The sky outside of an airplane

My Experience Traveling During the Coronavirus Crisis

At this point, anybody who is not aware of what is going around in the world regarding the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, would be living under a rock. When first hearing about it, I remember finishing out the decade on December 31, 2019, and not thinking much of it. However, as the weeks went by and as the cases spread, my stomach got uncomfortable until the virus made its way to the United States and cases skyrocketed.

For my twentieth birthday in late February, I took a trip to New York City with two of my best friends and there wasn't much concern regarding the trip except for my dad suggesting that I bring and wear a face mask. Many people when hearing about my trip advised me to skip out on visiting Chinatown, an ill and racially biased suggestion that did not sit well in my stomach. With Queens being my hometown, traveling back to the city made me feel right at home again and over the phone, my dad would ask me if everything was the same. I would laugh and tell him that the city hasn't changed and then he would ask if there was anyone wearing face masks.

From that moment on unintentionally, whenever we'd be on the street or on the subway, my eyes would be on the lookout to see if anyone was indeed wearing masks. There weren't many people wearing masks, but those who were wearing them were typically alone. Other than that, you would have never guessed that halfway across the world there were hundreds of new cases being reported every day and it didn't seem as if we would be affected by what was going on. 

Then, I remember sitting at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens waiting to catch our flight home, listening to the news that the first case of COVID-19 has made its way to New York City. My stomach dropped because we had just spent the last five days traveling the city, touching everything and being a typical tourist. Other than that news report, everything seemed to be normal.

In the week following my trip to New York City, I went back to school and finished out the week in preparations for my Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. My parents suggested several times that I should not go but at that point, my heart was set on traveling - if there were no cases of COVID-19 in D.C., how could that possibly affect my trip? At that point, COVID-19 was characterized as an epidemic by the World Health Organization and I flew out to the nation's capital. 

While in DC, the first half of the trip everything felt almost relatively normal, but I did remind myself several times not to touch anything, especially my face, and to wash my hands more often.

Washing hands silver sink

That was the case until the World Health Organization then classified COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and my mother called me several times urging me to fly back home. I decided to look into it but it turns out that the airline I bought my tickets with would not change or refund my flight, and so, my heart was set on finishing out the last three days of my trip. 

The streets instantly became emptier. Going out at night was still fun but many employees stated that business was dropping because of the ongoing pandemic. Uber drivers around the city all began carrying around hand sanitizer and it became normal for them to offer it to me and my friends each time that we got into a car. One driver even informed us that if our seats were ever wet when getting into a car that it was probably because the company was requiring drivers to clean their cars more often and to make sure that everything is sanitized. Over the course of the five days that I spent in the capital, we took at least 3/4 trips with Uber a day, and only one driver in the entire trip was seen wearing a mask or gloves. 

On the last day of our trip, most places ended up being closed. The Smithsonian Institutions were all closed in response to COVID-19 and Georgetown, a popular college neighborhood that is supposed to be booming with people, was significantly emptier than expected. I was shocked to see how quickly the city went from being booming into an increasing ghost town. It was finally time to come home, and arriving at the airport was the biggest shock of it all.

The airport was rather empty - I spent less than ten minutes going through TSA and even less time boarding the plane when I was in the last boarding group. The plane ride home left me speechless as there were sixteen people on my flight of what was supposed to be over 150 passengers. Where the flight attendants typically dragged their beverage cart around to offer refreshments, the attendants on this flight were able to literally take drink orders in their heads and come out in two minutes with everyone's drinks.

It was clear to me that the instant I was home it was time to self-quarantine. Being young myself, I knew that if I were to contract COVID-19, it would not be as fatal as a person of a much older age. What is important is that I do not potentially spread it to the other people in my life. It has become the new norm to social distance and with the transition of face-to-face school to online classes and the closure of my workplace, I have been at home doing my part in trying to flatten the curve of the outbreak. 

Many things are uncertain right now with the way that COVID-19 is affecting the world; backtracking to the way the world felt three weeks ago when I was traveling to now where I have not left my house since I came back from vacation is very different. Sometimes seeing things for yourself really changes your perspective on things.