By Carol Esguerra Colborn
When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, my husband and I cut short our annual three-month, all-inclusive vacation at a resort in Mazatlan, Mexico. When we left, the statistics were pretty grim and the US had become the new epicenter (still remains as such). But home is the best place to do self-isolation, not on a cruise ship out at sea or a hotel room in a foreign country.
Our Extended Time at Home
There were a few things we have learned to do to make our extended time at home a more meaningful pause. The new normal had begun to take shape. It includes things like online shopping, picking up groceries, cooking with substitute ingredients, exercising with videos, new levels of cleaning, watching movies on demand, and consulting with doctors through telehealth.
Zoom participation also exploded, fostering online activities that replaced physical interactions. We had kept engaged with family and friends while we were RVing for eight years around North America. It was no different during the time of Covid-19. Since most schools were closed, I thought it best to help with the kids. I conducted an hour-long session three times a week with my grandsons, aged four to six, and another once a week with those ages thirteen to fourteen. I was so happy that I got more engaged with my family, considering that my three daughters live in three different countries.
Upgrading my Zoom to “pro” to enable longer meetings—the free version is maxed at 40 minutes—I was even able to launch Zoom parties for residents of Viewpoint Golf Resort in Arizona where we live, playing online bingo and trivial pursuit. We did the same with meetings, parties, and fundraisers of our University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Arizona and America. Soon, our Christmas Party will feature Charades and a Silent Auction on Zoom, respectively. And then, as before, I found a project that made the time more productive. The last time, when my husband and I decided to stay apart for more than a month, my first book Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream was born. This time, during the Covid-19 lockdown, I was able to write my second travel book, Cruising Past Seventy. It’s Not Only about Outer Journeys. It’s Also about Inner Ones (I did not change the title to “Cruising with Coronavirus”). This is what I call a flagship project, big enough to consume one’s energy, to be fueled by one’s passion, and to be worthy of your time. I have found that finding a flagship project has been a great antidote to any over-arching problem I have encountered.
New Ways of Traveling
But, with a traveler’s soul, we had to find ways to continue encountering fresh places and ideas. As soon as the lockdown was lifted, we considered our car an extension of our home; it is a place we can keep as clean as we do our home. We created a short list of places where we could go, breathe good fresh air, and practice natural social distancing, like the state, regional, and national parks around us that were still open. When we didn’t see people on the trails, we got out of the car and walked a little. If not, we just continued driving. The operative principle was to distance ourselves from others, but not from nature. Taal Lake and Volcano, Hidden Valley Springs, Pagsanjan Falls, Pinatubo Crater, Lake Caliraya, and Villa Escudero around Manila come to mind.
In fact, when there was a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Arizona, we decided that we should actually go from our higher risk home to lower risk areas that accepted us. We went to three mountain retreats in Utah, Colorado, and California, and invited our children to meet with us there. Maybe Baguio does not meet the requirements for a mountain retreat because it is so crowded but maybe Hundred Islands or Subic Bay may qualify. But since the family members we met were not in our bubble—the people you live with and share daily activities with, like my husband and I are for each other—we developed certain rules to follow when we were with them. Those rules followed the principles of avoiding crowds, social distancing, preferring to be outdoors, frequent hand washing, and the wearing of masks.
In the process, we developed new rules for keeping safe visiting with loved ones during this time. For the foreseeable future, especially when we are still under the threat of viral diseases, we will follow these practices, especially numbers one to five. We still hope these rules can be relaxed later; but the sixth we hope we can do away with sooner, especially with loved ones.
1. Go to areas with lower incidences of Covid-19.
It is good that there are plenty of data to drill down to, even to zip codes. We have selected restaurants, groceries, mountain retreats, towns, counties, and states, this way.
2. Meet only in uncrowded open-air spaces.
Stick to patio seating for eating out, drive-in theaters for watching movies, outdoor services for worship, and hiking at off-the-beaten-path trails as a preferred activity.
3. Do not spend unreasonably long time with others.
CDC says more than fifteen minutes is too long. But, as long as we are socially distanced and masked, we have extended this to a maximum of two hours.
4. Do not ride with others in the same vehicle.
This makes us stick to our car as our preferred mode of travel. We are currently eliminating planes, ships, trains, and buses as options for travel.
5. Do not share rooms with people not in your bubbles
So we no longer stay in our children’s homes and no longer book multi-bedroom units but keep to separate units if we stay in the same hotel or resort. We also stick to our timeshares. As owners, we feel better taken care of. For example they keep twelve hours between check out and check in and do not send anyone, cleaners or technicians into the room during our entire stay.
6. Do not shake hands or hug.
When we cannot help it and want to express some warmth, we elbow-bump for a second.
We canceled our trips in April but resumed our travels in July. And we still intend to go to Mexico for our annual stay in January, if therapeutics and vaccines advance. Self-isolation helped flatten the curve for our community and the world when we had to do it.
Creative ideas helped us remain productive during our extended time at home. And with new rules, we have found a way to continue traveling and still be safe.