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Running Out of Time

Today is June 2, 2020, and our return flight to the United States is scheduled for July 23.

We have only 8 weeks left in Europe. If we want to travel or sightsee, experience, taste, or enjoy anything in this region of the world while we are still here…we are running out of time!

Even after moving from Coronavirus Phase 0 to Phase 1 in Valencia, the streets and shops have remained fairly empty.  Stores and churches have reopened but at very reduced capacity. Restaurants are also open, but only for carryout or limited outdoor seating.

Outdoor activities are thankfully allowed within certain guidelines. We took full advantage of that and rented e-Scooters for 2 ½ hours on Friday. We then drove around Turía Park, Central Park, and the Russafa neighborhood.

Families were outdoors together and children were gleefully playing in the park and splashing around in the water. It was delightful!

Yesterday, we moved into Phase 2. This increases the capacity allowed at restaurants and shops and the shopping malls are now finally open…but with hand sanitizer, masks, social distancing, and limited capacity guidelines in place.

I can finally go to Leroy Merlin (the Spanish version of Lowe’s or Home Depot) after it being closed for 2 ½ months. Hurray!

I want to buy the numbers 14721 in Spanish tiles to replace the numbers over my front door at home. It will be a nice remembrance of our trip and will look a lot prettier than the simple black numbers that are currently on the front of our house.

However, we still cannot leave the region of Valencia.

How I long to hop in the car and have one final road trip through the south of Spain and into Portugal! Or to take a quick 2-hour flight to Morocco! When will I ever be this close again?

We are conflicted. We want to travel. But we also want to be good global citizens. How do we know when it is “safe” to re-enter normal life and mobility again?

Well, at this point, we have no choice. We’re not allowed to travel outside of the Valencia region. If we do venture out, many places are still closed.

Tentatively, Spain has announced that internal travel will open after June 22. This, after 14 weeks…3 ½ months…of shutdown!

With fingers crossed, we are tentatively mapping out a 10-12-day road trip through southern Spain and into Portugal. If we drive our car and avoid crowded places, why not at least take in the scenery?

Eighty million foreign tourists typically visit Spain every year for the sunshine and beautiful beaches but most of them will be staying home this year. We can probably visit the touristy venues and have the place to ourselves…assuming those places are open, of course.

We are also considering a trip to Greece on July 6-15. It would involve air travel, but after almost 4 months of restrictions in Spain, things will be under control here. Greece has had a very low case count and since most tourists are staying home this year, crowds will be unlikely.

This eases my concerns somewhat for my own safety and about passing the virus around. I also rationalize this by saying that at some point, we have to get on with it. We have to practice common sense of course, but we can’t just stay at home for the rest of our lives. There will always be risks. If not this, then something else.

Having said that, I am angry with (some of) my fellow US citizens. I saw the Spring Break beach photos online in March and more recently, the Memorial Day weekend pool parties at Lake of the Ozarks.

Millions of people are thankfully doing the right thing, but on a state by state level, it appears to be a free for all. Good leadership versus bad is showing their true colors right now – at all levels.

And here’s another kicker:  CDC policy states that when I return on July 23, I will have to proceed to my final destination (Kansas City) and self-quarantine for 14 days. Local authorities will be checking on me to make sure I am compliant.

But I have already been trapped in my apartment for almost 3 months! I have been compliant for my own good and as a statement of global solidarity and love for my fellow human beings.

Yet I am somehow a public health risk who must be quarantined again? How about mandatory quarantine for all the yahoos in the US who are blowing this off?

Yes, I understand the dangers of the airports and the international flight to Chicago. For that reason, I had already been researching options for Covid19 testing when we return. If we test negative after an appropriate waiting period, can we skip the remainder of the quarantine?

Per the US Embassy, the answer is currently “no”.

My grouchiness in this post is admittedly a case of “quarantine fatigue”.

We are weary of social isolation, restricted mobility, uncertainty, and change. We are dealing with additional layers of complication because we are thousands of miles away from home.

For now, I’ll just take a deep breath, say another prayer, and trust that things will work out. This is all way above my pay grade, so I’ll just control what I can control and release the rest.

Easier said than done, right?

Since my non-traveling “travel” sabbatical is coming to an end, I will think happy thoughts about how to create a lifestyle that allows for more travel. Then I can return to Europe and visit all the places I had to miss this time around.

That means we will stay in our house rather than upsizing. We will continue to drive used cars instead of gas-guzzling SUVs with payments. I can shop the clearance racks and grow more food at home. In short, we will keep living as we have been living and ruthlessly cut from the budget that which adds no joy.

And who knows? When we retire, we may choose to live part of the year in the US and part of the year traveling around like hippies. I can start a travel blog and make YouTube videos (if that’s still a thing) that encourage old folks like me to keep on traveling!

Happily, I still have more time to dream and plan…so why not?!

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