- Bonnie Coffey
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
- A member of a people having no permanent abode, and who travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for their livestock.
- A person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.
We, like many travelers at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, had to make quick decisions. Would we be more safe where we were, or at "home". When one has no permanent address, save a post office box, which would be a tad tiny for the two of us, the decision is based first on a few basic fundamental considerations. Family, health, insurance, transportation and expense all had to be weighed. Both Ky's and my parents have already passed away, and our kids are adults, and are living on their own. They were our primary thought however, and if something happened to one of them, we wanted to be close enough to help. We have travel extraction insurance, but that is not the same as health insurance, and we weren't sure how effective it would be during a worldwide crisis. In the end, making it back to Arizona seemed the wisest course of action, despite not having any idea where we would live once we returned.
Colombia was our first foray in to South America. We were only there for three weeks when we had to make the somewhat obvious, but difficult decision to cut our trip short and return to the U.S. Our original plans were to stay in South America for two to three months. We had pre-arranged a pet sit for two cats for ten days for a young couple, Jessie and Hidalgo, in a wonderful part of town a few weeks after arriving.
We stayed in an Airbnb after getting to Medellin that wasn't far from their place. We went to meet them one evening, to get to know each other and their cats, before our planned stay. They offered us another pet sit for a long weekend prior to our original dates and we happily accepted. Hidalgo is a burn doctor and a plastic surgeon, and he needed a quick break from a very hectic work schedule. Jessie and Hidalgo headed off to Peru and we settled in nicely with Lady P and Dalí.
Then suddenly, to use Kurt Vonnegut's expression from Hocus Pocus, we realized that ..."the excrement had hit the air conditioning, big time." Our plans unfortunately needed to change.
We set about to find a return ticket from Medellin and we found that our options were already dwindling. Many flights had already been cancelled, but we booked one for a week later. We planned a quick trip to the world renowned Colombian coffee country. There were still only a few Covid-19 cases in the whole country, and it seemed very safe to wait, safer in fact than returning to the U.S. where the cases were increasing rather quickly. The stores around us were even still full of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The next morning however, we awoke to an email informing us that our jetBlue tickets had been cancelled. We went on-line and it was confirmed that we had no flight back to the U.S. When we looked for a replacement flight, jetBlue had no other options. All their flights appeared to have been cancelled out of Medellin. We realized that the situation was changing much faster than we had believed, so we searched Google Flights and found one carrier, Avianca, a Colombian airline, that had flights to the U.S. We booked a flight, but it would only get us to Fort Lauderdale, FL. We would have to figure out the rest of the flight after that.
Ky was monitoring a Medellin forum on-line and read of another person in the same situation with a cancelled jetBlue flight. The person mentioned having called jetBlue, and they had been able to reschedule by calling directly since it couldn't be done on-line. We gave it a try, and after a very long hold time, Ky successfully got us seats for two days later, immediately after Jessie and Hidalgo were to return from Peru.
The whole ticketing process was ultimately productive, but lengthy and costly. We had tickets on Avianca that we couldn't cancel. Their phone lines and on-line system was so bogged down with people trying to do the same thing we were doing. We wanted to free up the seats for someone who might really need them, but there was not an option to do so. We had to notify them at the airport just before getting on to our jetBlue flight that we wouldn't be on their plane. We had no guarantee of a refund, but we were just happy to be headed back to the U.S.
We began the process of cancelling Airbnb and car rental reservations and letting Jessie and Hidalgo know that we wouldn't be able to do the future pet sit for them. As were many people around the world, they were also busy cancelling their plans. Our new friends were not surprised, and were I'm sure, relieved that we all wouldn't be sharing their apartment, since they were not going to be able to travel either.
The drive to the airport was strangely devoid of all traffic, and the international terminal at the airport was eerily quiet. We were the last flight out of it for that morning. There would only be one more jetBlue flight out later in the day before they completely discontinued flights to and from the country. Flights after that day would only be humanitarian flights by Spirit Airlines, which were sporadic, unsure and prone to cancellation as well as very costly. We got out just by the hair of our chinny chin chins.
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We had no home to which we could return by virtue of the fact that we are indeed nomads, and while we own a few homes, they are our income source, and not really "home" for us. Fortunately they were rented out to excellent tenants. We needed to self quarantine for two weeks after our travels, so we found a clean and sanitized Airbnb for three nights while we searched for a more semi-permanent solution.
A pickleball friend of a pickleball friend gave us a great lead on a place where a Canadian snowbird couple had left quickly to get back to their country, under the threat of losing their Canadian health insurance if they did not. We found ourselves continuing our quarantine in Chandler, AZ at Sunbird, a 55+ active adult community. It was a very quiet, mostly deserted place since only about 25% of the residents remain year round.
Our place was a small two bedroom, two bath home on a golf course. The community is also adorned with swimming pools, a gym, eight pickleball courts (4 of them permanent), shuffleboard, etc. However, due to the coronavirus, all of the amenities were closed, with the exception of the golf course (to which Ky unfortunately had very severe grass allergies). We were so thankful to find a great temporary home, and especially grateful for the abundance of toilet paper and cleaning supplies left behind by the previous tenants, since we were shocked to find none at the store!
We ended up spending nearly two months in our new little nest. Fortunately, the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, very wisely made exercise an essential activity. All indoor facilities and outdoor park play structures were closed. He decreed that outdoor walking, hiking, running, biking, golf, tennis, and yes, even pickleball were essential activities, but only if appropriate physical distancing practices were used. Our new location in Chandler, on the border of a great deal of open land, and the beautiful weather in February and March in the desert, lent itself perfectly to spending time outdoors stocking up on Vitamin D. Our two months of being able to be outside from mid March to mid May, in lovely spring weather, make the upcoming sizzling 100 - 115° Arizona temperatures seem more bearable (if we end up staying in the Valley of the Sun.)
While our wings may be partially clipped from our nomadic travels right now, stay tuned to hear about what itchy footed travelers do in such a time as this. Please subscribe if you want to stay updated.
Please stay safe and healthy dear friends and family. We love you!
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