Our Journey: Homeward Bound

Our Journey: Homeward Bound

Well, we had a good run in Baja. Made our way more than halfway down the peninsula to Loreto, hung out there for a few weeks watching the pandemic rise, before biting the bullet and coming back to the United States.

We’ve now been crashing with family in San Diego for about a month. And we haven’t left the household the entire time, except to walk around the neighborhood for exercise. Thankful to be living at a time when delivery service can bring almost anything to your door!

What happened while we were on the road? A lot.

Was it crazy to be traveling in the midst of a growing pandemic? You bet.

Are we happy to be “home” in the U.S.? Absolutely, although we miss Baja more than you can imagine.

The lovely walkways found around the central plaza in Loreto, Mexico

March Turned South (Well, Actually North)

As of our last post, we made it a little more than halfway down the Baja peninsula and were enjoying some of Baja’s best beaches and sights. Freely roaming around, eating at restaurants, walking along the beaches, and making new friends on the road (even shaking their hands!).

Little did we know that those friends would be some of the last we would make on this trip.

We kept our ears to the ground as COVID 19 continued sweeping across the globe through January and February. As much as we wanted to stay off grid, we decided to cut short our time in Bahia Concepcion without cell service and made our way to the nearby town of Loreto in early March to stay informed.

As time continued on, we heard of rising panic and supply issues in many places. Loreto was a different world though. Essentially no panic, tourists walking around, plenty of toilet paper in stock, and no known cases of Coronavirus.

The utopia would not last, unfortunately.

Michael strolling through the empty streets of Loreto during COVID 19

Should We Go Back?

For a lot of tourists, the decision to go home was not difficult. Flights were becoming harder to come by, travel restrictions began to spread like wildfire, and cutting short a vacation to get back home safely and shelter in place was a no brainier.

It was a little different for us and other full-time travelers and digital nomads.

First, we were in a town that seemed to be doing quite well compared to many other places around the world. We were staying in a great campground in the middle of town with fast wifi, bathrooms (fully stocked with toilet paper and soap), a kitchen sink, a perfect spot under a huge palapa, and the beach was a block away.

Most importantly, even though there were zero confirmed cases of COVID 19 in the entire municipality of Loreto, the local government began taking the appropriate steps to keep people safe.

Why on earth would we abandon this paradise in order to go to the United States aka the world’s most coronavirus-filled country?

Second, we’re full-time travelers and digital nomads. We don’t actually have a stationary home to return to in the US. We would have to stay with family in either California or Colorado. Both states with very high numbers of COVID 19 cases at the time.

Finally, we knew that going home meant abandoning our current work project of exploring Baja for several months to create in-depth travel guides for our readers. We had been planning this trip for soooo long and our excitement continued to grow as we ventured farther down the peninsula. We couldn’t just give up, let our readers down, and put our adventures on hold. We had to make it all the way!

So what was it that made us decide to come “home”?

Our palapa campsite in Loreto, Baja Sur, Mexico

Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

While they aren’t perfect, the US Department of State’s travel advisories are a useful resource. And when they issued a level 4 advisory for all travelers (do NOT travel), we knew that it was time to reexamine our situation.

Transportation to get back home is always a top concern for any traveler. For us, we were thankful to have our car and not need to scramble to get one of the last flights.

However, the roadways in Baja are extremely limited. There is only one highway that travels the entirety of the peninsula and it is already subject to several military checkpoints. We were staying up to date with travelers’ stories throughout Latin America and they were encountering roadblocks and complete restrictions on road travel. It seemed possible that Mexico or at least the state government might start to restrict movement along Highway 1, resulting in us being stuck on the southern end of the peninsula.

Additionally, our mission of gathering detailed about Baja was brought to a screeching halt. We couldn’t travel, restaurants were closing, beaches were closing, and eventually even hotels and vacation rentals were ordered to close. There wasn’t really a work-related reason to stay there any longer.

We found ourselves taking it day by day, reading the local news, and checking what was closing down next to sort through our increasingly limited options for shelter. Would our campground close next? Would we be left wandering the (maybe restricted) roads in search of a place to call home?

The final straw came in the form of other travelers. We breathed a sigh of relief when our campground manager said he was going to close the door to new arrivals. Unfortunately, his family (like most) needed the income and when push came to shove, he always opened the doors. And for some inexplicable reason, people continued to travel from affected areas in the US and Canada into Mexico well into March. They were simply traveling for pleasure without giving the safety of others a second-thought.

Worries started to grow. The thought of being stuck in a desperate situation, without solid walls around us, unable to control the flow of people in our surroundings, and uncertain if the road home would stay open all became too much to bear.

The odds were stacked against us. After traveling south for about two months in Baja, we turned back north and made it to San Diego in two quick days.

A sign reminding everyone to stay calm

We Never Thought We’d Say This

Don’t travel and please stay home! It pains me to write that as it goes against everything we stand for. But that’s what we need to be doing right now and based on our recent experiences, people need to hear it over and over again.

How long do we need to stay home for? We believe outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, backpacking, and overlanding, might be some of the first travel areas to bounce back. But we don’t think we’re there quite yet and we won’t be camping right now either.

Why won’t we be going out camping? For one, those activities require you to get away from home. Even if it’s mainly on the road and only stopping for things like gas and food, society’s need to slow the spread is more important than our adventures.

More importantly, every time we venture into the backcountry, we know that we are taking a lot of risks. We are usually very careful and have never needed rescue assistance, but shit happens.

We do not want to place ourselves in a potential situation which may require resources from first responders and healthcare providers. While we know some of them aren’t completely overrun, you have to think of the bigger picture: What if everyone went back to camping? Or back to doing whatever risky activity they like?

Let’s let this nasty thing play out for a little longer before resuming those activities. Give the supply chains time to catch up. Let the professionals find ways to deal with the virus.

Our activities will be waiting for us. Just give it time.The shoreline of Loreto along the Sea of Cortez

What’s Next?

If anyone can answer this question with certainty, I’d say they aren’t being truthful.

One thing we do know is that our travel plans are on hold indefinitely and we’re personally committed to do all that we can to slow the spread of COVID 19. We also know that we did the right thing by going back to the US.

We feel extremely fortunate because we work online and can shelter in place, but on the same hand, we’re heartbroken because the travel industry is in the dumps and the future of Off Path Travels and our jobs as full-time travel writers are at stake. We’re trying our best to stay hopeful that the travel industry can recover and that we’ll all bounce back from this soon, but it is a struggle.

In the meantime, our plan is to continue staying inside, focusing on our mental health, and working on writing about what we love the most: outdoor adventures and travel!

Stay home, stay safe.

Until next time,

Kristina and Michael

P.S. Did you have a crazy travel experience caused by COVID 19? Or do you have suggestions for things we should post about right now? Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

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