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I'm leaving my pandemic cocoon. Soon.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/10/2021 Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY
a insect on a flower: A tiger striped butterfly feeds on nectar from a flower at a park in Singapore on October 22, 2020. © ROSLAN RAHMAN, AFP via Getty Images A tiger striped butterfly feeds on nectar from a flower at a park in Singapore on October 22, 2020.

I've wondered a lot about who will emerge when I leave quarantine.

I'm getting my second vaccine dose on Tuesday, which is absolutely wonderful news and I couldn't be more excited. More and more of my friends and family members are getting their shots, following the inoculation trend around the country. All adults will be eligible as of April 19, and though vaccine appointments can still be hard to get, we are getting close. 

Although common sense mitigation measures will likely have to continue for awhile, especially as young children aren't getting vaccinated any time soon, many of us are thinking about what a "post-pandemic" life will be like. We can start to see more friends, more family. We can eat at a restaurant, visit a museum with less fear. We can come out of our shells. 

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But I am also so unpracticed at being out in the world. I don't look the same. I have barely worn makeup in the past year, let alone the formal dresses in the back of my closet. My mental health has been at some of its worst points, and I feel a bit like a different person. What will my friends and family see when they see me?

This, of course, is a good problem to have in the scheme of things. So much more could have gone tragically over the course of the pandemic for me and my family. So I approach each day with a sense of gratitude. But I am worried about getting back out there. And I'm not sure how long this anxiety will last. 

Today's summer preview: What travel will look like

Have you made some summer travel plans? If so you aren't alone. 

As vaccinations speed up around the country, many Americans are scheduling trips, although things won't look back to "normal" immediately. 

Airport terminals and hotel lobbies continue to look like hospitals, with all those masks and latex gloves. And that will continue, according to experts like Rudy Dunlap. 


Gallery: This Is What You Need to Know Before You Travel Now, Says CDC (ETNT Health)

"Even in destinations where vaccination is relatively widespread, mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent sanitizing will continue to be the norm," says Dunlap, a tourism expert and associate professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

Here are a few things to expect, from our travel experts. 

  • Longer trips: Travelers are making plans to leave longer and go farther this summer. "I've had requests for longer stays – even months –  to fulfill bucket lists," says Silvana Frappier, owner of North Star Destinations, a travel agency in Boston.
  • Most of the world is still closed: Americans' options for international travel remain limited, says Christine Buggy, vice president of marketing at Travelex. "Most Caribbean islands have reopened to international tourists and many Americans are traveling or planning trips to Turks and Caicos, Aruba, Bahamas, and other popular island destinations," she says.
  • Safety matters more than ever: The post-pandemic traveler will be much more cautious, say experts. “Travelers have adopted new filters for trip planning," says Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. "Especially for international excursions. They’re selecting destinations that have robust healthcare infrastructure and stable pandemic protocols with reliable border management." 

Read the full story here. And stay safe as you wander. 

a person sitting at a table with a blue suitcase: Americans will be visiting the same places, but for different reasons. Safety and reliable travel advice are more important than ever. © martin-dm/Getty Images Americans will be visiting the same places, but for different reasons. Safety and reliable travel advice are more important than ever.

Today's reads

a woman sitting on a bench: Josh Thomas, who created "Everything's Gonna Be Okay," also stars as young guardian Nicholas. © Ser Baffo/Freeform Josh Thomas, who created "Everything's Gonna Be Okay," also stars as young guardian Nicholas.

Today's pet

Meet Larry. 

a cat sitting on a chair: Larry has a perfect perch. © Courtesy Kris Hehn Larry has a perfect perch.

"I love your photos of pets who help us make it through the rough times!" says Kris Hehn of Cincinnati, Ohio. "Larry, my personal guard cat, has been of great assistance!"

I assume Larry is guarding and protecting you from laser pointers, toy mice, and other cat nemeses. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: I'm leaving my pandemic cocoon. Soon.

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