When you last saw me, it was December 2019, and I was sitting in José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil putting the finishing touches on a 6 month trip that took me through Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Ecuador. At that point, I was so tired that I knew that it would be a while before I traveled again. However, little did I know, life as I knew it would completely change and I would not travel internationally at all in 2020.
Shortly after I got back into the United States, I started my new job. My plan was to build up my cash reserves and then go to Peru in the early to late fall. Unfortunately, two months into my new gig the world was hit with a global pandemic. Originating from China, COVID-19, a respiratory virus, has killed almost 2 million people and has affected millions of more. As a result, borders were closed, businesses were shuttered, and millions of people were thrown into poverty. I was fortunate in two aspects. First, I was able to start my job right before the economy shut down and employment in the United States rose to nearly 30%. While working from home was not pleasant, it was better than not working. Because I was not spending $10 a day eating lunch every day, I was actually able to save money and pay off my debts. This allowed me to be in a better financial position to travel. I was also able to renew my passport for another 10 years. Next, I caught COVID fairly early and while I had a nagging cough for a few months, I did not end up on a ventilator. After heavy consideration, I decided that I wanted to travel again in January 2021. The problem was that while many countries were “open”, many either still had long quarantine requirements or cumbersome visa processes. As result, I broke my #1 rule…..never use my vacation days to visit the same place twice. I am currently sitting in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson waiting to border my flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have already been to Mexico a few times but I have never been to Puerto Vallarta. Mexico also has virtually no COVID requirements for entry and is open to tourism. I decided to take a week off of work and just go hang out on the beach. I was able to get a decent deal on a nice hotel on the beach off of Booking.com (I will review the hotel in the accommodations section).
Getting to this point has already been an adventure. I booked the cheapest flight I could find. Unfortunately, it left this morning at 6AM from Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport which is an hour from my house. Because I do not have a car, I had to use public transportation to get to the airport which meant I had to leave at 8 PM on last night so I could catch the last train before my flight. I arrived to BWI at about 930 PM thinking that I would be able to at least get to the gate. Nope. Turns out that TSA closes the “airside” access at 9 PM and does not allow people in until 4 AM. I also did not get a chance to eat dinner so being cold and hungry, I had to sleep on the metal bench right in front of the security gate. I thought about getting a hotel but the prices were a little too high for my liking ($80 for only 8 hours). I eventually got onto my flight which actually was not that bad. I had a comfortable seat, there was no one directly next to me (no middle seats are booked), and I did not have to pay for my drink and snack. The key difference was I flew Delta as opposed to Spirit Airlines. I have arrived in Atlanta and I am currently sitting at the gate waiting to board my 4-hour flight to Mexico at 1130 AM. Despite everything that happened in 2020, I am grateful to be sitting here in 2021 with the opportunity to travel again and explore a new place.