REFLECTIONS RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

Life in the days of COVID-19: A letter to my readers

While talking to my friend Andrea this week, I told her that I don’t remember when exactly I started reading about COVID-19 in China, in the news. I recall in particular, a BBC feature on an Ethiopian student who was stuck in Wuhan, and whose life had been forever altered, far from his native home.

The question at the forefront of my mind this week has been: how did we get here? It seems like only a few weeks passed before the coronavirus went from being a “China problem” as some called it, to being a global pandemic that is now everyone’s problem. The entire globe has been brought to its knees. Who would have thought? Who would have predicted that we are living a time when we are literally all depending on each and every one of us doing our part.

I don’t have any big words of wisdom, but I want to share my thoughts as we all absorb our present.

I’m not a medical professional, so I won’t even try to analyze what this virus is or what it does, beyond what the World Health Organization has told us. I have, however, limited my reading to doctor and nurse friends and relatives of friends who are in the medical profession.

There are still many unknowns about this horrific disease. As my friend Bediako mentioned the other day on Facebook it’s spreading in the US six times faster than it was in China. Its death rate is also alarmingly high in places like the Dominican Republic, where the young populace is defying curfew – now from 5pm to 6am – and not comprehending the full repercussions of this virus, causing even individual province border closures.

Just under two weeks ago, I was leaving early from my trip to Ethiopia so I could make it back home to the Dominican Republic in time before borders shut down.

A return trip to my homeland that I hadn’t even told you all about. It was meant to be a surprise.

Ethiopia had just had its first coronavirus case announced two days before I left. I made the decision to shorten my trip by 10 days, even though it was a trip I’d dreamed about for years now, to return to my homeland as a travel journalist.

I experienced so much in a short time there, and I remain grateful for that. But talk about never expecting this virus to spread so fast around the globe, including the USA!

Cutting my trip short was the right thing to do. I made it back as far as Maryland, but sadly I didn’t make it home to the Dominican Republic. To my surprise, the DR government shut all borders without any notice. The news came just as I was boarding my first flight. I applauded their move, despite the sadness of not being able to return to my better half and our place for an indefinite period of time (because who knows when the virus spread will lessen and borders will reopen)?

As a travel professional and someone whose life is tied with tourism since 2008, I’ve also only begun to wrap my head around what this means for my work – or lack thereof.

It had been such a good past year and beginning of 2020; I was reaping the rewards of my decade-long work. Everything halted as expected, all work trips canceled, all submitted print assignments off circulation for now, and all recurring assignments paused.

But you know what? I still feel privileged compared to most people around the world.

I have food, I have shelter, I have family, near and far. I don’t know what the world will look like once this is over, or what my career will even look like, but I know I’ll just put one foot in front of the other as long as I am sane and healthy. So many people have bigger hardships around the world. For one, I keep thinking of the rural Ethiopian women who continue to fetch water for their home by walking miles over to a water source, then hike back. How can I possibly complain about anything when I have water running out of my tap to wash my hands as often as I can?

More importantly, I still have health as of today, at least, and I have, most of all, my faith. I pray for my loved ones in the DR, and for all of us around the world. What I can’t control, I let go of and embrace what will be.

We all have our ways of coping.

When I first returned to the US and realized I was now indefinitely separated from my home in the DR and my better half, I felt so down – which is normal. Eventually, I realized it could be worse, I could still communicate with my loved ones, and I decided to focus on what I needed.

So I began sharing photos, videos, and insights from my trip to Ethiopia – in as balanced and as sensitive a manner as I know how – because it is keeping me grounded to look at recent happy memories, and because my readers on Instagram want to occasionally escape online. You’re welcome to keep checking for more over the coming days. Part of my Instagram audience has also asked for Caribbean photos, and I will oblige.

But really, I’m writing this post for only one purpose, which is to ask you: how are you doing, wherever you are? How can I be of assistance and cheer?

Would you find it useful if I shared updated information about the status of COVID-19 in the Caribbean or any specific Caribbean destination? Or a curated reading list or the most valuable resources (free apps and such) to help you through, or articles, like this one? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments about this current difficult time we are all facing.

I’m all about figuring the day to day out together in these times – remaining sane while being empathetic to those who are separated from their families, those who are ill and suffering right now, and the medical professionals who are giving their all on the front lines while we get to stay home. That’s what we need to remember, ultimately: we are actually, the luckier ones.

In the meantime, stay well, and stay safe – indoors.


2 Comments

  1. Lily, you have already done so very much for your followers/readers. You take us up, up and away; for that, I thank you! I am excited & blessed to be learning so much about your beautiful homeland, Ethiopia. Your descriptions and pictures are like a drink of fresh water. I hope that your Mother Homeland, as well as your current home in the DR, are not hit hard by this. Will any corner of this world be relatively spared? I would be interested in hearing if this is possible, from your medical sources. As my dad said, “stand firm, keep calm, carry on.” Be safe and well, sweet sister.

  2. My dear Jenny, thank you so much for your kind words – they are very encouraging at this time in particular. I am so happy to hear you’ve been enjoying my Ethiopia content as well. It’s keeping me grounded to keep sharing the kinds of inspiring stories of people, culture, and heritage that I always have. I am not sure of any inhabited places that haven’t yet been affected. I’m worried for the Caribbean, as the larger and more popular destinations are getting hit. Let’s hope it all subsides soon. Stay safe and well my dear!

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