Coronavirus & The Cards We’re Dealt
Coronavirus outbreak, it’s the headline being heard around the world. Wherever you are in this vast world of ours, you’ve surely read the headlines, or listened to a broadcast, about the spread of the virus. The news is inescapable.
Life is What Happens When…
If you’ve been following us for a while, you already know my go to motto in life is… life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. This is one of those times when truer words were never spoken.
I have another post written. It’s sitting quietly in the queue waiting to be published in a few days from now. It is a preview post detailing our itinerary for an upcoming European adventure. We were due to leave March 3. Notice I wrote, “due to leave.” That post waiting in the queue is no longer relevant as is. Time for a rewrite.
What Was in the Works
Here’s a look at some of the content that was in our preview post, including upcoming travel plans, an update on our Portugal expat life and why all of our travel plans fell apart, thanks in part to the coronavirus outbreak. In the big picture, none of it really matters, but it still stings just a bit when life hands you a new deck of cards.
“Our” Porto Apartment
It seems years ago, but in reality it hasn’t been that long. We first moved in to “our” Porto apartment in October 2017. It was the ultimate aligning of the stars, the way in which we found the apartment. An added bonus was the owners soon became good friends. We lived in the apartment for three months and fell madly in love with not only the apartment, but also with the City of Porto.
Originally, the apartment was slated to be an Airbnb, but with rigorous regulations being what they were, the apartment was instead put up for rent. At the same time the owners were making the decision to rent out the apartment, we were just a few days out from arriving in Porto and looking for a place to live. A simple message on Facebook, by a third party, and voila the lease was signed. Fate.
We had no set plans to give up the apartment as we planned to use it as a base while we continued to travel indefinitely around Europe. However, we learned we would soon be grandparents. Long story short we gave up the apartment and returned to the US to welcome a precious little bundle of joy. We never looked back and we have no regrets… life unfolds as it’s supposed to.
Ever since 2017, whenever we returned to Porto we lived in “our” apartment. It truly has been our home-away-from-home for the past several years as we’ve maintained our Portugal residency; our expat experiment.
When we received the news a few weeks ago that the apartment had been sold, we were not overly surprised. A bit saddened, but not surprised. We knew the owners were interested in selling. We have wonderful memories of living in the apartment. How this will impact our residency, remains to be seen.
Timing is Everything
In January, we made arrangements to fly across the pond in early March. We booked our apartment and pulled the trigger on non-refundable flights. It was maybe just one week later (after booking our flights) we learned the apartment had been sold. The owners, our friends, received an offer for the apartment that was too good to refuse. Timing is everything.
With flight tickets in hand and no apartment in which to live, we found ourselves looking for a Plan B. What to do?
Looking for Plan B
Our first thought was to find an Airbnb and spend the month of March just hanging out in Porto. We have no problem whatsoever when it comes to keeping ourselves entertained in the city. There is always something new to discover, as well as frequenting our favorite haunts. Somehow though, maybe it was the melancholy feeling of knowing our apartment had been sold, we couldn’t quite muster the needed enthusiasm to commit to the idea.
The Camino Portuguese
We also gave thought to taking another long walk on the Camino Portuguese, but on a different route. The coastal route, while not officially on the Camino, is supposed to be quite beautiful. The biggest hurdle we saw in that plan, was the weather. We didn’t want to commit ourselves to eight days of walking along the coast of Portugal in the rain. We had enough torrential rain days when we walked from Porto to Santiago in 2019. Maybe next time.
Beyond Portugal’s Borders
In the end we decided to venture beyond Portugal’s borders. Our plan was to spend several days in Porto and then travel by train through regions of Portugal, Spain and France.
Our planned itinerary included stops in Vigo, Leon, Pamplona, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Zaragoza, and Madrid with a final stop in Lisbon before flying back to the US. It was a grand plan and we were all set. And then…
The Cards We’re Dealt
There are moments in life when we just have to sit back, look at the cards we’re dealing with and ask ourselves if it’s going to work. Are the cards stacked against us and is the universe trying to tell us something? Sometimes we can ignore those moments, other times, not so much.
So, with non-refundable flight tickets, ten days of train travel and numerous accommodations booked, we found ourselves face-to-face with a serious case of what-if?
We’re not people who tend to panic at every little advisory, because let’s face it, so much of the daily news is over-inflated at best. However, the coronavirus outbreak is taking hold and spreading rapidly. It definitely caught our attention when the virus presented itself in Spain. Should we go, should we stay? But, those non-refundable tickets.
It’s not so much that we were concerned about getting sick, hell, I can get sick just picking up germs at Costco. Grocery cart handles… yuck. It was more about getting stuck in a hotel lock down situation, or dealing with a cancelled train route, or a closed border, or something similar. If we were traveling nomads it would not have been such a concern for us, but we’re not. We’ve got set calendars and commitments.
United Airlines Customer Service
We had not called United Airlines to pose the what-if question. Buying non-refundable tickets equates to not getting a refund. We always buy non-refundable because we save a lot of money, but, it can be a gamble. It’s never before been a problem though and hopefully, it won’t be in the future.
With the days ticking by we decided what the hell, let’s make a phone call. We contacted United Airlines and posed the question. Even though we have non-refundable tickets, can we get a refund due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, as it is in the regions we plan to travel?
The answer was, yes. We didn’t skip a beat. Customer service issued a full refund. United has always been our go-to airline for flying across the pond. The customer service we received in this situation sealed the deal for us. It will always be our go-to airline from here forward.
It Doesn’t Matter
Are we disappointed? Of course we are, for several reasons. In the big picture though, it doesn’t matter a damn that our apartment sold or that it may impact our expat experiment.
It doesn’t matter a damn that we won’t travel by train through Portugal, Spain and France. Yes, it would have been a grand adventure, but everything we cancelled, can be booked again in the future.
It’s possible, had we made the trip, that everything would have been fine. We’ll never know. But what matters most is trusting our instincts, paying attention and making the best decisions that work for us, and our loved ones. More than anything, staying healthy and staying safe takes precedence. The rest will fall in to place as it’s supposed to.
Great article. I have enjoyed reading your posts ezpecially this one since we have canceled several travel plans this year as well due to the on-going pandemic. Hope and pray that a cure can be found soon so we can coninue to travel and see the world.
Please say ‘hi’ to Abi for me. I used to worked with him in San Jose. Both of you you look great!
Thank you, Primo, for the kind feedback. Hopefully, we can all pick up our travel plans in 2021. Abi says hello and sends his best regards to you.
And now so many weeks later, you know for sure that you guys made the most EXCELLENT decision. You trusted your gut and boy what a smart gut! We are so fortunate that we have a beautiful base in Leon. I can’t image how it feels to be stranded in a hotel or worse on a cruise looking for a place to dock. Such a surreal time we are living right now. I sometimes feel like we are in a bad movie with no end in sight. I know that this time will pass but I just can’t imagine it right now. Stay safe always Patti and Abi <3.
spanky recently posted…The coronavirus in Spain: How we’re dealing with it
I’ve been using the same word, Lissette, surreal. It’s all surreal. Just before we cancelled our trip we read the story about 1,000 hotel guests in a lock down situation, because 1 man tested positive. We looked at each and said, “Oh hell no!” So glad you landed in a good place in Leon with a kind host.
As you said Patti, timing is everything and it is unfortunate that so many people around the world must be caught up in the same limbo, cancelling plans, staying in place and crossing their fingers that they and their loved ones remain healthy. It’s frightening to think of the many hot zones worldwide and realize that this epidemic/pandemic has really only started. And my heart goes out to those who have lost family and friends so far and are living in fear wondering if they’ll be next. I think keeping close to home right now is a good decision. Let me know when you have another trip planned for Portugal and we’ll get together!
It wasn’t an easy decision to cancel everything, but we have zero regrets. It was the right thing to do at the right time. It was our plan to reach out to you once we landed in PT, we were hoping we’d be able to connect in Lisbon. Next time!
I had a bit of the Bola de Berlin but I found it too sweet. I did eat s lot of chocolate eclairs, though.
You were very lucky to be reimbursed from your airline, my daughter just had a trip to Madrid cancelled. The trip was through her college, but we bought the airfare ourselves through Lufthansa and they will neither refund nor transfer the trip.
Oh, that’s so unfortunate about Lufthansa and somewhat surprising. Perhaps if you try again since Madrid does have confirmed cases. Good luck and safe travels!
It’s great to hear that you got a full refund on your flights, that’s awesome. I can totally see why you’d cancel the trip, it’s all very uncertain and you’ve got to do what’s comfortable for you. We’re still scheduled to fly to Pisa in five weeks and are monitoring the Coronavirus situation. At the moment, the UK government are just advising against visiting the quarantined towns, which we can avoid but we’re definitely keeping our plans flexible and not booking any campsites yet – we’ll see what happens and are prepared to cancel if we have to. Sad news about the Porto apartment too, it really was a beauty.
Thanks, Amy. I’m wondering… if the RV trip could be made several months from now, given the breakout of the virus. It will be interesting to see how the RV company handles the situation.
Yes, very sad news about our apartment, I’m really glad you got to visit us there!
I just read your post and I totally understand your position, but at the same time I read it I was on a train returning from Viana do Costelo to Porto, where we’ve been staying for the last 8 days. My heart knows your loss but, but as it will be again for us, Porto will still be there for you when you are ready. We are coming back to the states on Sunday and I am already missing it.
Thanks, Katie. We loved our visit to Viana do Costelo. Amazing views from the top of the hill. Did you sample the Portuguese doughnuts? Bola de Berlim? They’re to die for and Viana is well-known for the doughnuts. We ate so many it was embarrassing. Totally understand how you’re feeling, we always have to drag ourselves away from Porto. Safe travels home!
Patti, I am so sorry your lovely apartment in Porto has new owners. But there are other lovely apartments in that city waiting your next visit. I hope it won’t affect your residency. I am glad you got your flights refunded. We are still in Vietnam and tourism here has definitely declined, particularly since the Chinese have cancelled their travels. We made a decision to keep going, but I think we might have to change our Spring plans of touring Italy with our RV. Fingers crossed they find a Corona virus vaccine very soon. Thank you for a great post.
Thanks, Gilda. We are sad to lose the apartment, but life goes on and it was a wonderful chapter for us. If we had already been in Europe when the virus headlines broke, we probably would have kept going. But, knowingly stepping in to a situation takes on a whole different perspective. Will see how it all plays out. Continued safe travels!
That’s a great post from Patti.
In fact, Coronavirus is on the headlines all over Europe, and it’s understandable the decision to postponed the trip to Portugal.
We hope that Coronavirus will go away as soon as as possible, and that you continue this wonderful life of going around the world.
Thank you so much, Gustavo, for the positive feedback. If we had just planned to travel to Portugal, we may have gone forward with the trip, but because we were going to travel throughout Portugal, Spain and France, it was the best decision to postpone. When we do reschedule our trip, we will definitely book your apartment. And, we look forward to meeting you!
You can file this comment under “and you think YOU’VE got problems”
They say “Man plans, God laughs”. Here’s our adjustments as of tonight. We are leaving in 2 days for 4 months. The trip included about 4 weeks in Tibet, parts of China we hadn’t visited before and Hong Kong. It also includes around 30 flights and countless hotel/hostel, airbnb and some day tour reservations. It starts in Sri Lanka and ends in Japan. Obviously we cancelled the China portions but not every airline is as good as United – 6 flights, so far 3 refunded and 3 in doubt. And the hostel in Hong Kong wouldn’t refund because we booked non-refundable which we almost never do. But where to go for a month where we haven’t been. Saudi Arabia just opened up and we haven’t been to Kuwait or Lebanon and we love Oman. Who cares it’s going west and then east again. So after Bhutan for a week on April 1 (if they’re still letting people in) it’s on to Oman. Needless to say the past few weeks have been busy. And did I mention I’m one of those “at risk” people for the virus.
I’m smiling as I write this and all i can think of is the Paul Simon song “Still crazy after all these years”. Be safe, best wishes and thanks for giving me a break from picking sights to see in Kuwait City.
Holy Moly! 30 flights! Your story takes ours. It’s unfortunate you have to make so many changes to your planned itinerary. Sometimes I think in these type of situations in which we find ourselves, qualify as “good” problems to have. A pain in the arse, to deal with it, but aren’t we fortunate to be able to take on such adventures to see the world? Your trip sounds amazing and I look forward to following. Safe travels!
I think you guys did the right thing and thank goodness your airline cooperated. My daughter is traveling to France in July and I am somewhat worried, but hopeful that the virus will be contained by then. If not, it is good to know that the airlines are being responsible and cooperative.
Thanks, Suzanne, we feel good about the decisions we made. Hopefully, by July your daughter will be able to travel safely to France. We hope to reschedule our trip in the fall. I think the unknown makes it difficult for everyone. Safe travels!
This is a really great post. You folks made great decisions.
I would venture to say if and when this virus is all over, that airlines and cruise lines will add any outbreak of a virus will not be covered to refund your purchase. Shamefully!
John and Susan Pazera recently posted…A Visit to a Colombian Flower Finca
Thanks for the positive feed, John and Susan. 48 hours later we feel solid in our decisions, no regrets. I hope the airlines and cruise lines will continue to do the right thing in these situations. Even more so, the world will not have to face future pandemics. Safe travels!
There are many new adventures ahead for us! I look forward to exciting post as you shall be traveling again before you know it.
Indeed we do, Cynthia!