I am an avid traveler. I look forward to my next adventure. Each year I pick a new destination and start planning away. But at the beginning of 2020, even before the coronavirus derailed the world, I herniated a disc in my lower back and I was laid up for months. I had to cancel my upcoming trip to Japan. A trip I had been saving for and planning for years. Then Covid 19 shut us down. I, like many was forced to isolate, work from home, and reassess the future. I admit I was afraid to get on a plane and even visit family in another state. I had been in intensive rehab for my back and had just started to walk again without too much pain. I didn’t want to take any risk of catching the coronavirus, on top of battling a health issue. So I watched as many people did fly and I listened to their stories of the pains of going through airports, sitting next to strangers, flinching at every cough and sneeze and praying they didn’t catch the deadly virus. I waited and waited and dreamed about where I would go once I was fully vaccinated. That day finally came on my April birthday this year. After receiving two shots of the Moderna vaccine, I became motivated to get going and face my fears. While my choices were limited, I knew I wanted a beautiful escape from covering the news 24/7, from the frigid cold weather of Chicago, the divisive environment in the U-S and what I refer to as living in the concrete jungle. But even though I was vaccinated I had my trepidations. I could have gone the easier route and flown domestically but the tropics were calling my name. So I chose Turks Caicos in the Caribbean.
The pros: A direct flight, only 4 hours, few covid cases with the majority of residents on the island vaccinated. That was the easy part. The cons: The hassle and logistics. Despite receiving my shots I was required to get a PCR test within a specific time frame, fill out a lot of paperwork and wait for my approval from TCI. Anxiety started to mount when just two days before my trip I still had not received my acceptance. It was too late for a refund as I neared 12 hours before my Saturday morning flight. Finally with the help of a travel agent and a persistent hotel manager, I was a go. My family had warned me to be prepared for a lack of Covid etiquette at the airport and even on the plane. I was still shocked by the crowds at O’hare Airport and how many people neglected to cover their noses with their masks. I was surrounded by people sipping coffee, water, and eating food for more than an hour just so they could keep their masks down despite the federal regulation requiring they keep them on. My flight was packed and filled with rude passengers not wanting to wear masks and flight attendants afraid to call them out. But I was actually less concerned about getting sick from the virus and more worried about testing positive days before my return because I would not be allowed back in the U-S and would have to pay to quarantine for two weeks at the resort rate. Plus I would have to break the news to my boss that I couldn’t come back to the States, let alone to work. I began to ponder whether perhaps Florida or California would have been a better choice. Upon arrival, I’ve never been so relieved to get off a plane. Did I mention I wore two masks, medical eye wear and did not even take a sip of water? The next step—two very long customs lines in a hot room with only a few fans blowing and hundreds of people standing side by side waiting to get their temperature taken, submit their health forms and then get their passports stamped. Almost an hour later I was out—in warm air—sunshine—waiting for a car to take me to the hotel. All I kept thinking about was that I better not get Covid 19 so I can go home in 7 days. Then—there it was.
A stunning resort on the beach. Its grounds covered in lush green trees, plants and bright colorful flowers.
The people were friendly, happy and welcoming. My room was pristine white, spacious, filled with sunlight and just steps from the ocean. The white sand looked and felt like powdered sugar under my feet and the turquoise water like a warm bath.
The stress, the coronavirus, the fear slowly began to wash away. The resort was fully booked yet spread out so it never felt crowded. I walked the beach several times a day. I swam in salt water. I ate wonderful food outside enjoying the warmth and gentle breeze coming off the ocean.
I slept well and gave myself a mental break to just feel peace and tranquility again. People were laughing, swimming, sailing, and enjoying themselves. I felt hopeful that soon life would return to some type of new normal and people would feel some light again in their lives.
Two days before my return flight I did have to take another PCR test. I remained relaxed in paradise albeit with a dash of worry as I awaited the results. But the week away had already taught me to look through a more optimistic prism. What better place to pass the time, I told myself than on a stunning beach, under a palm tree watching the kite surfers speed across the glistening water. Two days later sun-kissed and Covid 19 free, I asked myself as the plane touched down in Chicago —was it worth it?
Was the fear of flying, the stress and hassle of the logistics, the risk of testing positive and having to be isolated in an expensive hotel room missing my job worth it? Was a swim in the ocean, nap in the sun, a chilled drink made of fresh lemons, walk on one of the most beautiful beaches I’d even seen, an experience someplace new and serene worth it?