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Traveling during a pandemic isn't something I take lightly

Black River Jamaica Vibes

As an avid traveler, quarantining and cancelling all the trips I planned earlier this year was rough. I knew it would be be difficult for everyone so I tried to suck it up and gut it out. But as this year progressed, stress and maybe even a little depression started to set it.

The Covid-19 pandemic across the world was bad enough, but the lynching of George Floyd started a spiral for me. It was crushing to watch an unarmed Black man be murdered in such a public way and I really took it personally.

Clearly I wasn’t alone as the outrage and anger I felt was expressed worldwide throughout the streets. I watched endless hours of peaceful protests being turned into violent clashes and felt the pain of every protester in every city. I knew it wasn’t good for me to continuously watch violent police encounters but I couldn’t stop myself. The anger I felt was so deep and the violence in the streets was my only entertainment.

Then July 13th, I started feeling sick. I’m in relatively good health so the morning I started having symptoms, I hoped it was nothing more than a tickle in my throat. But as the day progressed and I felt sicker, I thought about Covid-19, all things we still don’t know about it, all the people who still weren’t taking it seriously and the real possibility that one of those careless people got me sick. Later that week I would test positive for Covid-19.

Luckily I had very mild symptoms and recovered quickly. But it annoyed me to no end (and still does) all the callous people who were denying that the virus was even real, not wearing masks and not making any real effort to stop the spread.

So then seeing people travel made me angry. “how could they?” I thought. “don’t they know people are dying and the US doesn’t have the pandemic under control? how selfish, inconsiderate and irresponsible”.

Then while I was recovering in quarantine, my uncle passed. He was my mother’s final living brother who had a large impact on my life growing up. Although my family was kind enough to delay the funeral until after I was out of quarantine, I felt bad all the same. Not only for delaying the funeral but because I was sick, I couldn’t go see him in his final days.

Shortly after that, the “winners” of the Illinois cannabis dispensary licenses were announced and all of my worst fears became true. Not only were the results of the process not equitable, it was flat out fraudulent. The state of Illinois didn’t just tell me I wasn’t qualified to run a dispensary, they told me I wasn’t even from Illinois...the only place I’ve lived my entire life.

The project I had spent so many months working on, strategizing, and speaking positively about in the media suddenly became a prime example of corruption and greed in the cannabis community and incompetence in state government. I felt like it was all for nothing.

I had been the face of a process I wanted to believed in and when that process failed me, the first call I got was from a large media outlet asking for a comment on an unconscionable public loss. It was humiliating indeed.

Everyday for the next few weeks, it was either a new revelation about racism in police and government, a flood of ignorant misinformation coming from the White House that was then repeated by uninformed people on social media or news reports about the sore winners of the social equity dispensary license round in Illinois.

I had enough. I hadn’t planned on traveling anytime soon, but I needed to get away now more then ever. I pride myself on being an even tempered optimistic person in good spirits, but at that time I felt smothered and defeated. Nothing seemed fair.

We normally travel for #NoIGChunkyButt’s birthday (Oct 17th) which was coming up and I knew we needed to go somewhere, anywhere. so I started looking up countries that would let US citizens in. I wanted to go somewhere that was taking covid-19 seriously, which was tricky because most countries that are taking it seriously weren’t letting Americans in.

I’ve always loved Jamaica and I was happy to see how seriously they were taking the pandemic as a country. To be allowed in, you have to get tested and upload the negative test result to the Jamaica Travel Authority website 10 days before arrival. And there are several other precautions they are taking as a country to keep both tourists and the local population healthy.

So I booked flights on American Airlines (which I would later find out doesn’t practice social distancing with their passengers), booked an Airbnb in Treasure Beach (a secluded area in Jamaica) and rented a car. This turned out to be one of the best travel ideas EVER!!!

My Secluded Airbnb with Private Beach

My trip was beyond amazing and was truly everything I needed. My Airbnb sat on a private property that had only one other house on it, and it that house was vacant almost the entire time we were there. We also had our own private beach on the property and the area was so peaceful, we hardly saw any boats passing by the entire 10 days we were there.

At the airport, Jamaican authorities made us download their Covid-19 app to our phones which tracked our location since we weren’t staying in a resort. We were told we had to quarantine for the 10 days we were there but we found out they weren’t enforcing a strict quarantine. We just had to use the Jamaican Covid app to check-in daily with our temperature and make a video to upload to the app everyday of us saying whether or not we were experiencing symptoms.

Everybody in Jamaica wears a mask...period. Every store, restaurant or place of business we went to had someone at the door who checked our temperature and squirted disinfectant in our hands before we could enter. They were taking absolutely no chances and we couldn’t help comparing how unprepared the US looked compared to what was going on in a small relatively poor country of Jamaica.

They were better prepared, better informed and the result was their low number of cases and fatalities which proved what real leadership in a health crisis could look like.

The tranquility of Treasure Beach was everything I needed. It felt great to get out in nature, get grounded and allow my brain to reset itself. I was finally feeling like my old self again. and even though I recovered from Covid-19 months earlier, it felt like that trip was the most important part of my healing process both mentally and physically.

Because I already had Covid-19 I wasn’t super worried of catching it during travel. Although because American Airlines isn’t social distancing its passengers, I upgraded our return flights to first class so we wouldn’t be arm to arm with other passengers.

Traveling During a Pandemic Isn't Something I Take Lightly

I intentionally chose a country that takes Covid-19, the health of tourist and the health of their local population seriously. I intentionally booked an Airbnb and rented a car to cut down my human interactions on the island. and I intentionally booked first class flights so we wouldn’t be on top of each other on the plane.

I know this isn’t possible for everyone. Some people, like me, just need to get away. Trust me, I get it.

I say all this because I know how I felt about watching people travel earlier this year and I’m sure people question me for doing it. But seeing how this virus is completely out of control in this country and knowing people are going to travel regardless, I thought I’d share my thought process on how to travel safely and with the least amount of human contact possible. And to remind myself, that everyone is trying their best to maintain their mental sanity during the pandemic. So try not to be in a rush to judge others.

But I do think if you’re going to travel, it’s on you to do it as responsibly as possible. When our country lacks leadership in government, it’s up to us who consider ourselves Global Citizens to do what’s right and make conscious decisions not only for ourselves but the people of countries we visit and claim to love so much.

Making conscious decisions on vacation doesn’t mean it will be a cheap or convenient trip. But it may be the most peace you’ll ever receive.

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