Before I tell you about our current travels, on the northwestern coast of the United States, for completeness I should mention what we’ve been doing in the 15 months since our last post on this site!
We spent most of the pandemic staying with our friends the Ferraros in northern Virginia. Readers of this site will recognize AJ Ferraro and her young daughter Francesca as dear friends who’ve joined us for trips in various places around the world. In the Before Times (pre-Covid), we used the Ferraros’ spare bedroom as our base between trips. Staying with AJ, Nick, and Francesca gave us a chance to reconnect with family life, visit friends in the Washington DC area, and take care of routine matters like haircuts and dentist appointments. It also gave them two extra pairs of hands to help with cooking, house chores, and child care.
We spent much of 2019 staying with the Ferraros, reluctant to leave the country when Melissa’s father was ill with cancer. (He passed away late in 2019.) Covid extended that arrangement, as we made the transition from long-term guests to housemates. Except for a few months at a rental apartment in central Virginia, and a carefully quarantined visit with my parents in Ohio for Thanksgiving, we spent all of 2020 and the first half of 2021 at the Ferraros’ house. The extra help we provided became especially important when AJ and Nick found out in the spring of 2020 that they were expecting a pandemic baby at the end of the year. We promised to stay until the baby was at least 6 months old—a promise that worldwide travel restrictions made it easier to fulfill.
The Good and the Not-so-Good
In many ways, we’ve been very lucky during the pandemic. None of our relatives or friends have become seriously ill, and our online editing work hasn’t been affected. We’ve had a comfortable and inexpensive place to stay, company to keep us from feeling too isolated, a yard and neighborhood walking trails for outdoor exercise, and the chance to spend lots of time bonding with Francesca and her baby sister, Naomi.
At the same time, staying in one place—especially such a familiar place—for so long has been very difficult. It’s not what we spent so much time and effort structuring our lives for. Melissa and I agree that we feel most like ourselves when we’re traveling. It was hard to feel like a vagabond when we weren’t going anywhere.
The repetitiveness of the days, with their cycle of work and child care and chores, was a challenge. Other challenges included being two introverts in a house full of extroverts and trying to reconcile our different preferences for cleanliness and clutter (things that many housemates struggle with).
How We Kept Ourselves Going
To stay sane, Melissa threw herself into taking online watercolor classes, with a teacher in Australia and students from many countries. During the summer, she swam laps in the local outdoor pool (which reopened by reservation only). And with Nick and AJ’s blessing, she built a small Ikea kitchen in the downstairs laundry room near our bedroom—a project that ended up being far more complicated and laborious than expected and that felt like a major accomplishment.
My lifelines were weekly online gaming sessions with friends and video classes offered by my favorite local yoga studio. I also did several large editing projects; during crunch periods, I rented nearby hotel rooms so I could get enough peace and quiet to focus on work for 8 to 10 hours a day. It’s amazing how wonderful an ordinary hotel room feels when it’s the only new place you’ve been for months!
By late May 2021, we were both fully vaccinated, and we began resuming our old lives in small bits. We were able to visit in person with local friends we’d only seen on screens for more than a year. We also drove with AJ, Francesca, and Naomi to visit Melissa’s mother in Tennessee. She lives in a nursing home, and because of Covid risks, she hadn’t been allowed to leave the facility or have visitors for many months. It was such a relief to see her again and find her doing well and to introduce her to the new baby.
As more and more parts of life in the United States opened back up, advertisements for housesitters started to appear again. With Naomi approaching her 6-month birthday, Melissa and I could finally take to the road once more.
Plans for 2021
So here we are in San Francisco, California, looking after two cats in a cute old townhouse. We’ll be spending July on the West Coast, driving from here to Seattle, where we have another housesit scheduled for the end of the month. The drive will be a slow one (of course!), with lots of stops to explore places we’ve never seen, such as redwood forests in northern California and the coastal scenery of Oregon, which is supposed to be stunning.
Then, as in the old days, we’ll be back in northern Virginia for a couple of months between trips, to see friends and look after the Ferraros’ cats while the family is on summer vacation. In the fall, we hope to finally leave the United States for the first time since early 2019. Our most likely destination is somewhere in Europe, depending on vaccination efforts and housesitting opportunities.
Day by day, Melissa and I are starting to feel more like our old selves. We had many good experiences during the pandemic, including the chance to be full-time parents to two dear little girls. But traveling is what we love most in the world, and it feels wonderful to be doing it again.