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No Longer Numb

I can’t feel half my face today.

I was at the dentist’s office this morning to have an old filling replaced. It’s a situation I find myself in about once a year now. If I had known as a kid what a hassle it would be to maintain and replace old fillings, perhaps I would have been more diligent about brushing my teeth.

Sometimes the chip in a filling is small enough or shallow enough that the dentist can repair it without much drilling. Those visits are quick and easy. And they don’t require any anesthetic. I’m done in 20 minutes, then go on about my day.

Today wasn’t one of those visits. My dentist wasn’t able to repair the filling. Instead, she had to remove it, then replace it with a new one. And that meant she had to numb me before she began drilling.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m thankful for the anesthetic. Without it, dental work would be excruciating. But the numbing sensation it causes brings its own set of problems. Have you ever tried to eat lunch when you have no movement in parts of your mouth?

As I sat at my desk contemplating the strange feeling — or lack of feeling — in my face, it occurred to me that in 2020, numbness has come to be a familiar sensation.

The early part of this year was a whirlwind of tourism events, including a convention in Omaha and a fun family trip to the New Orleans area. This spring and summer were supposed to be jam-packed with travel too. But in early March, when I was with several hundred tourism friends at a conference in Baton Rouge, the world began to fall apart.

By the time I returned from that trip, it was clear that nobody would be traveling anywhere for a long time.

After 16 years in the travel industry, that development came as a shock to me. Shock leaves many people feeling numb. And if I’m honest, I’ve been numb for much of this year.

The tide of bad news came so quickly and with so much force that it overwhelmed me. The impact on the tourism community that I love so much has been unfathomable. Trying to keep up with the news or absorb the magnitude of the loss became too much. So instead, I chose to feel nothing.

But as I write this column in late August, there are hopeful signs on the horizon. The COVID outbreak seems to be on the wane. People are talking openly about traveling again. And the Going On Faith Conference just proved that even during a pandemic, the will to travel is unstoppable.

Much like the feeling in my lips and gums is gradually coming back, tourism is showing signs of life.

By tomorrow, I won’t be thinking about my dentist visit anymore. By next year, I won’t even remember it happening.

If you, like me, have spent much of this year numb, let me encourage you to begin feeling again. There’s a tingle of change in the air. Before you know it, the pandemic won’t be part of our present anymore. It will only be part of our past.

When that moment comes, your travelers will be desperate to hit the road again. Will you be ready to take them?

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.