Everything about this plan is a bad idea. We’re just asking for trouble in every way possible. But… we’re doing it anyway!
If you read my post “Our Planned Trip Back to the U.S. from Panama…” from a few weeks ago, you might remember that we were heading back to the U.S. in the second week of July.
Well, not too surprisingly, that whole agenda fell apart quickly.
The President of Panama, Nito Cortizo, decided to extend the suspension of re-opening the airports here for at least another month. That means the soonest the airports will be allowed to start rolling ahead again will be July 23.
But there are no guarantees on that date either. The suspension may get extended again around that time, particularly if the effects of the pandemic are still running rampant.
So, where does that leave us?
Lisa and Faith have been homesick for a while now. When we had so much fun going on earlier this year, it wasn’t that big of a deal. We were busy walking around town, visiting different stores and shops, scoping out all the different restaurants, hiking, horseback riding, and all sorts of good stuff. Our minds were elsewhere most of the time.
But once everyone here was ordered to stay in quarantine, things started to go south. We’ve been coming up with fun things to do to try to entertain ourselves, but spending 24 hours a day together in our apartment has gotten old.
Then they lifted the quarantine… sort of. We’re now able to walk around throughout the day. That sounds good but nothing’s going on…
- Retail stores aren’t allowed to be open yet (only grocery stores or pharmacies)
- Most restaurants are still closed but even the ones that are open are only allowed to offer delivery (delivery’s a pretty new concept here) or takeout
- Gatherings are still not permitted… no Tuesday Market get-togethers
- Horseback riding lessons have resumed but we don’t have a car and don’t feel comfortable getting in a taxi or bus during this pandemic
- The transportation issue means that we can’t get ourselves to different areas to go hiking either
There’s also a curfew in place at 7 pm every night. That’s not the end of the world, but it means no fun nights out for three of us right now.
And if you were thinking that there’s got to be ways to do some other things, there’s another problem. Right now, kids are only allowed out daily from 4 pm until 7 pm. First of all, that’s the time of day when it rains so that usually gets squashed. And second, kids aren’t allowed in any stores so we’re pretty limited again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the way the President is handling things here. The fact that we still have zero active cases of the virus in Boquete shows that following the measures is helping to keep people safe. And I think we’d be fine if it was just me and Lisa, but it’s not. We have a kid who’s been patient for the past few months being cooped up, but kids need some outdoor time to burn off some energy.
We’re making the best of everything but there’s no doubt that things are getting old. Throw in the airport suspension being extended and that became the breaking point for Lisa and Faith. Seeing the light and the end of the tunnel of getting back to see friends and family in early July slipped right through our fingers.
The new plan
We’ve decided that it’s time. Even though we shouldn’t leave, we’re doing it anyway. We’re heading back to the U.S. and there’s only one way I know of to get through the borders right now – humanitarian flights.
The U.S. has been routinely sending routine flights to Panama (among other countries) to help get U.S. citizens back to the States. It seems like we’ve been seeing a few of these each month and they seem to sell out in a relatively short amount of time.
We’ve been avoiding the humanitarian flights though figuring that we’d just wait until the borders were open.
We booked a weird flight that’s flying out of Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City at 3 am this week. Yeah, that’s right – 3 IN THE MORNING!
There were a couple of other choices with better times, but they were all on Spirit Airlines. While I have no problems flying with Spirit, the humanitarian flights they’ve been offering have been ridiculously overpriced to sit in their uncomfortable seats for a 4 ½ hour flight.
And this is from a “low-cost” airline. Throw in that the word “humanitarian” tends to convey a connotation of doing the right thing to help others and it just doesn’t add up. It would have cost us over $1,000 for a one-way flight to a location that’s not even our final destination.
The other option in the mix was Copa Airlines. They were offering a flight as well during the first week of July.
The Copa flight offered was a much better deal… if we’re doing it anyway, we might as well do it right.
Not only was the base price almost $300 cheaper total, but it also covered our checked bags. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that the seats are more comfortable than the ones on Spirit. As a bonus, Copa is a United partner so we can pick up some United miles for the flight.
The 3 am flight time will be weird, but it gives us another perk – we won’t have to stay at a hotel in Miami before heading back to Ohio. We’ll get in around 7:15 am so we’ll be able to catch a flight to Ohio right after.
So the new plan goes like this:
- A private driver takes us from our place in Boquete to Panama City. We leave early in the morning and should get there mid-afternoon.
- Stay at a hotel near the airport for around 9 hours until around midnight.
- Take the hotel shuttle to the airport and then fly to Miami – hopefully, catch some sleep on the plane.
- Fly from Miami to Cleveland that morning.
- Get a rental car at the Cleveland airport and take it to a hotel in Cleveland. Catch up on some much-needed sleep.
- Find a place to get a swab shoved into our brains to test for COVID-19.
- While we’re waiting for the test results (hopefully within a few days), we’ll either…
- Wait it out while staying at the hotel.
- Check out of the hotel, head to our storage unit, get our camping equipment, and spend a few days camping!
- Assuming the test results come back negative, we’ll “move-in” to my inlaws basement for the next month and spend some quality time visiting friends and family. We’ll still play it safe and keep our distance though.
- Head back to Panama with maybe a visit to my brother and sister-in-law in Texas before we leave.
Why this is a horrible idea…
Perfect trip, right?!
No way – this whole idea is horrible and crazy. Here’s why:
Boquete is rocking it!
We’re living in the small town of Boquete. There are no active cases here… none! Who would want to leave an area with zero active cases of this virus?
Although the lockdown has gotten pretty old, the country is slowly starting to re-open (very slowly!). In other words, the happiness factor will likely get close to the level it was previously over the next month or so.
In the meantime, we moved here for a reason. The spectacular weather and landscapes here make it such a great place. Once kids can get out a little more (hopefully soon), we’d be back to loving being here.
The U.S. is a hornets’ nest
We’re #1! We’re #1! Not something to be proud of in this case. Having over a million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. is rough. Granted, those aren’t the best numbers to look at – total cases per million and total deaths per million might be a little better for comparison.
But no matter what data you look at, the U.S. is still struggling and not the best country to be in if you’re trying to stay away from the virus.
When you throw in that the humanitarian flight is taking us right into Florida, that’s another problem. If you haven’t been keeping up, Florida is having a surge of new cases of COVID-19. They’re making the news left and right. It’s probably not the best place for us to be passing through.
Traveling by air or staying in hotels right now isn’t very smart. It’s just asking for trouble. It’s like shouting, “Here I am pandemic – come and get me!”
Look, we’re going to be so careful it’ll be insane, but it only takes a small bit of exposure to make it happen. Our travel plans push up the chances significantly of us getting that exposure.
How do we get back to Panama?
We’re heading back to the U.S. while the borders are closed in Panama… and we don’t have Panamanian residency. That means once we leave, we can’t get back in until the borders re-open.
Maybe that’ll happen on July 23 when the suspension is set to run out or maybe it won’t. It’s already been pushed back a couple of times. If it doesn’t, we’re at the mercy of Panama until we can get back.
To add to the issue, countries that are opening their borders are starting to consider rejecting U.S. citizens from being able to enter (nice job, USA!). With how aggressive the President has been here in Panama, it wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same.
So then what?
I guess we figure it out when the times comes. In the meantime, we’re packing our suitcases a little more methodically so as not to leave anything valuable here. That’s about all we can do.
Why we’re doing it anyway…
So if there are so many reasons to not take this trip, why are we doing it anyway?
You would think there would be a big list of reasons to make this happen, but really there’s only one…
To get back to loved ones.
Lisa will try to tell you that she’s worried about the “what-ifs” of Boquete getting an overflow of active cases. What would we do if that happened?
Shhh, don’t tell her I told you this, but I think that’s just an excuse in her mind to help justify why us leaving makes sense. Staying in a place without active cases seems to be the more logical choice.
With all the reasons not to take the trip, it’s hard to justify doing it anyway due solely to homesickness. But essentially, that’s what we’re doing. She’s going to beat me with a 2×4 when she reads this!
But if everything goes well, this should be a good trip. It’ll be wonderful to see everyone again and nice to visit Ohio during the summer months.
My biggest concern with COVID-19 isn’t me or even Lisa. My biggest concern is if Faith gets it or we pass it along to family or friends we’re flying in to see. If someone ends up dying because of our “we’re doing it anyway” attitude, how do you live with that?
This trip isn’t a good idea but considering we’re going for it and doing it anyway, I hope we don’t regret it. Time will tell, right? Masks on and fingers crossed!
Do you think going against the grain of the smarter move and doing it anyway is crazy stupid even if we’re extremely careful?
Thanks for reading!!