At the beginning of August, lulled into a sense of hope and possibility, we talked as a family about our annual trip to Mexico (usually Cabo San Lucas). Annually, we all look forward to planning a week in February during the school mid-winter break. At that time last summer, the COVID numbers in Washington and Oregon were the lowest since the crest of the peak in July. We all imagined we had turned the corner, the vaccine trials were looking promising and we had no inkling of what would come for the fall and winter when we all came inside.
Besides, with airlines and resorts desperate for customers, the cancellation policies were generous and without risk. Initially, it was only going to be the ten of us. We would join our kids and grandkids for a respite from the winter cold and rain. My daughters would get a break from cooking meals and cleaning up and we could finally be a family again instead of being locked down. Plus we always celebrate January and February birthdays (mine included) when we are all together.
As we told others about our plans, our numbers grew. Before the end of August, two other sets of grandparents signed up and made their reservations. Between my four grandkids – there would be six of us ready to play in the sun and lend a hand in the pool and on the beach. “Nanny and Pappy”, “Nana and Papa”, “Pa G and Grammy”- at least we all have unique grandparent names!
Then a brother and his family, a cousin and her family, an aunt and uncle and their family, and then some friends who had never been out of the country joined our little travel group. The passports were ordered and ready for stamps. Christmas gifts included backpacks, luggage, flip flops, t-shirts, board shorts, sun-dresses and snorkel gear. I think everyone was excited about the trip!
One day a few weeks ago my son sent me a color-coded spreadsheet with all of the names of our happy travelers. A total of 33 people! Unfortunately, I think all of us knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be going this year.
As world events took a negative turn after the election, the number of available ICU beds fell to shockingly low numbers and a new more contagious strain was detected in the United Kingdom. With each new revelation, we all shared a sense of dread. Each one of us struggled with our own decisions and questions began to be discussed. Should we go or not? With six people over sixty and fifteen kids aged 4 to 18, we all had an increasing sense of despair.
One person said, “If we go, I don’t think I can cope with the shaming we’ll receive if we post our photos on social media.” Should we even be going if we feel that way? A long string of text messages kept going for a few days with everyone weighing in.
Beginning January 26, anyone traveling from outside the United States must receive a negative test COVID test 72 hours before arriving and then must quarantine for 10-14 days. This meant we would need to find a test in Mexico just three days after arrival that would be acceptable to the US government in order to return home three days later.
My son sent another text and said, “Family meeting in the Kitchen, STAT!” This turned into a scheduled ZOOM call the next night and we all reluctantly decided that we just couldn’t take the risk. Our trip would need to be canceled.
Factors we considered:
Senior citizen parents in the group and the idea of contracting COVID then seeking medical care or serving a quarantine in Mexico put the risk too high for getting help if we needed it.
Working parents who don’t have much leave time and the idea of a full quarantine of two weeks after only being gone for one wasn’t remotely workable for most of them.
School-age children, already struggling with virtual learning (Washington and Oregon public schools have been online since March of 2020 when this all started) and then being stuck in Mexico with parents under quarantine didn’t seem like the best idea.
It was almost too easy to hit the cancel button on our plane tickets with Alaska Airlines. The money was returned to our credit cards and the miles we so excitedly used were returned to our “wallets”. https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/fly-alaska/why-fly-alaska
The employees at the resort completely understood but were of course disappointed. They have worked very hard to put in place cleaning protocols, masking requirements, and social distancing. They are even working to have on-site testing in place for Americans subject to the travel restrictions. https://cabo.villadelpalmar.com/care-and-cleanliness
As I think of the months that have flown by between August when we booked our trip to now and then anticipating February, when we thought we would be flying to sunnier days, I probably always knew that we wouldn’t be going. I believe that looking forward to a fun event, having hope for the future, and regaining a sense of anticipation is a good thing. Up until the point that it all gets, canceled – again.
What is hard for me is to wonder if we even should have started planning at all. Some family members want to start planning our next trip and have a high need to “get something locked in on the calendar.” Others are saying, why bother? One person said, “I can’t plan anything right now, I’m so sad. I’ve decided to just take things one day at a time. Why make plans at all when they just keep getting canceled?”
I’m finding all of these are great questions and feel a sense of conflict. I love to plan for the future but I’m not sure I want to experience yet “another disappointment.” For now, I’ll hope that tomorrow, instead of 37 degrees and rain, maybe the sun will come out.
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.