When Traveling Was Fun

Mexican Skyline is Always Breathtaking

As an internationally qualified housesitter, I’ve been places. Back in the day the biggest hurdle while traveling used to be dragging my suitcase over cobblestones or through narrow aisles on trains.

COVID sadly changed all that. Not only has it cost the lives of millions, but it’s also impacted industry and families alike and complying with the ever-changing rules leaves most of us breathless, stunned and wondering, now what? 

Although the cost of increased airline fees and molecular testing inhibits many from traveling it can’t be compared to the cost of having anyone infected with the virus. 

Of course, I shouldn’t complain because after all I have had so many wonderful travel experiences, met amazing people, seen ‘stuff’, and have fortunately never been infected by this stupid virus that won’t go away, but I have been affected by the inconveniences of new regulations that don’t always make sense. Throughout, I’ve followed the guidelines and not always understood the shifting goalpost. For over a year I’ve lived with my husband in almost constant isolation. I’m so f’n done with it. 

Old Cannery Near Hotel San Cristobal

I traveled to Mexico in May when it was first possible to leave because I’m a housesitter. I take care of people’s pets and homes and enjoy this unconventional lifestyle. I got the first jab in the arm as soon as the government allowed my age bracket the chance to get immunized.

Before leaving for Mexico, even though restrictions were lifted at that time, I cautiously avoided meeting with family and friends. I couldn’t risk a negative test because people relied on me. It hurt not being with people I care about; I did what I had to. I’m a bit miffed that the government was too slow in allowing me to get a second shot before leaving. I know, cry me a river.

What’s interesting about the travel restrictions in place at the time was that a flight to Cabo San Lucas used to take four and a half hours on a non-stop flight. With the restrictions, it took 24 hours and exposure to so many more people. The logic, well, I know, cry me a river.

A Moving Picture Show

While in Mexico, I continued this self-imposed isolation. I didn’t socialize, I shopped once a month and avoided people. My husband is pretty sick of me by now. Just kidding of course. I’m sure I’m highly flammable from all the sanitizer on my skin.

When the time came to return to Canada, I booked a flight, downloaded the government regulation app, had a PCR test and waited for the airline to take me home. This is where my trip came unglued. A fallout from COVID that most experts probably didn’t predict. No qualified staff. I mentioned this to my husband months ago, I worry about the mechanical problems of sitting airplanes and pilots.

With all my apps lined up, the paper version in hand I arrived at the Cabo airport prepared. It was a bit of a gong show right from the start. Our flight was listed as delayed but optimism persevered because in all my travels, I’ve never experienced this issue that would become a nightmare for me and everyone else booked on the flight.

Information about our flight status was sporadic. The airline representative tried to keep us informed but vagueness never makes anyone feel comfortable. With eyes perpetually trained on the departure board and what others were saying, I waited. I read lips, I eavesdropped on conversations for news.

The Sun Always Rises Somewhere

Scheduled to leave at 3 pm, the clock ticked and after several annoying delays, we were summoned to the gate where further vague instructions were given about our cancelled flight.

  1. Follow person to gate 13 to reclaim your luggage
  2. Retrieve luggage and make your way out through customs; follow the faces that have become familiar 
  3. Duty free shoppers with tobacco, liquor make sure you get your declaration form back (it’s your responsibility to ask, don’t rely on the agents to hand it back)
  4. Instructions will be as vague as finding your way through thick fog
  5. Return to airline check-in and wait for an eternity while the line moves slower than you could have believed possible (move quickly, first in line is always a good place to be)
  6. Wait for assigned accommodation voucher and make sure it comes with food allowance on voucher (you will be hungry) (allocated hotel may not have a restaurant or be near a restaurant)
  7. Follow instructions to get on shuttle, or bus provided by airline
  8. ***Get bus or shuttle contact phone number*** I cannot stress this enough
  9. Do not rely on hotel to provide you with information about any changes to your shuttle pick-up times
  10. Do not rely on your airline to personally notify you of any changes to your shuttle pick-up times
  11. Check your flight status app or go online to monitor flight departure changes
  12. It’s virtually impossible to contact your airline via phone; the wait lines are longer than your holiday
  13. While you may not be reimbursed by the airline for any taxi/uber fares sometimes you have to fend for yourself (we booked an uber to the airport because the airline changed our shuttle pick-up without notifying us which left us with no confidence in their ability) (another long story, the shuttle driver who picked up the first group rescheduled on an earlier flight refused to pick us up because of his company rules laid out by airline)
  14. Always have paper copies of everything if you can, which of course becomes a challenge when you are in transit
  15. If the hotel is not up to your standard, let them know
  16. Be considerate of other travelers in your group (in our group several weary travelers were given a voucher for one hotel only to be told that there was a mistake and they had no accommodations booked. Not words anyone wants to hear. Luckily many travelers from a large group bunked together freeing up rooms for others.)
  17. Be courteous to staff at the hotel, at the airline, these people are doing what they can but that doesn’t mean you can’t send management a note to suggest improvements. Which I will do once I compose this note
  18. Send valid but unemotional feedback to the airline carrier about your experience and what you see as a way to improve the experience for future travelers
  19. It may seem impossible at the time, but remain positive
  20. Quarantine

We’re In This Together

Quarantine is not fun. The officer and the system that decides this fate for you don’t care that you have been following all of the guidelines, restrictions, precautions and they can’t differentiate between those who have followed the advisory and those who haven’t. It doesn’t matter to the system that you have a story behind your choices or that you haven’t seen members of your family for months and years. Covid has made us cogs on wheels that perhaps aren’t heading in the same direction as you intended to go.

Quarantine feels like a sentence for a crime I’m sure I didn’t commit and circumstances make me guilty just for living. Suddenly, the idea of freedom has a new meaning yet I also understand that my restrictions are for the great good though at times that goal is difficult to see.

For me, the difficult part is that I have to depend on someone else, and I may put someone else at risk. COVID is like slinging mud and it may stick to my skin or someone I care about. Quarantine isn’t about me. It’s about the rest of the world.

I admit I’m sick of the pandemic. I miss the old ways of doing things, but mostly I want people I care about, and the frontline workers to be safe. I also want everyone else out there on this frequency of suffering in quiet isolation to know that I am embracing the choices you make for yourself and your family, just as I am. I wouldn’t think of degrading you because of those decisions, please respect mine. Stop the hurtful name-calling, the spiteful memes that only goad us deeper into the divide.

A new feeling amidst all of these is anxiety. It’s that rushing of nauseating adrenaline that makes my heart race and a ball in my throat gag with an attack of emotions that are mine yet I don’t want them.

What if I have this frigging virus? 

Always Checking Over My Shoulder

Because of my lifestyle choices, I rely on the kindness of friends and family to put up with my needs once in a while. To them, it might also mean more frequently than I like to admit. Being beholden even within the circle of kindness is not something I do lightly. The idea that these virus spores are stuck to my skin and clothing each time I enter a house causes panic.

With this last airline fiasco, I was upset about the many levels that went wrong. The missed flight, having to stay put, having to ask family and friends to change plans to accommodate mine is annoying. But the airline also exposed me. As I said, my contribution to avoid spreading this thing has been isolation, a lot of handwashing and cleaning, more isolating, physical and social distancing, yet they forced me into a situation I’ve avoided.

And each day I log my symptoms on the ArriveCan app, I read the yelling letters from the Government of Canada about quarantine rules and that I will be beaten with legal implications and worse for breaking the rules. 

Traveling is still fun. After my quarantine ends I can venture into territories, perhaps a beach resort, an upscale boutique hotel, or a road trip because I am so blessed to have these experiences and grow from them. 

These hurdles are mere learning opportunities to keep everyone safe.

Life isn’t just about me. It’s about community. It’s about appreciating the good things in life. They exist.


1 Comment

  1. Hello Monika, I enjoyed this piece, felt I was traveling with you both. Aside from your writing skills, you must be a brilliant storyteller! Thank you for sharing.

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