I was feeling too discouraged to write a blog at the end of the year, until I read a truly funny and wonderful one by a couple who, like us, are also retired and nomadic. After I stopped giggling to myself, I realized that looking back might be cathartic…. so here goes:
New Year’s Day 2020 seems way more than a year ago. Ted and I celebrated the day aboard the Viking Sun en route from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego on the 3rd last day of our first ever ocean cruise, 27 days exploring the west coast of Central and South America beginning in Santiago Chile and ending in Los Angeles. The big excitement on board on New Year’s Day was the arrival of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, from which a paramedic lowered himself in order to airlift one of our passengers (who we later found out had suffered a mild heart attack) to the hospital. By January 1st we’d already decided that there would be more Viking ocean cruises in our future, but our immediate future was spending the month of January in Tucson Arizona.
January in the Sonoran Desert was even better than we had expected. Neither of us realized how green a desert could be! We spent our days hiking the desert, canyons, and the Catalina Foothills; our evenings checking out the local museums, artists, and restaurants; and ventured to Tombstone as well, staying in a themed dude ranch just outside the town that had margaritas ON TAP in the bar – where our room was the blacksmith workshop, and we spent the evening played Texas Hold’em with Wyatt Earp! On the way back from Tombstone we had to go through a U.S. Border Patrol stop – good thing we’d been forewarned that when travelling within 50 miles of any of Arizona’s borders this could happen, so we had our passports with us – although it was pretty clear that Canadians were not the “illegals” they were screening for. We visited the massive Pima Air and Space Museum, on a site so huge that decommissioned jumbo jets can be included in the outdoor exhibit area! We visited a marsh where thousands of sandhill cranes spend each winter. We drove to Bisbee and toured the old silver mine.
Ted took tons of pictures of birds and plants unlike anything we’d ever seen before – no coyotes, but he did capture some great shots of a roadrunner! And we went to the movies every week; little did we know that seeing movies in a real movie theatre was going to be unimaginable in a few months.
In February we moved to San Antonio, where we rented a loft in a converted candy factory located just 2 short blocks from the city’s famous River Walk. Once again, the area had so much more to offer than we had imagined. We visited the San Antonio Missions, including the Alamo; discovered Texas’ German heritage; attended our first ever rodeo; saw wild parrots in the park; and ate some great Tex-Mex food. Being Texas, we also visited the world’s biggest gas station convenience store (Buc-ees, with over 100 pumps outside, and over 100 kinds of jerky inside). Our plan was to stay in San Antonio until the end of April. We had concert tickets, were enrolled in local German classes, and had a list of places to visit as day-trips from our home base.
Then March happened. To be fair, we had started reading about COVID19 in February, but things didn’t sound all that terrible. Sure, there were a couple of weird stories about toilet paper hoarding, but that was just craziness, right? Our kids began suggesting we come home, but we had no “home” to come to until May 1st, so we initially planned to stay put. We even – at #2 son’s insistence – stocked our condo pantry with a few weeks’ food. It was only when our Canadian Prime Minister started talking about shutting the Canada/U.S. border that we got in the car and hustled home, leaving the groceries behind for the building superintendent, and forfeiting the balance of our lease payment.
After some tense on-line searching (in the car en route home!) Ted found us a place in which to quarantine on our return to Ontario, and we were able to access our summer rental a month early on April 1st, so we were “home” in Canada.
As far as the rest of 2020 went…. you can probably insert your own story here and it wouldn’t look too much different than ours. We washed our hands. We cancelled all our 2020/21 travel plans. No Portugal, no Spain, no Germany, no Cyprus, no England, no Poland. We found accommodation in Collingwood through December of 2021. We washed our hands. We subscribed to Netflix so we could binge the series everyone else is bingeing. We bought masks. We sat 6 feet apart outdoors to visit with friends. We walked every day when the weather allowed. We washed our hands. We stood well apart as we lined up outside the grocery store to wait our turn. We cherished the fact that we could “bubble” with our grandchildren, allowing us to spend time with them when schools were closed from mid-March until September. We Skyped, and FaceTimed, and WhatsApped, and Zoomed with friends and family. We mourned from a distance when we lost family members and friends. We sent “virtual” hugs. We washed our hands. We celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve without big social or family gatherings. We tried to remember to be grateful: for each other, for our health, for our financial and food security, for all the things we would otherwise simply take for granted. We washed our hands.
We did, however, book our next Viking Ocean cruise: around the world, 23 countries in 128 days, leaving January 10, 2022. Hopefully by then we will be vaccinated. We will most certainly be “ready” to travel again. After almost 2 years in one place, we’ll have lots of catching up to do, and hope to be more actively nomadic than ever.
Was 2020 what we expected? Hardly. But life never really is… so here’s to the adventures that 2021 will bring. As the Italian race car driver famously said in the car rally movie Gumball Rally: “whatsa behind you… itsa no matta”.