17 Mar 2020

Traveling Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak

I originally started writing this post while we were on the trip and am now posting it after our return back to the states.

Angel and I had booked our round trip flights to Phuket on Cyber Monday. We had scored a great deal and shortly after that, all of our accommodations fell into place. We picked early March for two reasons: it was out of season for Thailand and it was the start of my birthday month. What we didn’t anticipate was that the world would be impacted by the coronavirus and how that might derail our travel plans. For weeks, my parents, our friends and our colleagues continued to ask if we changed our minds. If not just asking about our thoughts around this, asking us to reconsider.

I nearly bailed on this trip a handful of times leading up to our departure date. The weight of concern from people that cared about us was heavy. The decision was split; half wanted us to cancel. The other half encouraged us to go forth and exercise caution. The night we left, my hometown in Seattle saw a spike in deaths. Thailand, on the other hand continued to grow steadily in the number of cases, but would go for days without any new recorded cases. When it comes to travel in the future, I won’t doubt how much can escalate in a week and a half.

To take precautionary measures, Angel and I had a mask for every leg of our flight including layovers. We wore the masks for the duration of the flight except for meals and walking through airports. Packed in our bags were a regular sized bottle of hand sanitizer and smaller ones for on-the-go. Every morning, we drank Emergen-C for breakfast before we left our rooms. While roaming the town, we left the masks behind and every Emergen-C was followed by a breakfast buffet (a standard there for the resorts.) You could say we were cautious, but not extreme. We mirrored the surroundings around us. Because it seemed like no one else was impacted at our hotels or on the streets, we took on the same behavior. Every day was business as usual.

Now halfway through our trip, Angel and I wake up every morning Googling “United States Coronavirus” or “San Francisco Coronavirus.” Pre-trip, it was “Thailand Coronavirus.” We’ve acknowledged that it feels like we escaped when things back home started to heighten. Already, our office has strongly encouraged all employees to work from home indefinitely. I’m told San Francisco is a ghost town and my biggest concern is if I have enough food at home when I return. Is there time for me to get what I need at the stores?

The fear I have returning home and not knowing what to expect is similar to the one I had before I left. The difference is everyone had an opinion on Thailand, but I don’t recall anyone having the same concerns about the United States until it was finally here.

Posted on March 17, in Life

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