Forget travel, when will life resume?

Apr 22, 2020

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Today is “Day 40.”

For nearly six weeks, I’ve been isolated in my Manhattan apartment with my wife and our young daughter.

When the novel coronavirus first came to America, I naively worried about getting through a 14-day quarantine at home, or day care having to close for two weeks due to some sort of deep cleaning.

Then the seriousness settled in. Airlines started canceling large blocks of flights. We launched a special weekly newsletter at TPG just to keep readers abreast of all the changes. I noted in that first email that I wasn’t canceling my May 1 trip to Portugal just yet. (It took me almost two more weeks to accept that reality.)

I’ve become much more pragmatic since then. I now realize that there isn’t going to be a speedy return to life on the road.

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Like many of you, I love counting down the days to that next trip. A family beach vacation. A couples’ week away. Even a business trip.

These days, all I can do is count up: 38, 39, 40.

Life might start to slowly return to normal here in New York City on May 15, but June 1 seems more likely. That’s another 40 days away — and not a sure thing.

My daughter turns 5 in May. She’s likely to celebrate, like so many other kids, without her friends. And we, like so many other parents, are planning new, virtual celebrations — plus a little bending of the rules, including cake for breakfast.

When she cries, it breaks my heart. When she screams in anger, or frustration, that also breaks my heart. I’d just love for her to be able to hug her grandparents.

My job as Executive Editorial Director of TPG is to promote travel. Every day, we work to help you make smart decisions as you take that next trip, including tips on how to leverage points and miles. And yet, right now, we are telling people to stay home and just plan for that next trip instead. Even that is hard to do when we don’t know how and when it will be safe to make such journeys.

We are all staying home for the health of society. I get that and support it. One of my former co-workers, a 51-year-old marathoner, died of COVID-19. I know others who are in hospitals, on ventilators.

This is a nasty virus.

But I’m also starting to see parts of society crack in unhealthy ways.

I’ve read about spikes in mental health problems in parents with small children. The data isn’t as clear about domestic violence, child abuse or substance abuse. Advocates in each area have been issuing dire warnings that such problems can increase under this pressure.

Then there are the job losses. Millions of Americans are out of work, many of them in the travel or restaurant sectors. They are struggling to feed their families and are going to lack health care coverage, in at least the short term, that they would need to do preventative screenings, let alone treat any acute illness.

Our leaders face a tough balancing act. They need to prevent the virus from spreading or coming back in a catastrophic manner. But they also need to realize that there’s a limit to how long society can stay isolated.

I’m an extremely extroverted person who loves to travel. Living in the epicenter of the outbreak with an active child has been particularly difficult for me.

We all want to know when life will return to something more familiar. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo acknowledges that in his daily briefings.

And as much as I want to hop on a plane in June, I would just settle for a bit of normalcy.

A summer vacation to Europe probably isn’t going to happen. Our multi-generational family trip to Aruba in August is no longer a certainty.

We’ve seen the airlines looking at new ways to keep us safe. Hotels and cruise lines are also rethinking their businesses.

Governments are finally ramping up testing that will help provide valuable data points to track future outbreaks — and maybe learn how many people were infected but never showed symptoms. More still needs to be done here.

This has been a deeply personal column. I’m pretty lucky compared to others, but still in pain. I wrote this to help process my feelings and to show others that we aren’t alone in this fight.

Life will eventually return to some sort of normal. And when it does, I’m going to be thankful for many things. Family, friends, health and financial stability won’t be taken for granted.

But neither will the little things. Delayed flights won’t be as frustrating. My daily commute won’t feel painful. And an overcooked, free hotel breakfast might actually seem appealing.

I’m trying to channel this pain and frustration into a new appreciation for life. I hope you can, too.

This crisis has brought out the best in our society. I can’t thank the health care workers on the front lines enough and those essential workers who have delivered food and taken away our trash. Even the travel companies, who are seeing their business fall apart, have gone above and beyond to help. We open our apartment window wide each night at 7 p.m. and cheer as loud as we can. It’s our way of showing all those workers our support and our way of showing other New Yorkers that we are still here.

All I know, is that when this is all over, we are going to need one amazing vacation.

I don’t know how many days it will be until that is possible, but as soon as I can, I’m going to take the trip. I’m going to book that adventure. We’re going to splurge, using our miles on the good seats. We’re going to push through the logistical challenges and travel with friends.

There are no more excuses.

Featured photo by deberarr/Adobe Stock.

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