The Transition Network

Atlanta Chapter

Traveling during a Pandemic by Gail Oja

(Posted May 30, 2020)

My pandemic story began on March 10, 2020 when my husband and I boarded a flight to Morocco. Fear of the pandemic nationwide was just starting to trickle in. We were assured by our travel agent that no travel warnings had been issued for northern Africa and there were few cases of coronavirus there. Plus, our travel insurance expressly did not cover “Fear of a Disease” or “Pandemic” so off we went with fingers crossed. We spent five lovely days touring Morocco. Then on March 15, everything fell apart. First, the hotel we were headed to at days’ end abruptly closed, then the Moroccan government issued a declaration that all airports were shutting down within 24 hours. The US consulate notified us that the only way we could get out would be through French or British airlines carrying out its citizens. We knew there was very little chance of that happening given that we were citizens of neither country. Much later the US did charter flights out of Morocco, but many tourists were left stranded long after our departure, running low on money, medications and places to stay. We were fortunate that we were not travelling with a group and after several worrisome calls to our travel agent were able to purchase two of the last remaining seats out of the country on a Moroccan airline packed to the gills. This did require an overnight stay in New York, the last place we wanted to be. Upon arrival at JFK we were singled out for a confused and chaotic CDC screening, not because of our stay in Morocco, but because we had flown there via Paris, a hotspot at the time. Needless to say, we were very grateful when we finally arrived home exactly one week after our departure. We were so relieved to be wrapped in our warm, safe, familiar cocoon it almost felt like another vacation.

Now the weeks have ticked away and it is hard to believe that we ever spent time in Africa. Our familiar routines of taking daily 4 ½ mile walks, reading, reading, and more reading and general household activities have been mostly good but sometimes monotonous as result of the ongoing limitations. We have seen both of our children and their spouses a few times, but only in the backyard and with social distancing. We both retired in June of last year and most of our days were to have been spent traveling. This month we were supposed to be in the Galapagos and the Amazon and the following month in Canada. Our travel for enjoyment is on hold now, as it is for everyone.

I do remind myself daily how much worse this could be and is for some. Above all else, we count our blessings that we live in this great country and for now, there is no other place in the world I would rather be. I know this pandemic will not last forever but without an end in sight it sometimes feels it just might. In the meantime, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other and try to make the best of each new day until one day this is just a distant period of history.

Material from, 07:24:55 October 26, 2021.
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