“It don’t matter to me / Wherever we are is where I wanna be”
Chris Stapleton, Starting Over
I feel like this has come to summarize my feelings about travelling during COVID.
6 years ago – well before COVID was even on the horizon – my husband and I planned to take a year off of work. We used a plan that our employer offers commonly called a “4 over 5”, or officially a deferred salary plan. We are payed the equivalent of four years pay, stretched out over 5 years. So we worked for 4 years on a 20% pay cut, and continued to receive the same reduced salary on our 5th year, our year off.
It’s a great plan. And we had big ideas for our year off. We planned it carefully. On that fifth year both of our children would be in post-secondary school. 19 and 21. Old enough to not really need us around quite so much.
We planned to test out our retirement dreams. Buy an RV and travel North America. Take a cross Atlantic repositioning cruise.
We began shopping for the RV long before COIVD hit, carefully planning what we wanted. We finally bought it the fall of 2020. We pretty much bought it in time to store it for the winter. But that was when we all thought COVID would be over in a few months. We booked some campsites for the summer of 2021. And in Ontario, that means booking 6 months in advance.
Then – COVID kept going. Who knew? Canada went into our second lock down.
Our first weekend booked for the RV was at Sandbanks Provincial Park – a highly coveted and hard to come by park in Southern Ontario along the beaches of Lake Ontario. We waited with bated breath to see if the parks would reopen before our weekend. Believe it or not, they reopened the day our reservation began.
My husband had planned a backcountry hunting trip in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho for September 2021. He had been training and planning for this trip for over a year. We weren’t sure if he would be able to go. Canadians were being allowed to fly into the United States, but not drive across land border crossings. Thankfully, he was flying. But we still weren’t sure that any insurance company would give him medical insurance. But again luck was on his side, and he was covered by our insurance from work. He went. He loved it.
Because we bought a small travel trailer for our first RV, we had planned to do small trips. It’s not really the RV you want to live in for months. We figured we would do several small trips into the States – one in October, another in November, a slightly longer one in January, something else in March.
But it became clear that the land border was not reopening. We began to think about ways to get the RV and our dogs across the border, while we would fly over to meet it. But that wasn’t something we could do once a month.
We also started to think about trips we could do in Canada. But where do you go with an RV in November in Canada?
I spent much of September working and reworking plans. How could we get the RV and the dogs across the US border? Where could we go instead in Canada in the late fall with an RV? Why had we bought it? How could we embrace winter travel when we bought the RV to escape winter? My head swam with questions.
Then I heard Starting Over by Chris Stapleton. “Wherever we are is where I wanna be”. I’d heard the song before – lots – but somehow one day in September that line hit me.
It didn’t matter where we went. We would go – somewhere – we would be together – and it would be come where we would want to be. I couldn’t let COVID ruin a year that was 6 years in the making.
So we decided that we wouldn’t plan. We would book last minute. We would go where we could, when we could, if we could.
Instead Minnesota in October, we went to Cape Breton and Newfoundland. Late in the season to take an RV to the East Coast, but we did it. And it was amazing.
When the border reopened in late October, we booked a last minute trip to Nashville and Chattanooga. No RV this time because the long term forecast was for an early winter – that never came. We also couldn’t do everything we wanted to in Nashville because we were not completely comfortable with the lack of COVID protocols, but we did whatever felt safe to us. And we had a great time.
Now, as I write this, Omicron is sweeping North America. But the land border crossing is staying open. We waited to book anything just to be sure it didn’t close again, but in a week we leave for New Orleans and Texas. We are pulling the RV out of hibernation and taking her – because we can.
We have a cruise booked for May – fingers crossed on that one.
Nothing booked for March yet – but we can wait until later to see which way the wind blows us.
We have learned not to plan – that’s a hard lesson for two teachers. But we have also learned that we can’t let circumstances beyond our control ruin what is in our control. We took the year off to travel so we will travel. We bought an RV so we are going to use it. Where we go doesn’t matter.
It just matters that we go. And it will be exactly where we want to be.