We arrived in Switzerland yesterday afternoon after a beautiful drive from Italy through Austria. St. Gallen, which is where our current digs are, is a quiet little area near the Bodensee/Lake Constance. I can see Germany from our balcony, which faces the lake. When we got here yesterday, we checked in and had our temperatures taken. We filled out paperwork indicating that we haven’t been to any of the dangerous countries within the last 14 days. And, as usual, we explained to the front desk folks that although we are Americans, we live in Germany. I haven’t been to the United States since November 2014. Bill was there in March of this year, which was when Europe was the hot spot for COVID-19.
When I saw the bed in our room, I knew it was time for a nap. It’s covered with a very generous duvet and has gleaming, smooth, white sheets that are so soft and luxurious. Best of all, there are no screaming kids or drunk adults outside. It wasn’t long before I was napping… and I reached a blissful state of REM until about 90 minutes later, when I woke up and we decided to just eat in the hotel because we just didn’t feel like going anywhere else.
The hotel we’re in is also a clinic that helps people with heart, spinal, and psychiatric conditions. There are people here for medical reasons, and there are people here as hotel guests. The clinic and hotel guests are segregated, but health promotion is a priority. The food is excellent and the service extremely professional. Yes, it’s expensive… but it’s just what we needed. In fact, I would have been happy to just come here for a few days. I may do that, now that I know where this hotel is.
As we were finishing breakfast, I noticed an article in the New York Times about people who are going on vacation, but not commenting on it or sharing pictures on social media. The article profiled several people who, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, have decided to leave town and go somewhere different. But they’re keeping their plans quiet, because they don’t want their friends and family members to give them a ration of shit for deciding to travel. It’s now become “irresponsible” and shame worthy to venture out to new locales.
I realize that our situation isn’t quite the same as other Americans’ situations. COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared from Europe, but it’s much more under control here than it was a few months ago, and it’s certainly not as prevalent here as it is in the United States. Why? Because when it was ramping up in the spring, countries completely shut down. There was no need to travel in the spring, because nothing was open. Consequently, after March 15, 2020, I literally only left my neighborhood once until June.
During that time, we tried to adopt a dog. On the morning of March 20, 2020, he was brought to us by a pet taxi. But the lady driving the taxi, probably knowing that business was going to shut down for many weeks, had been driving for over 17 hours. She was exhausted, and made the tragic error of not securing the dog properly. He escaped before we could get him into our house– literally right in front of our eyes. Then he got hit by a car and was killed. I never even got to pet him.
That was what capped off our quarantine… Bill was exposed to two people in his office who got it during a conference with military officers from other countries. Fortunately, Bill never got the virus, but we still stayed locked down for about three weeks straight, because the first test Bill took was invalid and had to be redone.
I left the house in April to get an eye test done so I could get a new driver’s license, and to get pictures taken for a passport renewal, which I have yet to complete due to the passport office being shut down over the virus. The next time I went anywhere was in May, but I never left the car. In June, we went to a hotel for my birthday weekend, but stayed in a hotel twenty minutes from home, where masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer were the name of the game.
Last month, we enjoyed a long weekend in Meerfeld, Germany, just a couple of hours from home. Again– masks, social distancing, and hand washing and sanitizer galore, along with contact tracing… although we did not wear masks 24/7 as some of the self-righteous New York Times commenters are claiming (and personally, I think they’re full of shit). There was definitely no forgetting about the pandemic.
So this month, we decided to take a long vacation mostly outside of Germany. Frankly, we needed it, and we’re doing it now because COVID-19 is on the rise again and we may have to lockdown soon. We’re also planning to try to adopt another dog. He’s coming from Kosovo. Hopefully, we’ll meet him next month, and we’ll need to take the time to get to know each other and start potty training him. 😉 We may go to Stuttgart for a weekend in September, because that’s where our dentist is and we badly need cleanings. We haven’t had them since May 2019.
I read a lot of comments on the New York Times article. Lots of people were preaching to the masses against traveling. Vacationing is seen as “cruel”, “gauche”, “tacky”, “irresponsible”… and many folks are losing friendships and even family members over them. Now, instead of breaking up over politics or religion, people are breaking up over their friends’ and family members’ choices to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants.
I must be very lucky. I have only lost a few Facebook friends over the past week. One was for mysterious reasons– I still haven’t figured out who it was, but obviously since I don’t miss them, they weren’t that important anyway. One was someone I unfriended because I barely knew her and she had gone inactive. And the last one was someone who got into a politically charged cat fight on my page over Donald Trump. I wasn’t the one who was arguing with her the most, but she decided to block me anyway… after telling everyone that she’s a clairvoyant “medium” who can sense “darkness” in people. Apparently, those of us who are against Trump aren’t “sharing the light”. Wow… it’s like the trash took itself out!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that life goes on. We can’t stay locked down forever. Many people make their living hosting travelers, or writing travel related articles, or serving meals in restaurants, or gassing up cars… Travel is important to the economy, but it’s also essential for mental health. Moreover, I am just sick and tired of the shaming that goes on for almost every damned thing people do in this lifetime. Everything you do gets judged by someone else. I, for one, am sick of shamers of all stripes. I have been shamed for everything from how I laugh to the fact that I married a man who was divorced and has children from his first marriage. I have been shamed for being an “overeducated housewife who dares to blog” to being a fatass who never gets my hair professionally cut and styled. I’m sick to death of it. Dammit, it’s my life and I have to live it. Everyone else who has a negative opinion about what I’m doing with my life can just fuck off.
We have mostly been very careful… following the rules prescribed in each country. They have been surprisingly varied, although none of the hotels where we’ve stayed have required masks, the way they are required in Germany. We did a lot of driving around in our car, taking pictures, rather than going to museums or hanging out in bars. I hate wearing masks, but I have dutifully put them on when we’ve been indoors in shops or other places that required them. I’ve found that they obstruct my vision and, at least when we went to the top of the Zugspitze, I had to take mine off at the top because I literally couldn’t catch my breath. The atmosphere is thin up there.
This trip has been good for us, although I know some assholes would say, “Check back with us in two weeks.” That’s a really classy attitude, by the way, wishing death or illness on people who dare to travel. Seriously? Screw people with that attitude. It’s just really shitty. The same to people who think they need to insult people to get them to cooperate. When people insult me, my response is usually in kind… or I try to get away from them and do what I want anyway.
It’s not realistic to lockdown until COVID-19 is “eradicated”. Viruses are notoriously difficult to eradicate. So we have to come up with ways to live with the virus until it’s not as dangerous. But I don’t think that should mean staying locked in the house for the rest of our lives. That’s not living. And if people don’t want to see me posting pictures on my social media, they have a choice not to look at it or associate with me. No one is forcing them to look… or read, for that matter. Same thing I’ve always said. I’ve got a life to lead. You’ve got a life to lead. You lead yours, and let me lead mine.
Now to take a swim in our insanely clean, quiet, healthy Swiss hotel’s pool…