As February turned into March, and rumors of illness grew to pandemic proportions, I went through the classic stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
For a (foolishly long) time I assured myself and my family that I could safely travel with the precaution of wearing a face mask on the plane and using hand sanitizer. My family became more vocal about their opposition, the numbers of sick and dying skyrocketed, and two weeks before I was scheduled to leave, I flipped and flipped hard from an attitude of I can handle this to sheltering in place, 24-7.
As museums and entire countries shut down, it became clear that my carefully crafted trip itinerary was toast – this world-wide plague was a way bigger deal than my little plans. By the time my March 25th departure date rolled around, I’d accepted my stay-at-home status.*
Unraveling my reservations – some refunds, some credits – took weeks, but as the virus toppled heads of state and entire countries locked down, vendors began to reach out to me to cancel. If I’d waited a week to cancel my flight from London to Vienna there would have been a system in place for refunds and credits. As it stands, that’s money lost.
Here let me praise Delta and its prompt return of my Skymiles and fees. My prepaid entry and tour tickets to Westminster and St. Pauls were refunded without quibble. Special acknowledgment for the Blenheim Palace staff and their help untangling several days of entry fees and tour reservations. My hotel reservations are a mixed bag of refunds and credits.
I supposed I’d reschedule the trip for spring 2021, shuffle the dates slightly, but keep the plan I had so lovingly researched for maximum art and history exposure. Now I am far from certain that I will be able or willing to travel. Covid19 is a stealthy foe and I have an unarguable pre-existing condition – my age.
Which brings me to now, the end of May. It’s time to book my Delta Skymiles ticket and rebuild the itinerary and reservations for next April.
But who knows?
There are so many unknown factors and risks in play; predicted waves of infection peaking next spring, the possibility of being quarantined upon arrival, the closure of bankrupt hotels, the collapse of entire economies. The possibility of death in isolation abroad in an overwhelmed medical facility.
What to do? Tick tock.
Do I bet on a safe and effective vaccine being available next spring? Do I hope I’ll have contracted and survived the virus and be flush with antibodies, safe from the disease and no threat to anyone else? Do I push travel forward to 2022, and negotiate with the hotels to extend my credits?
Most significantly, do I bet my age will not become an insurmountable impediment? Tick tock.
The Britannia 2020 tour was tailored to the harsh realities of aging. I had legit concerns about my physical ability to cope with the rigors of six weeks of solo travel; wonky vision, sketchy memory, diminishing stamina. Will these be significantly worse in 2021 or irrelevant, a non-issue?
Part of me wants to wave the white flag and accept I’ll be serving a life sentence in lockdown. Part of me wants to defy the odds. I’m leaning toward rolling the dice for next year.
One thing I guarantee will be different. All reservations will be refundable.
*Unexpected positive consequences: Navigating a locked-down life has a lot in common with exploring a different culture. It’s a strange land of latex gloves and facemasks, Zoom meetings, binging episodes of The Repair Shop, and stress baking. It’s been no hardship to spend days in the spring beauty of my garden and my sourdough game is on point. I’ve sent postcards to family and friends, just like I do when I travel; watercolors of birds and lions and dogs instead of details of paintings or busts of Roman emperors.
Life is sweet.