It’s been two weeks since I posted an update to The Travel Hack, and lo and behold, two weeks has made a huge difference!
The coronavirus has changed the world forever and it feels like we are all holding our breath. We live in a semi-frozen state of panic, afraid to leave the house, afraid to talk to our neighbors, afraid to run out of toilet paper.
I was vacationing with my family in Tenerife last week to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday. There were moments when I thought about canceling my vacation because of the coronavirus, but I went and had a great time.
For the first six days of our vacation, we wouldn’t have known there was a global pandemic going on, but on the last day the country went into lockdown and things changed dramatically.
The weather changed again on our last day, with angry storm clouds gathering around the volcanic mountains, swirling around the peaks and floating eerily, watching and waiting. I know this is not unusual in Tenerife, but it felt very strange after a week of perfect blue skies.
The boys were the first to notice that the island had become silent. There was no wind or noise, and even from our villa there was something eerie about the atmosphere.
When I went for a walk, the streets were crowded with people, but it was very quiet. People were whispering, talking quietly into their cell phones, and staying close to their partners. All the shops were closed, and the bars and restaurants were emptying out their tables and chairs and tidying up without saying a word. The beach was closed and security guards were on duty to direct people to the sidewalks.
^ On a Sunday morning, the streets were still busy but strangely quiet
Police cars slowly drove around town, making tannoy announcements from the shutters protecting vacant stores. The announcement was in Spanish, so I turned to a friendly-looking couple standing nearby, stone-faced and listening intently. I smiled and walked towards them, hoping they would translate the message, but they looked at me panicked and quickly walked away.
At that moment, I suddenly felt a longing for my hometown. I wanted to understand the messages from the authorities and the media and know what I should do.
^ Empty beach at Playa del Duque
I hurried back to the villa. There, my father and mother, Sam, George, Joseph, and Alva, were anxiously waiting for me to return home. Luckily, our return flight that evening was already booked, so we didn’t have to change our travel plans to get home early. We initially liked the idea of taking a late flight home, thinking we could enjoy an extra day of sunshine in Tenerife before heading home. But with everything shut down, we couldn’t go anywhere, constantly updating our phones to check the latest coronavirus updates and making sure our flights weren’t delayed or cancelled. I found myself walking around the villa.
Anxiety built up inside me, and by the time I got to the airport I was irritated. I was stressed out by the complete unknown and imagined there would be panic at the airport as people desperately tried to get home.
Thankfully the airport was actually very quiet. We were flying on Jet2 and the staff are always very friendly and helpful. As we rushed through check-in and security, we found the airport to be busy but quiet.
WHSmith was the only one open, its shutters half-closed and only allowing 10 people in at a time. Lines for stores snaked through the airport, but there was none of the manic despair I had imagined. People waited quietly, accepting that they would have to wait their turn and would probably just go hungry.
All three children fell asleep on the flight home, and as we neared England, any anxiety about the trip faded away. Everyone on the plane was hungry and the staff did a great job distributing food and drinks to everyone. I could feel everyone relaxing as they were fed. A nice guy sitting near me started fussing over Alba, who was sitting on my lap with a big smile on his face. He immediately leaned over and held her hand, speaking to her in those stupid baby words we all use. And then he freezes, remembers what was happening, touches her and apologizes bitterly for getting too close to her.
“Don’t worry,” I assured him with a smile, but then I remembered too and realized I shouldn’t let these strangers too close to my children.
Apparently we left just in time, as people were no longer allowed to leave their accommodations at all on Sunday afternoon. The BBC journalist has been confined to his hotel room and barred from entering public areas, so he’s glad he managed to enjoy a break before lockdown began.
Today was a strange day. We did not send our children to school or nursery school. Partly because I didn’t get home until 2am, but also because I wanted to know the actual situation in England.
When I went to the grocery store, everything felt normal except for a few empty shelves where toilet paper and diapers should have been.
These are strange and uncertain times.
This is a time of #ViralKindness and recognizing that we are just one big community and we are all in this together. But it’s also a time when you want to protect your loved ones and keep them out of harm’s way.
No one knows what the next few months will bring, but we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy.
I plan to continue posting online and feel very lucky to have a business that allows me to work from home. We will continue to create content, but it will be a little different. Writing blog posts, making videos, taking photos, and thinking about small creative projects keep me sane, so I continue to create purely for the love of creating. I hope you’ll stick with me until this crazy time passes and I get back to traveling and exploring.