Traveling in 2021 involved staying up-to-date on the CDC guidelines, the government policy on arriving back to the USA and monitoring the Covid situation in other states and countries. This included staying informed about where I was allowed to visit, be it domestic or international. Despite these limitations my wanderlust took me on two Florida weekend excursions, Mexico a couple times, Africa, New England and a road trip to Baltimore.
The year began with a short trip to Newberry, Florida. I spent a few days enjoying Peacefield, a farm sanctuary about three hours northeast of Tampa. I got to spend time with Otis, a beautiful bull rescued from the meat industry, Wilbur, an adorable and friendly pig who likes taking naps, numerous sheep, a donkey, cows, turkeys and chickens. What a great way to spend my birthday!
I had just recovered from Covid, which landed me in the hospital twice, so I was eager to enjoy life again. I felt rather safe since I had antibodies and I was no longer able to pass Covid to anyone else. The AirBnb in which I stayed was also thoroughly cleaned both before and after my stay.
At the end of January I helped my best friend Erick move to Cancun, Mexico. It wasn’t so much a vacation as it was setting up a new life for my friend – opening a bank account, finding a place to live, getting a driver’s license etc. I went back to Cancun in the middle of February with my girlfriend and we got to spend Valentine’s Day there. We also enjoyed local fruit, vegan restaurants, a carnival and a day trip to Tulum. In early December I flew back to Cancun for another visit with my friend. It was great to see my friend again.
When traveling back into the United States, it was necessary to get a PCR test or an Antigen test. The first two times I went to the Yucatan Peninsula involved having to locate a pharmacy that performed the tests. This proved not as easy as you might think. I had to drive from place to place only to hear that they were out of tests or had no place to store the tests etc. I finally found a place in the hotel zone of Cancun that provided the results of the antigen test within 30 minutes. At the time, this test needed to be completed within 96 hours of travel.
Getting a Covid test became much easier the third time I traveled to Mexico. Although the US federal government changed the number of hours from 96 to 48 hours before travel, a testing site had opened up in terminal 4 of the Cancun airport. Results were given anywhere from 10-30 minutes. This made travel super easy.
Without a doubt my biggest trip of the year was spending two weeks in Egypt with my girlfriend Chrissy. I got to finally see the Pyramids, explore the Valley of the Kings, ford the Nile River, take a hot air-balloon ride, walk through Luxor, try all kinds of Egyptian and Arabic vegan food and camp in the White Desert. What a trip!
Covid affected my trip to the Land of the Pharaohs in profound ways. The first step was following all the instructions to be able to travel to and be accepted into Egypt. This involved having to get a negative Covid test before leaving the US, as well as filling out a Covid form so I could transfer in Frankfurt, Germany. I was also fully vaccinated.
Once in Egypt some people wore masks and some didn’t, so we had to be extra careful to keep a distance. One positive aspect to Covid is that there were virtually no other tourists. This meant that we could see easily get unencumbered photographs of the pyramids sans people. Plus, Chrissy was able to enter the big pyramid by herself. Adding to the experience, while she was inside the main chamber, the guard left to go pray (it was Ramadan during our entire trip). What an opportunity! Plus, we explored the tombs in the Valley of the Kings completely on our own, as well as Luxor and other historical sites. Without the restrictions of, and let’s face it, the risk of traveling during the Covid pandemic, we would have never had such opportunities.
Then, I had a Covid scare! Reentering the United States, exactly like returning from Mexico, required a negative Covid test. Unlike Mexico, however, there were no rapid tests available in Egypt. After reading many forums online, we followed the recommendation of getting our antigen test at the Children’s Hospital in Cairo. We got the test one day and had to return to get the results the next day.
While Chrissy’s test was expectedly negative, mine popped positive. I was shocked to say the least! While I was confident that my result was a false positive (because I had spent every minute of every day with Chrissy the entire two weeks we were in Egypt), I would not be allowed to board any plane with a positive test. Furthermore, the hospital denied my request for a second test and instead, told me to “come back in two weeks for another test”.
So, I set out to find another place that a) administers the test and b) provides the results quickly. Thankfully, I had taken the initial test three days before my flight. I only had two days left: one day to take the test and one day to receive the results. After inquiring at the front desk of my hotel, I discovered that they had a doctor who could come to your room and perform the test. Two hundred dollars later, I had taken a second Covid test. All there was to do was to wait…and wait.
Chrissy and I began to discuss our options if the test came back positive again. She wanted to stay and I tried to convince her to leave while she could. We also researched what the Egyptian rules are regarding quarantining as a foreigner. Would the hotel accept me for an additional two weeks knowing that I had a positive Covid test? Was there a hospital wing designated for Covid patients? The time dragged on.
Finally, only hours before our flight, I received a phone call. My bags were packed just in case I was able to fly. The man on the other end of the phone told me that the doctor was on his way to deliver the Covid results to my hotel room… and it was negative. What a relief! After receiving the necessary document, we hailed a cab and battled traffic to the Cairo airport.
But, the Covid question did not end there. Upon landing after the second flight, the overseas flight to Newark, I started to feel nauseated. After making it to the gate for our final flight to Tampa, my condition had worsened. The room started spinning to the point that I had to lie down on the floor. I realized that I had had two Covid tests in the past 3 days with opposite results; one of them was false, but which one? Was it possible that I could actually have Covid and was bringing it back to the United States?
I managed to board my final flight and slept the entire way. I began throwing up, however, while taxiing to the gate. I could barely make it off the plane. I had to hold onto every seat just to steady myself. The world was spinning. I made it to the bathroom and realized that I very much needed to go to the hospital. I kept vomiting, began to get a headache and my eyes kept moving back and forth trying to make sense of the world around me. A third test was performed at the hospital.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I was told that I tested negative for Covid. I ended up staying in the hospital for two days and was diagnosed with vertigo on both sides. My condition incrementally improved over the next several months until it finally subsided.
In June, I flew up to New Hampshire to meet Chrissy’s family and to drive to neighboring Vermont to visit my parents and brother. I hadn’t seen my parents in two years due to Covid. Vermont was one of the states that had not been allowing people from outside New England to visit. But, the rule had changed and everyone involved in the visit had been vaccinated. Still, I wanted to be extra careful not to inadvertently infect my elderly parents. So, Chrissy and I stayed in a nearby AirBnb and kept some distance when visiting. It was great to see them.
Melbourne Beach, Florida
In September, Chrissy booked a weekend away on the east coast of Florida. We enjoyed the power of the Atlantic, the ocean breezes from our 16th floor balcony, checked out the local vegan scene and enjoyed a few drinks at a local dive bar. (I even won one of the hourly raffles and got a free drink.)
Covid did not play much of a role in the trip as we were fully vaccinated and spent most of the time in our large hotel suite. The last morning I slept out on the balcony where I enjoyed the stars at night and watched the sunrise the next morning. What a great weekend from beginning to end.
Road Trip From Clearwater to Baltimore
My final travel adventure of 2021, not including the trip to Mexico mentioned above, was a road trip up to Baltimore for Thanksgiving. We spent the night with friends or family the entire way except for one night at the worst and most disgusting hotel I have ever stayed at just over the Georgia line. We spent a few nights in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia before pet-sitting for a friend in Baltimore for several nights over Thanksgiving.
Much like my weekend getaway in Melbourne Beach, Covid didn’t seem to play an issue given that everyone we spent time with was fully vaccinated. I make sure to wear a mask whenever I entered any type of building. And I kept extra distance, even though we met outside, to my nephew, who is immune-compromised.
With the new highly contagious Omicron strain of Covid and the fact that my vaccination might have worn off, I will be staying put for the first few months of 2022. I am spending my energy on making my new home (after getting divorced and moving in with Chrissy) comfortable and a place where I aim to spend a lot of time. To that end, I have added lots of fruit trees, palm trees and flowering plants in the backyard . I also set up a pollinator garden for the bees and butterflies and a hammock area for me.