What if you were given one random week to do whatever you choose? Would you go and explore an area that you had never been to? Would you use it to explore something that we all don’t look into enough, our minds? Or would you waste it away binge watching Netflix on the couch?
This past year, I was given an opportunity to take a week away from the chaotic life of retail during the pandemic. A recent promotion at work left me with that wonderful “in between” time. The time I define as having a job, but that blank space between your position you’re leaving and the new role. Its the perfect scenario for taking time away to clear your mind and refresh. A time that you have to yourself before diving in to that new experience coming in the future.
As we sat down and decided what we could do with our free time, we also took consideration to the current pandemic. The pandemic plays a factor in most things we do at the current time in this world. Travel restrictions along with safety have to come into play. Luckily, travel has been extremely safe. Safe to where you actually feel more safety in the air than you do going to your local grocery store. The air circulation, the sanitizing and 6 foot distancing, is often much improved than your local sanctions.
Hawaii had just opened its restrictions of travel and its one of our favorite places to visit in the world. A perfect mixture of surreal beaches, adventure and the best climate control. Hawaii has so much to offer anyone trying to get away. The caveat at the moment, is that you have to have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. At first we looked at partner airlines that were helping to alleviate to the issue, United was one of them. The news gave us this wonderful dream of free testing made simple. A brief swab at the airport as you are whisked away to your destination. The reality was much different as we worked through the process. A $250 charge for a rapid test before flying? Wasn’t this the airline that said they were trying to improve their customer service? $100 test if you get it a couple of days earlier? What if you don’t get the test results back in time? Are you stuck in quarantine, while in one of the top destination areas in the world? Wouldn’t this be the same as putting a mouse in a cage and putting cheese on the opposite side of it? All too excruciating to think about!
As we thought through the process, we continued the what if’s on this one. Maybe we fly to Mexico with much less restriction. Is much less restriction a good thing though? Would it be better for us to be around people that care so little for the travelers that nothing is being done about cases? It put us into a conundrum. Maybe we stay in the continental US and visit a state we haven’t before. Texas anyone? Or maybe a road trip up through the Oregon coast? Is there enough time in our five day excursion to get everything we would want out of the trip? Uncertainty rang in our minds, as we made our way through the possible destinations. More challenging than we thought to have a free week!
What if we just placed our finger onto a map with our eyes closed? That would be great, if we weren’t in a pandemic! After several miscues, pointing to countries that restrict people from the US, we had to change maps! A map of the US was now the reality…but where to? Would we commit to the destination that we chose? Or would we continue to change our course as we made our way across the landscape?
After pondering several days on where we should go, we decided to take a weekend away in Santa Cruz to get some perspective. As we sat at a bar having a beer and watching college football, we reviewed the case for each top place. Narrowed down to Hawaii and Mexico, we decided to see the pricing of hotels in Oahu.
The island of Oahu was the only main island that we had yet to visit in Hawaii. It was the most touristy island in the chain, and probably the one I wanted to go to the least. How would it be during the pandemic? Obviously there are plenty of restrictions on the islands as they navigate this scenario. Would this be the best time to go to an island that is normally overwhelmed with people? Would the traffic let up just a bit from the United States with the restrictions imposed?
We decided to price out some hotels. Could this be the time to get a great deal on a hotel on the main strip of Waikiki beach? We found out, yes it was a perfect time! We ended up finding the Hyatt Regency for close to $100 off of the normal price. When we started to think about it, maybe it wasn’t as big of a deal if we paid a little bit for a test, if we save $400 on four nights at a beautiful resort. Again we went back and forth on the pros and cons.
Finally booking the hotel after a couple drinks too many, we decided that it was the right choice. Our tickets were easy as we had airline miles saved up and we ended up getting the flight for free. The only issue left was the testing. As we started to quickly plan out activities to do on the island, we still had in the back of our minds, what if we have to quarantine?
The state guidelines for tourists show that you have to get a COVID test 72 hours before your flight departure. Easy right? Well, what if the test doesn’t come back in time? You’re stuck sitting in a hotel room, quarantined to a room in paradise. Again, back and forth our minds would go, trying to figure out if all this worry was actually worth the pay off! Which, also brings a scary travel question, could this be the new reality of travel? What if all area require a test before entering? Instead of planning out various excursions to do while away, you might have to wait until the day you land to determine if you can do anything! Do we now have to make no plans for the two days of traveling, for the mere chance that we have to quarantine for test results?
The tests came back within 48 hours and we ended up booking several tours to experience on the island. It just felt so good to have a little bit of normalcy in travel again. Even though, it comes with several caveats, I still see promise in travel progressing in the future. Hopefully they will reduce pricing for rapid tests in the future and make it accessible to all, if this is the new normal.
There were many options to go through as we went through all of the possibilities, but half of the fun is honestly just using your imagination for what’s possible. We always wanted to head to an airport and just point up at a flight and book it. While we might not be able to do this just yet, it is freeing knowing that we are at least safely starting to open our world back up. A week can lead to a lot of possibilities. It’s true, you could stay home, clean the house, maybe relax a little. It’s not for me, whenever I get the chance, I take to the sky and learn about the world around me. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be the person at the water cooler talking about their amazing weekend, than the one saying that they did nothing. Now, only to figure out if people actually congregate by water coolers anymore!