Travel in the time of Coronavirus

Travel Journal #15

What should you do? As travel bloggers, we feel that it is important to recommend that anyone who is considering traveling right now, should not. If you are home, stay home. Things are changing day by day and no one can be certain what will happen next. Please stay up to date with official releases from local government sources or the World Health Organization. Misinformation and fear are two of the worst things that can spread as quickly as the virus itself.

These are strange times indeed. Even as i’m writing this, it feels like “just another coronavirus post”. How we feel about this is not important right now. Listen to the doctors and the nurses that are pleading with you to stay home. This post will be outdated the moment we hit publish, so we can’t stress enough that you should stay up to date with official travel notices and recommendations. A week ago we would have suggested “don’t travel”, while today we would suggest that you “don’t leave the house”.

Things have changed quickly, and it appears the best option is to just stay home, wherever that home is. If you are like us living abroad (or currently traveling somewhere) consider going home immediately, or at least find a place where you can isolate yourself for several weeks. Stock up on food and medicine and avoid leaving the house unless it is an emergency. This has effected everyone in one way or another and we are no different. Right now, we all have to work together to prevent the spread. When it’s all over, we will work together to rebuild.

“Don’t panic.”

– Douglas Adams, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Information instead of fear

Everyone should try to listen to the recommendations of experts and not their cousin’s best friend on Facebook who knows a nurse. Don’t trust every meme you see on Reddit. Check your sources before you decide to hit share. Please stay informed.

There are many new updates being released daily, so we’re not going to try to keep this website up to date. We’re not doctors, so please read what the experts have to say.

  • Health Canada – The official website of Health Canada has many resources to help be prepared and stay informed.
  • Center for Disease Control – The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is US Federal Agency responsible for public health in the United States.
  • Government of Mexico – The official website of the Mexican Government health department, with the country’s official information regarding COVID-19.

Travel in the time of COVID-19

We are both back in Mexico right now and are planning to spend the next few weeks or months waiting out the worst of this incoming storm. We’ve already self-isolated. Norma is a Mexican citizen and I (Rob) am from Canada, so our situation is a little bit trickier than others. It has been a crazy few weeks as this was all unfolding. It’s amazing how much things have changed in 2 short weeks.

I was supposed to be visiting friends in New York right now, and was planning to be flying either today or tomorrow. Needless to say, this trip was cancelled 2 weeks ago, around the same time that the NBA and NHL seasons were being suspended. This all feels like a lifetime ago.

Don’t mess with Texas.

I was in Houston a week ago on a trip that we could be justified as “necessary” and things were changing every day. Traveling had quickly become quite eerie, but for the most part, it was still business as usual at the airports and bus stations. There was a shared sense that something just wasn’t right.

On Sunday I was beginning to count down the hours until my flight back to Cancun. On Monday, Canada announced that they would be closing the borders on Wednesday to all non-residents. The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had urged all Canadians to come home, as the country will soon be closed. I was heading in the “wrong direction”.

The next day (Tuesday) I arrived in Mexico at Cancun International Airport just before noon. I had traveled from Texas on a flight that was maybe 60% full. It is spring break right now, so there are still many people traveling to Mexico from north of the border. I couldn’t imagine going on vacation as if nothing was happening.

Tuesday Morning in Houston, Texas.

We touched down on the Yucatan Peninsula. On the walkway between the gates and the customs offices there was an official with a camera that scanned the body temperature of everyone arriving at the airport. It was some sort of thermal imaging device. The lines were short and we breezed through customs.

I washed my hands several times while at the airport. There was hand sanitizer everywhere. While waiting for the bus to Playa del Carmen, I used one of the lysol cloths to wipe my hands and phone, anything that I had maybe touched. During this crisis I have realized how often I touch my face or adjust my glasses.

The bus took just over an hour from the airport to PDC. I was very aware of where my hands were at all times. I already had a ticket for the ferry so I waited outside the terminal, subconsciously keeping 3 meters away from anyone. The fear of getting sick spreads as fast as the virus itself. I took a deep breath and tried to just relax. We have decided that we will not let fear control us, and we’re taking every precaution to stay sane and safe.

I’m not worried, you’re worried… Waiting for the ferry, keeping 3 meters away from all strangers.

Cozumel

I was on the next available ferry back to the island. The ferries last week were still running every hour. As of today, there are 4 daily sailings each way, two in the morning and two in the evening. Each minute of the 34 minute journey across to the island was observed. I tried to sleep but it was a bumpy ride. I felt reassured that while getting on and off the ferry, the staff of Ultramar were offering travelers hand sanitizer. Instead of taking a taxi, I decided to walk, a 22 minute journey back to my front door. It felt like the island was taking this a little bit seriously. The streets were quiet, especially for the middle of the day.

Walking along the waterfront, I looked back towards the port, where the last cruise ship was waiting for its passengers to finish their excursions. The ship was on the last stop of a 14 day trip through the Caribbean. I made it back to the island with a feeling that this will be the last time either of us travel for the foreseeable future. We won’t be booking flights and we will avoid traveling on and off the island if possible. Cozumel is our home and we have decided to stay here for the remainder of the coronavirus outbreak, despite the recommendation that as a Canadian, I should come home.

Norma and I have lived together for the last three years. I no longer have a “home” in Canada, and would instead be staying with my parents, who are both close to 70. The risk to them is much more than the risk to me here. Norma’s family lives on the other side of Mexico, so the two of us will just have to get to know each other a little bit better in close quarters.

The last cruise ship at the Port of Cozumel. Tuesday, March 17.

Coronavirus in Mexico

While Mexico is still in a period where the the confirmed cases are still very low. People are expecting outbreaks of COVID-19 to begin increasing soon. The virus has already arrived in the country, but the spread has been seemingly contained so far, but no one is safe. It is not an “if” but “when”.

This is why we’ve chosen to not undertake any travel (even if that includes the safety of Canada) as we will likely just self-isolate here on the island before it arrives in full force. The limits of North America are about to be tested, and each of the countries will have to come up with a unique plan to combat the spread as it happens. The two of us have formulated our own plan, and will give ourselves the option of self-isolation and quarantine. The island has remained calm thus far. We have a beautiful garden and a dog named Maya that loves attention, so we will be fine here.

Never stop dreaming of their next trip, as travel will always be there. Just not right now. These next few months probably won’t be the best time to turn that plan into a reality. Please stay home and isolate. Don’t be a part of the spreading problem. Things will go back to normal soon and we can all go on that dream vacation soon.

South East Asia in 2021 anyone?

At some point, while in self-isolation (probably this week, as we run out of things to do around the house), we will begin sharing travel stories once again. For the past few days, we’ve been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We’re staying put. We think you should do the same.

Stay safe everyone.

– Norma and Rob (Travel Around the Galaxy)

Vancouver International Airport.

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