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Life and travel in the time of Covid-19

On the move at the time of the pandemic.

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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.

Believing that everyone's perspective is important, Zest Magazine has opted to provide an avenue for these perspectives to be known. care to hear the publication's contributing writers; or better yet, do some contributing yourself by contacting info@zestmag.com.

Destinations

Singapore Cable Car launches world’s first Skyorb Cabins

Exclusively designed for the Singapore Cable Car, the SkyOrb Cabin is the world’s first chrome-finished spherical cable car cabin. Unlike conventional cabins, the spherical design of the SkyOrb Cabins breaks the boundaries of traditional cable car aesthetics, offering a futuristic and captivating look.

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Mount Faber Leisure Group officially launched the new futuristic SkyOrb Cabins on the Singapore Cable Car – Mount Faber Line. The launch of the SkyOrb Cabins took place at Mount Faber Peak, as part of the Singapore Cable Car’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The event was attended by Bob Tan, Chairman of Sentosa Development Corporation and Thien Kwee Eng, Chief Executive Officer of Sentosa Development Corporation, as well as Michael Syn, Chairman of Mount Faber Leisure Group and Buhdy Bok, Managing Director of Mount Faber Leisure Group.

SkyOrb Cabins – A cabin like no other in the world

Exclusively designed for the Singapore Cable Car, the SkyOrb Cabin is the world’s first chrome-finished spherical cable car cabin. Unlike conventional cabins, the spherical design of the SkyOrb Cabins breaks the boundaries of traditional cable car aesthetics, offering a futuristic and captivating look.

The SkyOrb cabin boasts a spectacular view through its glass-bottomed floor

Fitted with glass-bottomed floors to allow guests to view the scenery below their feet, the new cabins offer guests an elevated journey with a stunning panoramic view of the skyline. As night falls, a captivating ring of lights surrounds the cabin windows, casting an illuminating glow that imparts a distinctly futuristic ambience. 

The SkyOrb Cabins have been thoughtfully designed with double window louvres at the front and triple window louvres at the rear, providing enhanced air ventilation for guests on board. To offer an exclusive experience, only seven SkyOrb Cabins will join the existing fleet, enriching the vibrancy of the Sentosa skyline. 

SkyOrb Cabin on the Mount Faber Line

“Each SkyOrb cabin, a gleaming chrome orb soaring through the sky, embodies modern design. These cabins offer guests a one-of-a-kind experience, taking them on a discovery between Mount Faber Peak and Sentosa, unveiling breathtaking views along the way,” said Mr Buhdy Bok, Managing Director of Mount Faber Leisure Group.

Collaboratively designed between Mount Faber Leisure Group and renowned cable car cabin manufacturer CWA, the SkyOrb Cabins showcase product innovation and commitment to creating new unique experiences for guests. Based in Olten, Switzerland, CWA has enjoyed a long partnership with Mount Faber Leisure Group since the first generation of the Singapore Cable Car cabins was launched in 1974.

The SkyOrb Cabins will be open for guests to experience from 20 March 2024 and tickets will be available for sale at the Singapore Cable Car Mount Faber and Sentosa Station ticketing counters from the same day. Mount Faber Line and Cable Car Sky Pass ticket holders have the privilege of upgrading one-way of their round trip (between Mount Faber and Sentosa Cable Car Stations) to a SkyOrb Cabin experience. This upgrade costs $15 per person on weekdays, and $20 per person on weekends and Public Holidays.

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Destinations

Japan ranks as top leisure travel destination for Filipino travellers: Visa study

According to the data, 24% of surveyed Filipino respondents have traveled overseas for leisure or business purposes in the past year. This trend aligns with a broader travel resurgence across Asia Pacific, with 37% of those surveyed reporting overseas travels within the same period.

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Visa, a global player in digital payments, has published its most recent Green Shoots Radar study[1]. This quarterly report analyzes consumer sentiments across various sectors, such as financial services, commerce, and travel.

The study reveals a surge in travel frequency among Filipino travelers. According to the data, 24% of surveyed Filipino respondents have traveled overseas for leisure or business purposes in the past year. This trend aligns with a broader travel resurgence across Asia Pacific, with 37% of those surveyed reporting overseas travels within the same period.

Japan emerged as the top leisure destination for Filipino travelers, with 32% visiting in the past year. Singapore (22%) followed by Hong Kong (21%) and Thailand (18%) were the next most popular destinations. For business trips, Singapore led the list with 25%, followed by Japan (23%), and the United States tied with Hong Kong at 18%.

Filipino travelers prefer to book flight tickets directly from the provider’s website (44%). Among those respondents who booked their accommodations through Online Travel Agencies and paid the full amount upon booking, using credit cards is the most popular payment mode (41%), followed by mobile/e-wallets (28%).

Jeff Navarro, Country Manager for Visa Philippines, said, “As cross-border travel gains momentum in the Philippines and the region, we have a significant opportunity to maintain visibility throughout travelers’ journeys. This involves being present during destination searches and bookings, using Visa cards on travel apps for smoother transactions, and engaging consumers with authentic travel and shopping content to create a secure and seamless digital payments experience for everyone, everywhere.”

The future of travel remains promising, with 65% of Filipino respondents planning overseas leisure travel in the next 12 months. The top three leisure destinations intended in the next 12 months are Japan (38%), followed by South Korea (29%) and Singapore (16%). For business travel, Japan (19%), Canada (13%), and South Korea (12%) are the most likely destinations.

According to Visa’s Global Travel Intentions 2023 study[2], majority (89%) of Filipino travelers used credit (44%) and debit (39%) cards when travelling, for the benefits of cards’ wide acceptance (56%), accepted at ATMs (49%), and ability to be used both online and within apps (43%).

Visa’s most recent Consumer Payment Attitudes 2023 study[3] data also reflect cards as the preferred mode of payment when travelling, where 25% of surveyed Filipinos use credit or debit cards online and 21% use via swipe or insert when traveling overseas.


[1] The Green Shoots Radar survey was conducted online in 14 markets covering more than 8,000 respondents, including 500 consumers in the Philippines in January 2024, towards male and female respondents aged 18-65 with a minimum household income of PHP 12,000.

[2] The Global Travel Intentions Study is the largest and longest running global consumer insights program from Visa, which surveys travelers across continents on their travel journey and payment behavior. The study was conducted across April-June 2023 to more than 1,000 Filipino respondents.

[3] The Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study was conducted in Oct-Nov 2023 via online interviews with 1.000 Filipino consumers across the country with a demographic mix of ages (18-65), genders and income levels.

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Travel

Tips to prep your motorcycle for safe road trips

Here are key steps to ensure your motorcycle is in top condition and ready for a safe and enjoyable riding season.

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With longer days and sunny weather, the open road beckons to two-wheel owners.  Preparing a motorcycle after it’s been in storage involves several key steps to ensure it’s ready for the road after the winter months. CTEK, the global player in vehicle charging solutions, provides recommendations for riders to prep their vehicles for peak performance and peace of mind on the open road.

“Life on two wheels epitomizes freedom and exhilaration, but unforeseen challenges can arise at any turn,” shared Bobbie DuMelle, President of CTEK North America. ‘With proper preparation, riders can bid farewell to battery woes and enjoy their ride.”

CTEK recommends some key steps to ensure your motorcycle is in top condition and ready for a safe and enjoyable riding season:

Vehicle Inspection

Give the entire motorcycle a thorough visual inspection, checking for any loose bolts, leaks, or damage. Pay attention to areas such as the frame, exhaust system, and bodywork. Do a thorough inspection of your motorcycle including fluids, tires, brakes, lights and electrics, chain and sprockets, fuel system, air filter and suspension.

Battery Test

Ensure the battery terminals are clean and free of corrosion. Charge the battery if it’s been sitting idle. CTEK recommends using the CTEK CS FREE, which features Adaptive Boost technology to ensure precise delivery of power and swiftly charge any 12V lead acid or lithium battery, resurrecting a dormant motorcycle battery within 15 minutes without the need for a power outlet. With intuitive LED indicators, the CS FREE keeps riders informed, signaling when their battery is primed for ignition. Moreover, it offers sustained maintenance charging, whether via conventional grid power, solar panels, or a 12V service battery, effectively extending battery lifespan by up to threefold during idle seasons.

Maintenance Tasks

If the motorcycle has been sitting for an extended period, drain and replace the fuel. Check fuel lines and filters for any signs of damage. Clean and lubricate the chain, and check for proper tension. Inspect sprockets for wear and replace if necessary. Inspect and clean or replace the air filter to ensure optimal engine performance. Check suspension components for any signs of wear or leaks. Inspect fork seals and adjust suspension settings as needed. Test the throttle, clutch, and brakes to ensure they are functioning smoothly. Lubricate cables if necessary.

Test Ride

After completing all maintenance tasks, take the motorcycle for a short test ride to ensure everything is functioning properly. When you’re on the road, take your CTEK CS FREE with you. With a built-in rechargeable battery fueled by rapid USB-C input, the CS FREE retains its charge for up to a year, rendering it a steadfast companion for on-the-go storage. Equipped with versatile USB-A and USB-C ports, it ensures seamless connectivity for charging smartphones, PCs, tablets, cameras, and an array of devices, ensuring uninterrupted adventures.

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