that we can improve as a leadership team. With hard work came a lot of fun and great food as well!
While in Madrid I walked around a chunk of the city (we stayed near the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium), visited the Museo del Prado, ate some churros (the Spanish kind), drank a LOT of cappuccinos, had several deserts (often caffeinated as well), and swam on the rooftop pool at our hotel.
My flight back home from Madrid was cancelled last minute, but after a brief meltdown I made a few calls and was able to figure something out with the airline. I arrived home only a few hours later than expected, thank goodness because… I only had about 40 hours at home for a quick weekend then off I went again!
Next up was a trip to Nashville to spend the week with fellow Mandalorians (Happiness Engineers on team Grogu, the team that I lead). Like the last meetup, some of us attended the meetup in person while others attended virtually.
Throughout the week, we held AMAs over Zoom, broke out of a virtual escape room, and enjoyed a team building exercise.
In person, we visited the The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, took a hilarious tour with Music City Rollin Jamboree, ate a lot of great food (my fave meals were Assembly Food Hall and Bartaco), enjoyed too much ice cream at Jenni’s, walked around Broadway a bit, visited the Parthenon/Centennial Park, and did our best to avoid the heat and humidity!
Automattic’s COVID-19 policies allowed me to feel the most comfortable that I think I could feel about traveling during this time. All travel is currently optional, but I felt that it was time to join in a few activities so that I could learn from others in the same role and to contribute to my team bonding as well.
To prepare for our trip, I received a second booster of the Moderna COVID vaccination about a month prior. I also work KN95 masks during all travel (rides, airport, flights), anytime I was with others outside of our group, and when we were in conference rooms. Before departing for each trip, I took an at-home COVID test, then tested again upon arrival, 2 days later, and once more before heading home.
Willa + Anthony
As this was such a sudden departure from our normal life and I was gone for so long, I stayed in touch with Willa and Anthony a lot over the two weeks that I was away. I FaceTimed as much as I could (the time difference made things a bit tricky while I was in Spain) and I also recorded videos to send back to Anthony to show Willa when she needed to see me.
I put together a “short” 4.5 minute compilation of some of the videos if you want to give it a little watch. I really made this for Willa so that she can become more familiar with air travel before future family trips, and it seems to have helped some?
And here are some of the pictures and videos that Anthony sent me throughout the time I was gone.
Thankfully, I’m homebound for a bit now! But, we already have plans to visit South Texas (as a family!) in late October. Then shortly after I am back from that trip, I will be traveling to Denver to meet up with many of my coworkers for our division meetup.
Until then, you can find me at HOME avoiding all suitcases, travel sized toiletries, and boarding passes.