For more than seven months — from March to October, I hunkered down to protect myself from the coronavirus — rarely seeing another person outside of my immediate family, save for the Walgreens employee who administered my antibody test and the occasional delivery driver. And so, when I had the opportunity to meet-up with friends in Las Vegas last month, I could barely contain my excitement.

The purpose of our trip was to check-out Circa, the brand-new hotel, casino and resort in downtown Las Vegas. Our group consisted of travel bloggers, podcasters and a travel agent — all of us Las Vegas experts in one form or another. Everyone understood that travel during the pandemic is a risky endeavor, but we each took the necessary precautions before/during our trip and were blessed to leave Las Vegas virus-free.

I was particularly excited to spend time with two good friends, Michael of TravelZork and Julian of the Vegas Confessions Podcast. We did the typical things that friends might do in Las Vegas — we ate, drank, shared stories, laughed and gambled! It was a brief taste of normality in this distinctly abnormal world.

During a late-night stop at Paris Las Vegas, Julian finally taught me how to play the game of craps. I’m not a dice whisperer (in fact, I tend to seven-out pretty quickly), but still managed to have a great time. We played for about two hours, cashing out after Julian delivered an incredible 40-minute roll. That roll earned us our money back and a little extra as well.

Sign that says everyone is required to wear a mask.
Sign at Bally’s Las Vegas – Mr. Las Vegas Says: “Please wear a mask.”

Another stop on our Las Vegas tour was Bally’s casino, which is located near a favorite fast-food restaurant, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. We enjoyed a delicious meal, then went up to Bally’s for drinks in the Lobby Bar — a fantastic place to social distance from other groups. It’s amazing the joy that you can find in the simple pleasure of sitting and talking with friends over a drink or two.

Group of friends seated at a restaurant table.
Friends enjoying breakfast at Peppermill on the Las Vegas Strip.

On my last morning in Las Vegas, we all met-up for breakfast at the Peppermill, a timeless restaurant that should be on every visitor’s itinerary. As we waited for our food to arrive, Michael and his wife Ellen described our being together as gezelligheid or gezellig – a Dutch term that has no direct translation to English, but which Google suggests has the following meaning:

Cozy, sociable, convivial, intimate, snug, homey, neighborly, chummy, companionable, gregarious

The Dutch say that their untranslatable word is all of those things and more. Michael, Ellen and our mutual friend John (who is Dutch) described gezellig as a particular feeling of joy and comfort in sharing a moment (or series of moments) with people you care for and who care for you, with particular being the operative word. Gezellig moments are special, though, as not all gatherings with friends qualify, even if they are enjoyable. You will know that you have experienced gezellig when you feel it.

As we fired off words to describe our feelings about a weekend that we all agreed was gezellig, it became clear that no English word or combination of words could truly capture the essence of those feelings. The best I could muster to describe our reunion was a “crescendo of happiness,” but that surely did not do justice to our communal joy. It was much bigger than that.

Though a precise definition escaped us, a warmth stirred in my heart as we discussed this measure of profound togetherness over a meal — an activity that, in the absence of a pandemic, might have seemed quite normal. Yet, after months of quarantine and isolation, it was a feeling that indeed felt foreign, as if it were a long-lost artifact from a previous era. That feeling of closeness and proximity isn’t a sense that can be achieved through a text message or a Zoom call; one must be physically present to experience gezellig.

And so, as we enter into this socially-distanced holiday season, where the joy, comfort and warmth of gezellig may escape us, let’s reflect on the times where we have experienced a profound, world-shifting sense of connection. We should look forward to creating those special moments with our friends and families once again, in the post-pandemic world that is soon to come.

Most of the photos appearing in this post were taken by Michael Trager. If you are planing a trip to Las Vegas, be sure to check out his website, TravelZork.

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