It’s been well over one year since I was on an airplane. On Feb. 20, 2020, I flew home from Puerto Rico after a fabulous golf trip and was looking forward to heading to San Diego to see a new luxury cruise ship in two weeks.
In fact, on March 9, 2020, I wrote a column titled, “Yes, I’m Still Going on a Cruise,” because I did plan to go, despite hearing rumblings about a highly contagious new virus.
Looking back, I cringe at what I wrote, including the line that says “influenza kills more people than the coronavirus,” which we now know is not true. (The link to the evidence I used then is gone now, so I’m not sure where I got that assumption.) Obviously, the deadly impact and rapid-fire spread of the coronavirus – and the resulting COVID-19 illness – hadn’t sunk in yet. It was all so new, and I had never experienced an epidemic – soon to be pandemic – like this before. Just days later, my cruise trip was canceled.
A few days after that, on March 13, I went to a restaurant for what would be the last time for many months. Pump bottles of hand sanitizer were out on the tables, and I began to feel nagging worries for the first time. Two days later, the governor of Illinois announced stay-at-home orders (I live in the Chicago area). Since I’ve worked at home for 16 years, things didn’t change as drastically for me as it did for others.
And then, on March 14, virtually the entire cruise industry shut down, devastating an industry I’ve covered for 26 years. As a result, I stopped traveling, and that made me appreciate all my trips over the past decades.
Of course, some people have asked me what travel writers do when there’s little to no travel.
Honestly, we’ve been busier than ever, writing about cruise cancellations, travel companies boosting their liquidity to weather the storm, and story after story on new health and sanitation protocols. We’ve also been writing positive news, like loyal cruise passengers raising money for out-of-work crew members, the delivery of new ships despite shipyard shutdowns, and the restarts of cruising in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
And, of course, we’ve written a lot about how professional travel advisors acted like superheroes, bringing home clients before they were stranded by new travel restrictions, rebooking trips and juggling FCCs, offering sage advice on whether to travel again — all while worrying about their own financial situation.
Some of my colleagues and many travel advisors have flown to Mexico or the Caribbean over the past few months. My personal choice has been to stay home because I fear catching the virus and being asymptomatic, and then unknowingly infecting my 90-year-old parents or my immunocompromised niece. Not worth it for me.
It wasn’t bad last summer when we enjoyed outdoor dining, golf and long walks in forest preserves – all while carrying masks in case we came in closer proximity to people.
Now, we’re slowly coming out of a cold, lonely winter, and I’m feeling more optimistic. I’m still not letting my guard down, although I’m tired of staying put, but I do believe the light is getting brighter at the end of the tunnel. It’ll be a gradual return, but the pent-up demand will generate business and a rebound the likes of which we’ve never seen. Just wait. And someday, we’ll look back and say, “remember when …”