Changing Our Plans Due to COVID-19

I like to ask people when they first realized that COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) was a "big deal". For most of those I've spoken to, it was a slow, ramping escalation with one or two final puzzle pieces that forced your eyes open and you finally realized that this could affect you, your family, and many people around the world.

Reflection of Our Travel and SARS-CoV-2 

End of January 

At the tail end of January, the first news reports came out about this new SARS-type virus found in Wuhan, China. My thought was "Oh dear, kinda scary." and I read briefly about it before moving on with life. Life at this point was quitting our jobs, moving all of our stuff into storage and booking travel insurance, health insurance, and all the essentials for our year of travel. But the big subconscious assumption was that it was far away, and would be contained, just as SARS was. There was one case in the United States, but he had come directly from China, so it seemed like the doctors were tracking down anybody he contacted, and it was contained. 

End of February:

There's near daily coronavirus coverage on the news at this point, and the US President was calling it a hoax. Coronavirus cases without clear prior exposure were reported in the United States, which was scarier than the previous traced cases. We were happy to be in Mexico, as there were relatively few cases compared to the United States, so we felt safer being further south. With growing concern we read about Italy and its spiking number of cases. In our daily lives, we are loving all of the Mexican markets and the tacos. Oh, the tacos...

Early March:

Italy issued a lockdown for the Lombardy region, and the WHO declared the coronavirus a "pandemic". Mexico is still unaffected, and we were glad to be further from the hotspots. Wes and I lived our lives in Mexico, eating tacos, planning our next adventures, but we kept an eye on the coronavirus. We were figuring out how to live as nomads including how to do laundry and balance all of our daily tasks. We were wrapping up our time in Mexico City and excited to take the first class buses to another city.

Second week of March:

Tom Hanks reported having the virus and NBA games were cancelled. The US restricts travelers from mainland Europe. We're in a hostel in San Miguel at the time, and we overhear a distraught German citizen describing that the US and other countries closed their borders to EU citizens, regardless of where they have been recently. She said her 2-year long trip is coming to a screeching halt, and she isn't sure what she's supposed to do. I guess she has to go home, immediately? It hits us how much these restrictions could be the tip of the iceberg. We realize that we won't be able to travel to Europe any time soon (our plan was to go in ~July). Our first alternative travel plans ideas start to circulate in our heads. In San Miguel, we're hiking and eating roasted chicken most nights. We learn how to cook in a hostel and share space.

Third week of March:

Schools start closing. The US death rate ramps up. The stock market plunges again. Canada closed their border to non-citizens. San Francisco issued the first stay at home order in the US. We're in Guanajuato and enjoying the mines, margaritas, and colorful houses. But we stay in more days than usual, because we're so concerned with everything going on back home. We learned from most sources that we may need to stay in one place for a long period of time, and decide on Puerto Vallarta. We message a few Workaway hosts in that area to see if they need help, since we may have extra time to assist with projects. Our mood is muted, and we're concerned and worried but trying to continue with life. Carolyn anxiously looks at death rates as it relates to asthma, as we kept hearing conflicting stories about whether it leads to worse outcomes for COVID-19 or not.

March 19: 

We were on the bus from Guanajuato to meet up with my friend in Guadalajara. That day, Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to all non citizens. The US State department increased the travel warning for all countries to Level 4, and the embassy emails us to consider returning immediately or else there may be no diplomatic support for citizens abroad. Even to add to the panic, there was one lady coughing the entire bus ride (!!!). We turned to each other on the bus with panic in our faces and came to the conclusion that we needed to go back to the US and cancel all our plans. 

March 20:

After we wiped our seats down with antimicrobial wipes, used hand sanitizer every time we touched something, and washed our hands (seemingly) a million times, our flight took off from Guadalajara and four hours later landed in LAX. We hoped that this would just be a delay for our travels, not a cancellation.

How We're Dealing Now


Simply put, we're mourning the loss of our travels as we planned and imagined. When everyone is saying "Stay home!", at the moment - we don't have a home. Our big dream to travel and hop around the world for a year to two is temporarily (or maybe permanently) cancelled. In short, we grieve - a word that we've used to describe our feelings, it hit home when we read "That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief":

"The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we're grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

We also know that in the big picture of humanity, we're immensely privileged. We have access to clean running water, enough food, a safe place to stay with family, and our health. Every day we wake up and try to get through, appreciate what we have, and the day we are given. 

Questions that loom over us

Do we go to plan B, and buy a truck and a camper and travel the US? 
Will campgrounds be closed?
Should we start applying for jobs, rather than planning on traveling in a few months?
When will it be safe to fly?
Does it make sense to stay with one set of parents, or should we travel to stay with other family?
Should we rent an apartment or Airbnb and isolate from everyone?
How will it look when the shelter in place orders are lifted?
Did we make the right choice by coming back to the US?
Will we be able to start traveling internationally again before our year or two runs out, or should we start making other plans?

No one knows when COVID-19 will be "behind us" and travel will be "safe" again. Although let's be real - "safe" sits somewhere along a spectrum of risks and dangers, it is never truly zero. But for now, it feels like we're stuck in a giant whirlpool of uncertainty, where we're unable to plan our next steps because we don't have enough information. So, we wait. 

What about other nomadic travelers like us? (we follow quite a few)

Nomad Numbers: Is documenting stories from all sorts of nomadic travelers and how they're coping with COVID-19 related travel challenges.
Never Ending Voyage: This UK-based couple is isolating in New Zealand.
Nomadic Matt: After recovering from COVID-19 (!), he's working in Austin and reaching out to his blog followers often.
Millennial Revolution: This couple is back in Canada (their home country) renting an Airbnb and waiting out the coronavirus by writing.
Snail Travelers: This US-based couple is hunkered down in Malaysia.
plus many more.

How We're Coping Now

We're gardening, exercising, and trying to go easy on ourselves. Food is also on the agenda, as cooking and trying out new recipes is a balm to all the uncertainty. We're trying to keep touch with family and friends, and finally getting our wills and Health Care Directives in order. I hope wherever you are that you know you're not alone - we're all in this sucky, scary, uncertain situation together. Our shared humanity has never been more apparent.

Carolyn and Wes

p.s. The masks we made...


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