Google memories reminded me that five years ago, April 2015, we were just finding our stride as we started walking what would be 350 miles on the Camino de Santiago across Spain. One year ago, April 2019, we set out to walk 145 miles of the Camino Portuguese. Taking on a long walk is a journey in which one can easily lose track of time and days. It becomes your life, all consuming. Now, here we are, April 2020, living by far the most surreal existence to date. I call it, life in a pandemic bubble. I can’t define it any other way. It too, is all consuming.
Let me just say right up front that I fully realize how fortunate we are, as we navigate our way through the pandemic bubble. We have a home and we have food in the pantry. And, knock on wood, we are healthy.
Pandemic Bubble Day 36
Today, is our 36th day of living in our stay-at-home pandemic bubble. It’s as if the rest of the world has ceased to exist, because we just don’t see it. We take long walks so we pass a few people here and there, and we see cars on the streets, but beyond that we don’t see much in real time.
We have our groceries delivered. We’ve cancelled all of our doctor and dentist appointments. Literally, we have not stepped foot into a public or private building for 36 days.
Question. How does one write a travel blog when travel is the last thing people are thinking about? One doesn’t. At least, I don’t. I’ve written a few pieces over the past couple of months, but not much, and they weren’t necessarily travel focused. I can’t bring myself to pontificate about the virtues of travel when millions of people are struggling on so many levels. It would seemingly be tone deaf to do so.
Missing the Process
I do, however, also write about redefining retirement and all that navigating retirement entails. From time-to-time I write about lifestyles and foodies, and every once in a while I get up on my soap box and share a few politically oriented thoughts. Right now, I’m missing the writing process. I feel as if I have a lot to write about, but haven’t yet been to able to pull my thoughts together in a way that would be appropriate for our site. This is my attempt to do so.
Taxation Without Representation
We live in the state of Maryland, near Washington, DC. The state of Virginia, along with Maryland and DC encompass what is known as the DMV; the metropolitan area centered around Washington, DC. I was just about to write the three states have been working together as the governors lead us through the pandemic, but Washington, DC is not a state. Without statehood, the 700,000+ residents of DC have no representation in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. DC license plates are actually embedded with the phrase, “Taxation Without Representation.” But, that’s a story for another day.
A Blue State
As such, we have two governors and one mayor working as a team to contain the virus and minimize the number of cases. The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, is a Republican in an essentially blue state. While I don’t agree with some of his political philosophies, I will give him credit for the way in which he has handled this health crisis. Governor Hogan is the current chair of the National Governor’s Association and he has not been afraid to hold his own when dealing with the White House.
Stay at Home
In Maryland, we are currently on mandated stay-at-home. As I mentioned we’re on day 36. All non-essential businesses are closed, although many restaurants are able to offer curbside pick up and/or delivery. Anyone who goes to the grocery store, or the gas station, or picks up a prepared food order, etc., must wear a mask, as do all workers in essential businesses.
I have spent the past weeks thinking long and hard trying to come up with another time in my life when I found the world so completely out of whack. Maybe 9/11?
Here in the US, not only are we dealing with a roller coaster of emotions while trying to keep our heads above the fray and staying healthy; we are also dealing with the politicalization of the pandemic. And, of course, the upcoming election in November. It’s a double whammy.
The Divided States
We watch, listen and/or read the daily news and quite often find ourselves heartsick. Millions of people are in such need. Sadly, the country is divided like it’s never been before, at least not that I can remember. People are angry, frustrated and seemingly feel helpless, no matter which side of the political aisle they favor.
The constant barrage of headlines, briefings, ugly tirades, and tweets is suffocating. Governors, on both sides of the aisle, are forming coalitions and bypassing the White House to do what’s needed for their states. Other governors chose not to implement any stay-at-home mandates and well-orchestrated (in part by the Michigan Conservative Council) protests against said mandates are now popping up, especially in states with Democrat governors.
The nation has become the Divided States, far from being United in anything. It’s heartbreaking.
Impact on Travel
It’s hard to know how this will all pan out. Over time the virus will pass and life will resume to some level of normalcy, but it will be a long slow process. We all know, the travel and hospitality industries have taken the brunt of the pandemic, world-wide.
No one can say with any certainty when or if borders will open, when flights will take off or when ships will set sail. All of that needs to take place before hotels can open their doors and the food and beverage industry can start serving again.
Will European nations even open their borders? President Macron is already warning it may not happen until the fall. Summer travel plans may remain just that… plans. And, you know what they say about making plans, right?
The border between Canada and the US will remain closed to non-essential travel for another 30 days. I’m willing to bet it will go beyond 30 days.
As European nations, and other countries around the world, begin to open their borders, will they open them to US citizens? After all, the US is behind the game in terms of a recovery time frame and developing a vaccine.
There is another side to the debate as well… will the world embrace travel to the US? The country isn’t exactly looking pretty in the eyes of the world. Only time will tell.
Look for the Silver Lining
If there is a silver lining to this horrid pandemic, it would be the positive impact it’s had on the environment. Air pollution levels are dropping. The Himalayas are visible in Northern India, and the water in the Venice canals is clear.
Of course we all want to resume our travels. But now that we know the impact of being still has on the environment, at what price do we pack our bags? Hopefully, responsible tourism will prevail as we find our way back to taking off once again. After all of this, I think we’re going to need to take another long walk. I have my eye on The Dingle Way Trail in Ireland.
How about you? Where do you want to go when you’re able to do so?
Life in a Pandemic Bubble
From where we sit, we don’t believe life will ever again be the same. This can be a good thing, or it can be a not so good thing. It depends on the individual perspective.
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Deepak Chopra
As a couple we will continue to stay-at-home for a minimum of another 30 – 45 days. We’re listening to the doctors, nurses, and scientists. We haven’t worked this hard to stay healthy, and to keep our family healthy, to just throw in the towel at this point. While we can understand the push to get back to work and reopen the country, it will be disheartening should the virus peek again as boundaries are pushed too soon.
As for the upcoming election… I feel pretty confident in predicting it’s going to get a whole lot of ugly before it gets better, no matter which side of the political aisle one favors. Buckle up!
Since I have a tendency to drown myself in online news and reading online (reputable) newspapers, I have to say the positive effect of the world shutting down on the environment has been nothing short of awesome. I feel so damn fortunate to have a home as well as good health and financial security. Likewise, I am also grateful that my friends and family have been spared most of the economic fallout and continue to remain healthy although its devastating to read about the hundreds of thousands who have not been so fortunate. I think the uncertainty of these times, both politically and health-wise will be the way I remember this pandemic as well as the inability to make plans to visit with loved ones (I miss my son and grand in Denver) or continue with travel plans. This week, Portugal began implementing the first step in a phased approach to reopen the economy but, like you and Abi, I feel no great need to expose myself to health risks at this point. Be well my friends!
From what I’ve read it seems Portugal handled the situation pretty well. Very glad to hear you’re healthy and doing well. You’re in the ideal place to stay at home. And, yes, very pleased for the environment but sad that so many will just resume the bad habits. Greta is right, we can all make a difference.
Fascinating times for sure. Enjoyed this thoughtful perspective on it all. Honestly the U.S. gets more “banana republic” like each day and it really does feel like we are watching some kind of very bad Science fiction movie. We just have to hope that the election is not cancelled or compromised in some way or another and that people get out in droves to vote for change. We can hope. We can only hope.
Totally agree that the silver lining here has been the environment and wildlife which is actually getting a chance to thrive and heal. I will add to your list:
Pink flamingoes are flooding back to Mumbai India and the city has been dubbed “the pink city” there are so many birds that have come to roost undisturbed. Quite a sight if you google it. Mountain lions in Israel have come down into the coastal cities, lions in game parks in South Africa are walking freely everywhere without the constant hounding of cars following them everywhere. Yes, for once, the environment is a winner.
Wow! Thanks for the tip, that is a lot of pink flamingos! I have seen other photos of monkeys and lions taking back the streets. It’s quite a site to see and certainly drives home the point of protecting the environment. Take a walk on your secluded beach for me.
As for the election, I would imagine it has already been comprised in many ways. Sadly. Frustratingly so.
Another great post. I’ve enjoyed your “non-travel” posts. I think it’s great to hear how other people are getting through their day,handle challenges etc…It makes me feel a little less “lost in Space”. Frank and I wake up and tune in to US,Canada and Spanish news. It hurts my heart to hear and read about the great divide in the USA. After 911, I felt Americans come together in a way that made me proud (though a friend told me about TP shortages). Now, I’d feel like a stranger in a strange land if I were to ever return. I’d like to think that people will learn lessons and remember but I’m not going to hold my breath. I see how quickly people are forgetting or revising events even as they are unfolding in real time. Staying at home has been hard but I know it won’t be forever and it will not break us. But I think we are both looking forward to some solo travel in the very near future :).
Stay safe and keep on walking!
spanky recently posted…The coronavirus in Spain: lockdown Diaries Day 32
Thank you for the feedback, Lissette. You and Frank have definitely had your share of together time! 🙂 Depending on which day you ask me (today is not the best day) I am either cautiously optimistic or depressed with little hope. I keep thinking (hoping) that this virus came for a reason and the loss of life will not be in vain, that it will bring about much needed change. There has always been a divide in this country but with the 2016 election, it became cavernous and those that follow the “president” will defend him to the death, literally. I’m not sure there’s ever been an upcoming election with so much riding on it, then what we’re facing in seven months from now. Take care!
Some of the strangest times that most of us have lived. I hope many lessons are learned, and remembered. Be well.
Gaelyn recently posted…Feels like Summer coming to the desert
To date, this country seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of history, but I’m hoping calmer heads will prevail and a new administration will soon retake the reigns of leadership.
Thank you for such an interesting read. I appreciated the map, showing the area where you live. It’s so sad to read about the division occurring in the States. The pandemic is hard enough! I love the Deepak Chopra quote, as it’s a reminder that all the chaos will not be for nothing – hopefully. In regard to your wondering about how the current chaos within the States will impact travellers choice to visit? I don’t really know? Perhaps travellers will not worry at all? But recently a daughter commented that the US brand has been badly harmed by all the … I will call it chaos. Yet I guess it’s going to continue to be a bumpy road in the short term. Sending best wishes & yes buckle up.
Thank you for the feedback, Estelle. I too hope Chopra’s quote will come to fruition and out of the nightmare (virus and political) peace will once again settle over the country. But, we have seen/experienced things in the last 3 years that I would never have imagined I’d see in the US. I always knew there was corruption, racism, etc., but I was naive to the depth of just how bad it was. So, if there is a silver lining in this administration it will be that hopefully, millions in this country will wake up and take a stand. As for the virus, I hope lives lost will not have been in vain.
Great post. It is absolutely beyond comprehension of what is happening in the United States. So glad to be ex-pats here in Medellin, Colombia. You can read about our quarantined experiences on our blog.
Stay safe and sane!
John and Susan
John and Susan Pazera recently posted…Colombia Expats in a COVID-19 World: Log Entry 5
Thanks for the feedback, John and Susan. It is beyond comprehension, I completely agree and every day when we think nothing more could happen, BAM! here comes another tweet, or briefing or whatever. It’s a stressful way to live so we “try” to focus on other aspects of our little stay-at-home lives. I have been following your expat life in Medellin. Stay safe and take care…
Patti, having travel plans to look forward to has always been a big part of our retirement lifestyle. I know we will still travel, but getting on a plane or cruise ship will take some time. The only thing I see in the immediate future is a big black hole for both travel and the political situation. It takes a lot for people to get to the point of electing a TV Reality show star and it will take a lot more to make a full 360 toward responsible leadership. We are not there yet. Eliminating cable news networks and holding journalists accountable to sharing facts only news is a place to start. Too many people are willing to follow the herd mentality these days.
Thank you, Suzanne, for your perspective. I believe CNN, NPR and a few others are starting to cut away from the live coverage when the “president” goes off topic. If they do it would save me a lot of yelling at the television. 😉 I think your analogy of a black hole is spot on. What’s frustrating is that we’re all caught in the swirl of the black hole. Take care…
My sisters and I were headed for Ireland to celebrate our significant birthdays this year: my 70th, my baby sister’s 60th, and my middle sister’s 65th! We were gathering at my house for my daughter’s wedding in June, and leaving from there for a week together in Ireland. Everything is on hold now, of course, but we will go eventually – once it is safe.
Wow, Cindy, that does sound like an amazing journey for you and your sisters! Hopefully, you’ll be able to rebook sooner than later and hopefully, your daughter’s wedding will take place in June. Take care…