And Then Came the Virus: Stranded in Mexico
March 2020. I look anxiously at my smartphone. The Corona virus has turned the world upside down and bad news are popping up every minute. The infection figures are shooting through the ceiling in Europe, brutal curfews are being imposed and travellers are suddenly threatened. Many people die.
The situation is grave. Everyone should stay at home from now on. But what do you actually do when you no longer have a home? Where do you go then?
Since the borders have been closed and freedom of movement has been restricted, I feel abandoned. Outside – that was our chosen home. Now we have to lock ourselves up in strange four walls.
And make a decision. A damn difficult one. The German embassy is issuing a worldwide travel warning, the foreign health insurance might dismiss us, flights are fully booked or will be canceled. The world is in a state of shutdown.
Should I stay or should I go?
Let’s get out of here! This is the first impulse. I want to know how things are working. I want to be able to communicate flawlessly. I need a familiar environment. Our relatives are still fine – but shouldn’t we be with them now?
We have to evaluate all the options, and preferably now. Can we get on a plane? What do we do with the bikes? How fast will the situation develop? When could we be at the next airport? What will be the costs? Will we be able to return to Mexico before the import papers expire? What happens if not? How long will the crisis last? What if we get infected on the way home? Where should we go in Germany anyway? And above all: what would that mean for our journey – our life?
A thousand questions shoot through our minds in sleepless nights.
What happens in Mexico?
When the WHO classified the corona crisis as a pandemic, the president of Mexico maintained an unhelpful public discourse. He travels around the country cheerfully, hugging his supporters and giving kisses to children. The population shows a similar pattern. Hardly anyone observes distance rules or wears a mask. Meetings, parties and even festivals take place.
We find it difficult to reconcile this normality with the scenarios from Europe. A few thousand kilometres away, health forces are fighting on all fronts. Italian army trucks transport corpses at night. Countless families are torn apart. It is incredibly sad.
And yet, somehow, life must go on here. Massive consequences are threatening on all levels already. More than half of the Mexican population lives from informal trade and daily income. A sudden shutdown of public life is not as possible as in countries with higher institutional and financial capacities. There are no comparable economic and social aid programs of the state in these countries.
It is possible that a curfew enforced by the military – as it is currently practiced in many South American countries – would increase poverty and need. As a result, crime and violence, against which Mexico has been fighting for decades, would also increase. I do not want to be in the shoes of political decision-makers at the moment. How bad must it be to weigh up the various evils that cost human lives?
We do not always manage to stay cool in the face of the situation. After all, this is the first pandemic we’ve experienced. “When we go, we gotta go NOW,” I finally say to Moe. It’s six in the morning and it’s about a thousand kilometres to the airport.
Before we pack everything up, let’s sit together one last time. Eventually it becomes clear what’s best for us: staying here. And ride out the storm.
Two things are especially important to us: not putting other people in danger and continuing the journey. Both are best possible for us if we stay where we are. In other words: in Mexico. Even if it is not yet clear how things will develop here. We have confidence that most Mexicans also simply want to get through this time as well as possible. Therefore we rent a small apartment in a village outside of Oaxaca-City for an indefinite period of time.
When we have made this decision, we suddenly feel better. Staying in one place for a longer period of time is a welcome break from travel. At last we can work on projects for which there was no time left before. There is no end date to return to anyway. Professionally we are independent of location and do not have to fear for our existence. It is no problem to take a room in which we can isolate ourselves. We have family and friends in different parts of the world on whom we can rely. And we have each other.
Above all, we had the enormous privilege of being able to travel for a very long time. The way we wanted to. So if you don’t just go behind your own front door, it quickly becomes clear that we are by no means the losers.
Pain of Farewell
But after some time, disillusionment comes anyway. It gradually becomes apparent that we will probably not be able to travel in the USA and Canada this summer as planned. That – if we are lucky – we might have to wait a whole year for it. That we will be isolated for a very long time.
When finally a curfew is imposed in our village, it gnaws at me a lot. Not even walking in the fields anymore – I feel locked up and gradually lose my motivation and perspective. The days darken.
Back to the here and now
After two months we finally have enough. Enough of waiting. Enough of this uncertainty. Enough of feeling trapped between two worlds. Our thoughts have been in Germany more than ever these past few weeks. We are very grateful that our family and friends are doing well. But we have realized that this state of mind is not good for us. We can no longer move, we can no longer talk to people, we can no longer discover anything. Through the isolation we have completely lost the connection to Mexico. How can we sit in front of our computers all day long while many sad developments are happening around us? It did not feel right.
We can’t help being stuck here for a while. But we can choose what we spend our time on. Sure we can’t save the world – but maybe some sad four-legged friends.
So we decide to go to Puerto Vallarta and support a dog rescue organisation for the next months. Lonely dogs, who have no home, have accompanied us since the beginning of our journey and have touched us many times. They are also affected by the crisis, as more and more families are abandoning their dogs due to the difficult economic situation. We are very curious what this new chapter holds in store for us!