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  • Writer's pictureEric Spitz

Finding Solace in Solitude

2020 was going to be the year of travel for me.

My brother Joel and I first mapped out how the year would look for us as we shared some cold beers at Green Dot Stables toward the end of 2019. Having been to 42 states so far, I was adamant on bringing that number to 44 with Alaska and New Mexico. In addition, I would be traveling internationally for the first time in over three years to go on a pilgrimage to Scotland through my church. I set the bar higher than ever going into 2020, and was determined to see the destinations I’ve been dreaming about for years.

I began counting down the days to March 13th as I set my sights on New Mexico. The plan was to make the Bataan Memorial Death March in the White Sands Missile range my 16th marathon in my 13th state, and to have my family accompany me on the trip. I had an entire itinerary planned out, including a trip to the breathtaking White Sands National Park and some exploring around Organ Mountains National Monument, all revolving around staying at an Airbnb in Las Cruces that was labeled as a geodesic dome right by New Mexico State University. Maybe it was the famous Roswell Crash, or the massive amount of dishes revolving around green chiles that made me yearn to explore the Land of Enchantment, as the state is often called. Either way, I couldn’t wait to see what New Mexico had to offer.

Two days before our flight, I received an e-mail from the race officials with a subject line that explained everything very bluntly: “Bataan Memorial Death March Cancelled.” My heart sank. With how quickly COVID-19 was spreading around the country during that time, the race officials decided to cancel the marathon in order to prevent the potential spread of the virus. This was directly before the government advised on a social distancing policy, so although I was disappointed I wouldn’t be competing in the race, I completely understood the rationality behind the decision.

At first my family and I decided to still take the trip anyway. We would be cautious and adhere to recommendations by the CDC and still take the time to see what the state had to offer. However, as the days went on, and more businesses were either cancelling events or completely shutting down, we made the difficult decision to cancel the trip altogether. We decided it would be best to have the trip rescheduled once the pandemic is over.

When I returned to work on Monday, March 16th, there was immediate talk of a massive meeting regarding COVID-19. I had a feeling for what was to come, but didn’t want to make any assumptions. As my gut suggested, everyone was sent home with their computers and ordered to work from home until further notice after the meeting concluded. I knew right then that my family and I made the right decision to cancel our trip. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would have been to navigate around an unfamiliar state during a national pandemic, and potentially run the risk of not being able to return home right away.

While I’m normally a pretty anxious person, the entire pandemic had me feeling oddly calm. I was home, in a familiar and comfortable place, and I was safe. I instantly started making lists of projects I could get caught up on, and activities I used to get a lot of enjoyment from but never made time for. I suddenly found dozens of things to occupy my day, and was relieved to see my friends on Facebook coping in a similar manner.

It’s been bringing me a massive amount of joy to see my friends focusing more on themselves and their passions while being confined to their homes. Whether that be starting a YouTube channel, reading books to friends via live videos, painting, baking, writing or any other constructive form of occupying the mind, it’s been relieving seeing others coping with the pandemic in their own way. As for me, my time has been being spent giving this blog the love it deserves, and documenting my past traveling stories to give other wanderlusts suggestions on what to check out once the pandemic is over. Joel and I also gathered up any movie we had lying around the house that we’ve been meaning to watch, and slowly watching the stack shrink as we catch up on all the films we said we’d watch someday.

However, that’s not to say that everyone should feel the need to be productive during this pandemic. Just like with death, everyone has their own form of coping. For some, their anxiety gets so bad it becomes stifling, and they’re purely just trying to survive. My heart goes out to anyone who fits within that category, as I know how dark and overwhelming those days can be. Just know that you’re not alone in your struggles, and to try and find any glimmer of happiness in each day, wherever it may be, and hold on to it for as long as you can to try and make it to the next day.

I am incredibly grateful to have a job that can be done from home, as I’m able to help contribute to essential businesses while spending my days in self-quarantine. Being in constant communication with individuals who are listed as essential who still have to report to a physical location, I hope everyone is continuing to stay safe and putting their health as the top priority. There’s only so much that can be enforced when it comes to social distancing protocols and physically being around other essential workers, and I hope that everyone is continuing to be mindful during a time of heightened awareness.

FaceTiming close friends and doing Zoom meetings have been wonderful methods to fill my extroverted tendencies during this time as I’ve been confined to my home. I even played an online version of Cards Against Humanity last weekend with a group and had an absolute blast. Seeing everyone come together metaphorically to support one another has been nothing short of inspiring during this time.

While in the moment I was upset that I potentially won’t be able to experience the Summer equinox in Alaska this year, or visit the St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, I know those days will be on the horizon again soon. This pandemic has further reminded me that nothing in life is absolute, and being able to cope and adapt will get you far. It’s also taught me to slow down and appreciate the little things. As we enter the fifth week of non-essential businesses being closed, I hope everyone continues to work on themselves a little more each day, take the time to appreciate the things they’re grateful for, and continue to stay safe until we’re all allowed to be within six feet of each other again.

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