It’s been quite a travel slog these past six weeks since I left the seductive White Mountain foothills of the island of Crete, Greece, where vineyards and olive trees grow and shepherds tend sheep and goats as their ancestors have done for ages.
I was house-sitting a lovely villa, caring for a friendly, mischievous young dog and his little kitten friend, during alternating periods of warm, Mediterranean sunshine and wintry cold rainstorms.
Now I write from another side of the world in the city of Merida, located in the perennially sunny, warm and dry Mexican state of Yucatan, where I’ve found welcome respite from the travails of travel in this nerve-jarring age of coronavirus.
I’ve managed so far to stay a step ahead of the worrisome COVID-19 and the quarantines imposed by nations spooked by the spreading the virus, while boarding a series of worrisome flights that started with a short jaunt to Athens from Crete on the final day of January.
I had set my plan to flee Europe and avoid the worst options in Asia while making my way back to North America, which set me on an exhausting path that took me in relatively short order from Athens to Singapore, then to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Culiacan (Mexico), San Diego, Honolulu, Hilo (Hawaii), then back to Honolulu, San Diego, Tijuana and, finally, Merida.
All told, I boarded 13 flights in 36 days, hauling my stuff, navigating airports and their endless security procedures, waiting out long layovers, and avoiding the countless coughers, sneezers and snifflers as best I could.
I prefer to go about my journeys at a slower, more relaxing pace, remaining on the ground if possible, but escaping the world’s viral epicenters put an after-burner on my backpack and nearly drained my energy supply.
Earlier on this blog (see the previous post) I recounted my aborted plan to visit a friend in Hong Kong, and my shortened trip to Singapore, after learning of the outbreaks in China that were beginning to spread across borders.
The mental strain of making flight reservations, canceling some, rebooking flights, and coordinating them with room reservations as conditions changed was not easy among airlines and hotels that were not ready to acknowledge and accommodate the realities of the situation. I made some mistakes, which I paid for, but I managed to stay healthy and on the move.
The USA, Central and South America seemed to be still relatively unscathed by the coronavirus crisis when I was making my plans. So in my mind these locations were calling me back to where my journey began three-and-a-half years ago, and I’d been wanting to visit my son and friends on the Big Island of Hawaii. With an accumulation of airline miles, this looked like my opportunity to make that trip and then head for Mexico and points south.
But would I be endangering others by continuing to travel, not staying put somewhere?
That's becoming an issue for those like me who live a nomadic life. While I was concerned that I could be infected in transit, there was also the possibility that I was indeed already infected but not yet showing symptoms, possibly passing on the latent virus to others along my way. That bothered me, too. But with a fresh supply of face masks and hand sanitizer, I ventured forth.
Now that I’m in Merida, I’m beyond the incubation period for any of my travels outside the U.S. and Mexico and I am well, thank you, so it’s unlikely I’ve left a trail of infection in my wake. But now what?
Nomads like me have no permanent home or residence to return to. Although I like to take my time traveling, the idea is to keep moving. But I’ve decided now that’s not going to happen. As officials in Mexico are ramping up their prevention measures, I’ve decided to extend my stay here in Merida and see how things shake out over the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, just this weekend the local government all but shut down this attractive and vibrant city in the wake of two reported cases.
Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) I was looking forward to a performance of the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra in Merida’s historic Contreras Theatre. I purchased the tickets, but on Saturday night learned that the concert was canceled and that tickets would be refunded beginning March 24.
I was planning to leave March 20, so I would have had to extend my stay here a few days anyway to get my money back. So I booked my room for another month here, and by then maybe travel won’t be so fraught with uncertainty as it is now.
I can’t say that I’m too disappointed about staying put here, though. The weather in Merida is near perfect and the people are as warm and inviting as the sunshine.
Then I walked around the city’s gorgeous historic center yesterday at the time when, just hours before, I thought I’d be enjoying the symphony.
Where just a day before the sidewalks brimmed with people and excitement, on Sunday only a handful of dumbstruck tourists milled around among shuttered museums and visitor attractions, while idle shopkeepers fanned themselves in the heat with a faraway look of shock in their eyes.
These, I'm afraid, are the days of coronavirus.
We may run, perhaps, but we cannot hide.
Quotes For A Good Life On The Road
“A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”
-- Albert Einstein
See my complete collection of "Quotes For The Road" by clicking "More" in the dropdown menu above.
Who Am I?
I'm a retired journalist from Hawaii who tired quickly of retirement and hit the road as a slow, solo world traveler in August 2016. I've spent time in 20 countries on four continents. Currently I'm in sunny Merida, Mexico, waiting out developments in the coronavirus crisis before moving on. Meanwhile, learn more about me and my travels at Nomadic Matt, and Expat Focus, and in a great story by veteran Borneo newsman and prolific author James Ritchie, about our memorable meeting in Malaysia, A Confluence of Adventure Writers .
Also online ...
GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAY
Still the most authentic, lively and colorful local cultural festival I've seen on the road.
I found this Alternative Arts and Music Festival in the Amazon highlands of Peru. What a find!
Solas "Best Travel Writing" Awards
Saysha: What Happened?
13th Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing
(Read it here)