What Corona Virus Taught Me
A Girl & Her Hubs were to be in the evocative city of Warsaw, Poland this week. In fact, this would be precisely day 2 of our trip. However, the travel Gods, the President and the CDC had much to say to dissolve this plan. I say this with gratitude and relief in my voice. A heart felt Thank you God; divine intervention played a hand in this scenario. And for that, my heart is not heavy with disappointment. For 2 decades, Hubs and I have dodged the bullet of misfortune, hardship, drama and catastrophe- ironically being in many of the places that great tragedies have occurred.
A passion and love for the romantic allure of Europe, we circled the globe since 1999, checking off exotic destinations one by one-Southern Italy, Paris, Prague, Budapest. Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Krakow, Venice, a whirlwind German excursion (more than once) Milan, Istanbul, Portugal, Hong Kong, Ireland, Edinburgh, Africa, Buenos Aires, and this year Warsaw and Tokyo come September.
However, this year-things felt off kilter with this trip from the get-go. Airfare was oddly low, which generally is how we choose our vacations. Having been to Poland a decade ago, it seemed silly and redundant to return to the same country. Although, we had not been to Warsaw and felt that it was an untapped city that could offer us many of the things we love-art, history, war sites, yummy food, interesting people, museums and more.
But, as the trip approached, a still unsettling feeling resonated within me-an uneasiness that I could not put my finger on. More so- oddly, I could not picture myself there. This was a unique, disconcerting notion for me as our biannual retreats provided me usually with fervor and unfettered zeal. Additionally, my family members were in complete opposition of this getaway creating even more apprehension for me. In contrast, Hubs was full steam ahead causing a great deal of ambivalence within me.
It was around this time, I began to hear about a virus that had come out of China causing a great deal of illness and death. I paid attention as I would with any new media hype, but this discussion began to overtake the news. My mother continually called me, and in her most guilt ridden of voices would question me over and over about going to Poland. Each time she would rephrase it in a way that at times I felt selfish even considering such an indulgence. But, Poland is so far from China- how could there ever be a connection?
The week before our departure, the Hubs mentioned that he had received an email from the travel company inquiring if we would like to reschedule our vacation. This is the first I had thought about this. In all our years of travel, this had not even occurred to me as an option. Travel is a commitment, a non-negotiable- a final determination, no escape route, no plan B & never insurance options. I am in; you are in –done- we are going. Rain or shine, in sickness or in health, like wedding vows, we go if it means going down with the ship, we are going. Hubs and I have always been on the same page with this.
But, as I lay in bed on that Saturday morning before our trip, I grappled with this idea. Do I cave into fear and hype abandoning adventure and bow down to caution? What about the money, time and planning we invested? It is a funny thing, the brain-when it has to be the determiner of practicality and bear the repercussions of disappointment- it will rationalize and justify just about anything. As Hubs and I listed the reasons to go, like a tennis match we volleyed the ball of rationality back and forth. In the end, in true Girl & Hubs fashion, we resolved the issue by going to the mall to shop for wardrobe needs for 30 degree weather-sealing the deal on decision making for Warsaw in T-minus 5 days.
In complete juxtaposition, I began to pack (days early) my Kelly green St. Patrick’s Day totally impractical sweater dress and shamrock leggings, while the background news demonstrated face masked Asians building an emergency hospital. Gloves, scarf, winter coat, all piled in my suitcase of denial. The day before the scheduled trip, I worked tying up all loose ends as the Hubs lingered on the phone for hours trying to reschedule air and hotel. My actions bellowed the lyrics of the 80’s song “Should I stay or should I go now?” One step forward, three behind, as I typed away at a litany of to do items for my work team in my absence, I reviewed the airlines cancellation policy. As I read my sister’s text questioning my actions to fly during a health crisis, I challenged myself internally with the same inquiries. Over and over, with less than 24 hours to go, I literally had no idea what we would do.
In the end, it was the President, the government, the fear of quarantine, and losing my USA residency that all made the decision for me. As I zipped up the last of my items in my luggage, the Hubs yelped from the other room-“turn on the TV-the President is on”. I yelped back, “calm down”, not knowing the magnitude of what the President would say.
Turning on the TV, the President stood behind a podium with a display of bold lettering and a bright NEWS ALERT warning. The statement said “President bans all European flights for 30 days”. That is all I needed to see to understand I no longer had a decision. In defeat and relief, my shoulders sank along with my spirits knowing that today-our country –good or bad will never be the same. Whatever, he was to say next, I knew the innocence, captivation, naïve curiosity and purity that came along with travel as I saw it would forever be tainted. The fears and uncertainty that I had worked so hard for years to wash away bubbled up to the surface in stubborn dominance.
I began a group text with my boss and coworkers who now had served as a therapeutic safe place for me. So many questions circled my brain. Do we get our money back? Do I stop packing? Am I still on vacation? How dangerous is this virus? Should I have been taking this more seriously? I listened to the press conference as experts used words I had never heard before. These new words over the next several days would be heard over and over again- social distancing, mitigation, quarantine, herd immunity, pandemic.
Over the next 24 hours as I unpacked my heavy sweaters in 88 degree weather and put away my winter jacket until next year, I moved in zombie like fashion muttering to myself-today I would be at the airport. Right now we would be boarding the plane; this is the time we would arrive in Warsaw. We spent the majority of the day, spending hours on hold with canny loud versions of Simon and Garfunkel tunes, waiting for an Expedia representative to come on. Only to be hung up or disconnected time after time. We took to email as well, which proved even more futile. Eventually, we contacted Discover on which we paid for the trip and were actually listened to. The representative assured us they would create an investigation and provide us with a temporary refund. Redemption in some small way helped to alleviate the disappointment as well as serve as a great distraction.
Soon, a new crisis emerged- Toilet paper. Apparently, the country was in full blown panic over having an ample supply of it. The media displayed empty shelves and the mayhem that ensued over such luxuries. I had a respectable 12 rolls so for now- this would provide great comfort.
With some already scheduled time off, Hubs and decided we should take advantage and have a small staycation. With the country essentially on lock down, we hunkered in and laid low. I created a mini bed and breakfast operation, reorganized my closet, spent a significant amount of time napping, dog loving and snuggling with my family. Instead of going to the mall and shopping, I listened to my husband play guitar. Instead of getting my nails done, I went for a long run with no hurry to get back. I slept in, I took naps, I went to bed early. I washed every piece of laundry I had. I kept my house clean, I cooked every meal and I did a lot of nothing.
On the day which I was to arrive, the President came on TV and gave an incredible speech, providing me with comfort and hope equivalent to a weighted blanket. He offered solutions, experts, optimism and a timeline. As he spoke, the stock market rose, heighted peaks displayed exactly what I in my heart was feeling. This virus has impacted the world on a global level, however, I felt as if the President spoke directly to my fears providing me with something that I could not purchase at a store nor gain from any trip. He offered me with peace of mind and resolution to a trip that never was.
What have I learned from Corona Virus? Well, this virus has literally screeched the breaks on life and is exactly what this world needed. It has forced us all to settle down, quiet our souls, listen to our heart and be open to what the silence tells us. For me personally, I have removed myself “from the grid”, relearning to enjoy the simple things in life. The Dappled sunlight through the trees, the calming voice of my husband, the playful prance of my dogs- the quiet moments in life that I often overlooked. Being forced to stay home from my trip was a much needed respite from the mania of life.
Those 4 days I spent split at times in parallel alternate worlds, wondering what I would be doing now in Poland- those 4 days provided me with an anchor to my everyday life. It required me to look into my present day, to not look ahead to a trip always in the cue. My day to day life is pretty darn good and perhaps without this enforced down time- I would not see it with the clarity that I now have.
Until we meet again -stay healthy & perhaps you will hear from me again -maybe September Tokyo~