How many times since the pandemic first hit has the passage of time been referred to as “like in that movie Groundhog Day?” Almost a year and a half later, I finally decided it was time to rewind yet again, overcome my fears, and pursue that travel writing career I had been so excited about before the whole world turned upside down and inside out.
Who should I (re)start my journey as a global citizen with? My sister of course-the same one who convinced me to go to New Zealand in 2020. We met for lunch on my 59th birthday and agreed that maybe now would be the best time to take another trip we’d always dreamed of-to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. Here’s why. First, due to travel restrictions and a slow return to cruise ship vacations, the islands were bound to be less crowded. Thus, our chances of being able to do and see all sorts of cool things would be much higher. Secondly, there was something about the simplicity of these timeless volcanic islands, populated mostly by wildlife, that appealed to me. It would be a destination where like-minded people who were drawn to the outdoor life would travel, ecotourists who don’t typically need a lot of bells and whistles to enjoy themselves.
The decision to use Classic Journeys again was easy. AFAR Travel Magazine and Guide recently named CJ’s Galapagos Tour “Best Wildlife Experience”. Plus, traveling to a remote island area in a small group with a local guide sounded like the best and safest idea and having someone familiar with the territory handle the arrangements should ensure that we got an across-the-board view of Galapagos. Things had gone smoothly with them last time around; what could possibly go wrong?
Well, to start with, we had to postpone our original travel date in May 2021-Covid was still too rampant and unpredictable. We rebooked everything (trip, flights, and travel insurance) for October 1, 2021 and crossed our fingers. Truthfully, I had my doubts, especially when the Delta variant surged over the summer and everyone but us bowed out of the trip. But Classic Journeys didn’t cancel or reschedule and I felt like I needed to do this. Travel has always been such an important part of my life and who I am that I couldn’t imagine a drab, colorless existence where I wasn’t able to explore different places, try new things, and meet new people. Actually, I could imagine it since I had just lived through it.
How did I control my anxiety? I wrote in my journal and recited my Covid mantra daily. “Act as if” I repeatedly instructed myself. As if the lightweight hiking shoes, stainless steel water bottle, and reef-safe suntan lotion I ordered months ago would magically arrive on my front steps before the departure date. As if I could cram the 25 allotted pounds of luggage into a backpack and one carryon suitcase. As if something unexpected wouldn’t happen to derail what Classic Journeys referred to as “the trip of a lifetime”. As if I would pass the Covid tests needed to get into Galapagos and later back into America. As if I would be able to fully immerse myself in all the islands had to offer, even if it had to be done from behind a KN95 mask. Surprisingly this worked! As I drove to the Rochester airport and boarded a Delta flight to Atlanta, I felt an overwhelming sense of exhilaration. After a long, dry spell I was on the road again!
I’m sorry to say the pandemic has not made flying any easier. However, there was wine and movies (Summer of Soul and In the Heights!) on the five-hour flight and we finally landed late that night in Ecuador. Our guide was waiting patiently to drive us to the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel where, despite the midnight hour the staff and rooms were great. Early the next morning we grabbed a coffee and got our nasal passages swabbed, then set out to walk around Quito with Rafael.
In all the excitement of preparing for the Galapagos expedition, I’d managed to forget that we would have a full day in the capital city while waiting for our Covid test results. Though I’d done no preliminary research on Quito, Rafael was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and open to our questions and it was a fantastic day!