In the days before Thanksgiving, I was excited to actively research where in the world we might go next. We decided it was time to resume our travel lifestyle after waiting out the pandemic in Malay, Aklan, Philippines. Now, that travel lifestyle is again interrupted, it seems.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has restricted travel, and in a growing number of countries, outright banned all foreigners again. The Moderna CEO announced vaccines will have to be modified. Omicron is quadrupling hospitalizations at Ground Zero in South Africa, including many patients under the age of 18.
Our original plan was to travel India for the last year. As I write this, India is having an emergency meeting about the new variant, which might be in Mumbai. As I write this, I occasionally look up at gentle waves roll onto shore here in barangay Motog on mainland Malay, across a channel from the Philippine paradise of Boracay Island.
I was on Boracay Island last week. There were more tourists than I’ve seen since we were allowed onto the island last year. They are domestic tourists — the Philippines cancelled its opening to foreigners from ‘green list’ countries for now because of Omicron. The tourist numbers are still a far cry from pre-pandemic levels, as locals always point out. Less than half, maybe less than a third, they say.
Still, as I wandered down White Beach from Station 3 to Station 2, and then through D’Mall to the main road, I had an immense, powerful feeling: Our work is done here, I thought. The tourists are back, and our local friends will survive with at least some income.
A few hours later, stock markets sank before the opening bell in New York.
How could I have been so wrong? How can our early retired budget travel lifestyle get interrupted, again – nearly two years after we stopped?
Travel lifestyle interrupted
I know many people who are out there traveling right now. I know two couples who were recently in Morocco, which is now shut to all incoming foreigners. I have an Israeli friend who has been trying to get me to commit to a time frame for a visit. I have friends traveling in Mexico, Portugal, Costa Rica, and more.
The difference between us and (most of) them is: they are not full-time travelers. They go ‘home’ for six months at a time. I had planned to go ‘home’ for a few months, too, before the ‘Rona came along, but not for six months. We Earth Vagabonds keep going.
To be clear, I like it well enough here. It’s a rural-ish area with good people. Spectacular sunsets. Reasonable prices (by American standards). Clean, fresh sea air. Pristine swimming conditions on nearby Boracay.
I’ve had peace and enough serenity to write a book and start book number two while Theo is out doing this and that with friends. I also visit with friends in the region and enjoy my time with them.
We have always believed God put us here during the pandemic to help people weather this viral storm. We have put travel plans on hold while we help others and continue to wait out what happens. Our apartment rental at the HangOut Beach Resort is lovingly called our ‘pandemic bunker.’
God’s will confounds
News from the pandemic bunker in the last week has been a ride of ups and downs.
Up: travel lifestyle plans underway! Down: Omicron restricts travel.
Up: a friend paid us back some money. Down: she is still struggling so we gave her half back and she bought food for her adorable children.
Down: a little boy we know has a plastic pellet stuck in his ear — for two years! Up: we take him to a specialist tomorrow to (hopefully) get it out.
Up: a friend is home safe after a trip to see a doctor on another island. Down: she must return and have surgery.
Down: a friend’s sister died and the family had big funeral costs. Up: she has family and neighbor support to help with big bills.
Up: I went to Kalibo this week to talk about my spiritual path with friends. Down: God is not loud about what Its will is for me next.
Down: I miss my family. Up: An Ati friend gave me a beautiful gift that lifted my spirit.
Below are pictures of that gift. It’s a handmade handbag, part of the Ati weaving project underway that Theo recently shared.
Always up: the blessings of being in a position to help the Ati and other friends.
But I’d be lying if I said I wanted to stay another year. How does that saying go? God gives us what we need, not always what we want. Yea. I feel like that’s my life’s theme for the last several years.
I just glanced up from the screen and saw a boy whose family we’ve given rice, a bright red Ati boat head back to shore, and a woman we’ve helped in many ways, many times. All in one glance up from this melancholy post.
Maybe our work isn’t done here after all.
When I get down about not getting what I want, I am lifted up by remembering it’s God’s will, not mine, to be done. My personal challenge is to remember that.