Coronavirus work-around plan: send travel advice (I already have the face masks)

So what do you do when you’re about to visit South Korea and the CDC puts out a AVOID NON ESSENTIAL TRAVEL red alert?  Well obviously you put on your good citizen pants and cancel your trip.

Back in 2009, HOB and I came down with the swine flu at the peak of the pandemic.  It wasn’t a big deal, but we had to stay home longer than we wished because we both had pregnant ladies in our offices and even then for a couple of weeks afterwords our coworkers were side-eyeing like they wanted to marinate us in hand sanitizer.  Clearly, we are vulnerable to coronavirus just as we were to the swine flu but I don’t really fear getting sick as much as I fear passing on the illness to someone with a less robust immune system than mine.  And anyway, our trip to South Korea was planned around public holidays, ceremonies and concerts which are now cancelled.  I’ve also read that some outdoor markets are closed down.  (Let it be acknowledged that, while I don’t particularly fear the virus, I am terrified at the idea of going to Korea and not indulging in all their delicious street food.  That is truly a code red situation).


Shinto with the face masks I bought to wear in Korea (before we cancelled the trip)

It sucks to put all that work into planning and not get to take the trip.  And it sucks to take away business from all those nice guesthouse owners whose reservations I cancelled.  It sucks for people who are sick or stuck in quarantines.  Who knows, any day now we could code red in Chicago too.  (But not to worry, Mike Pence has got this).


So here I am, for the first time in years, without a trip to plan.  Well, I have a plan that isn’t a plan: wait a month or two.  Arrange time off from our jobs.  Watch the coronavirus situation carefully.  A couple of days before out trip is meant to start, book tickets with frequent flyer points to a low risk destination.


This might be a good work around for lots of folks, but I’m a planner—like I need at least four months of planning.  I NEED TO PLAN!  I need to learn phrases in the local language and sort out the intricacies of public transportation for hard to reach places.  I need a binder full of research.  I need to learn culturally relative etiquette and how to find public toilets.


But what the heck…what if just for once I could wing it?  I could get guide books on kindle and sort out lodging and transit as we go.  We could throw ourselves at the mercy of tourist office staff and kind strangers and that might be kinda of fun.


Last week I attended a two day seminar and the woman I was sitting next to was from Mexico City.  I asked her for travel advice and she said “I’ll send you my document of tips.”  Another woman from work offered me her list of tips for Montreal.

No coronavirus in Mexico City.

No coronavirus in Montreal.

So this is the updated plan: watch the situation closely.  Be ready to book tickets at the last minute.  In the meantime, collect travel advice from savvy cultural tourists with similar interests who have done the research for me, so to speak.

I’m looking at you, global community of awesome travelers: hit me up with your best advice.

Desperately seeking: budget friendly cultural experiences.

Likes: art in situ, religious architecture, day hikes, UNESCO World Heritage sites, folk music, street food, public transportation and outdoor markets.

Dislikes: palaces with lots of shiny things, driving, tour groups, castles, torture museums, fussy food, luxury hotels, hot weather, neoclassical architecture, and global pandemics.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you!



  1. Have you looked at “International Travel News?” It’s a venerable monthly magazine, printed on newsprint, 528 issues, all written by travelers. Online archives go all the way back; online-only one-year subscription is $15. I’m not as adventurous as you, so I go to exotic destinations vicariously! Hope you find a fabulous trip to take soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I haven’t even heard of it. But thanks to you I shall investigate ASAP. Price is right too!


      1. Many of the travelers who write in to ITN are independent, although some research and hire private (pricey) tour guides. I especially value the advice about travel insurance, which led me to Dan Drennen at Travel Insurance Center in Omaha, which led me to a yearly international medical insurance policy that covers evacuation to home. Our trips are pretty cheap and mostly refundable so we have not so far bought actual travel coverage. You’ll find intriguing destinations, I’m sure!


  2. Yes I would be cancelling Korea, mainly because everything will probably be closed. I try not to be a panicker, although it’s hard when they bombard us with ‘don’t travel and self isolate’ messages all the time.
    There’s a lot to be said for travelling last minute right now, good bargains to be had. if you fancy Venice the place is almost empty 😊. You could be unlucky and there turns out t be an outbreak wherever you go, but that could happen in your home city too,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Northern Italy is dicey right now, though tempting. I am around people with bad asthma, etc and I want to be extra careful not to accidentally expose them to something with my own recklessness.


  3. First of all, hello fellow Chicagoan! I lived there for 30 years, but my husband and I are currently living in Paris. I don’t remember how I found your blog, but I am always amused by it.

    On to travel! How about northern Spain? The only virus in Spain so far has been on the Canary islands and Mallorca. You can see cave art in Ribadesella and the Tito Bustillo cave is right in town, so accessible by public transportation. In Léon, at the basilica of San Isidoro you can what is called the Sistine Chapel of Romanesque art which is so crazy great that just thinking about it makes me want to go back. Fly in and out of Bilbao for the Guggenheim and pintxos. I could go on and on, and I’d be happy to, but I won’t do a dissertation right now in case you’ve already been.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary! How did you sort out your move from Chicago to Paris? Did you get a work visa?

      I adore Northern Spain and haven’t seen nearly enough of it (and you’re so right about San Isidoro. That cave art suggestion is right up my alley and I didn’t know about, so thanks! And they are UNESCO sites:
      Tickets to Barcelona from Chicago are weirdly cheap right now so if that holds out we could buy tickets instead of using frequent flyer miles.


  4. We were able to retire early so I know nothing about work visas. Long-stay visitor visas are not terribly difficult to get if you hit their criteria and you have the patience for paperwork.

    I look forward to seeing what you decide to do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, congrats on your early retirement and spending it on something sensible, like living in a country with excellent cheese!


  5. Greetings from an Italian in London. Although the situation ain’t bad, it’s serious and the paranoia associated is even worse. I’m having to scramble to redo a lot of trips and visas as most countries who’ve blocked access to Italians but have forgotten about the 7 million foreigners residing there or the 5 million of Italian living abroad…
    Anyway, how about Cuba as a destination? There’s a bit of heat I must admit but… culture UNESCO food: check check and c-c-c-check!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you’re saying that because you have an Italian passport you’re not allowed to travel places even though you’re not actually living in Italy (and presumably carrying Italian cooties?) That’s quite stupid!

      I’m pro Cuba for sure, though that’s no place for an American to go at the last minute. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, though the Obama administration loosened it again. I would love to hear some music in Cuba….have you been there?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that’s the point. I’m gearing up for a third degree in Chile, and we can’t get eVisas for India any longer. And I’m going to both places. Plus unfortunately the UK is so paranoid about ID cards (because ID card = Fascism apparently) that there’s no defined way to prove one’s residence here!
        Anyway, I haven’t been to Havana (yet). I forgot that there’s still a bit of a problem for Americans to go there, damn.


  6. I’ve a meeting in Azerbaijan in April, and I just realized last week that there is a land border between Azerbaijan and Iran. So if most of Asia is out, and most of Europe, perhaps I should try out an island in the western Indian Ocean: Zanzibar, Mauritius? I’m sure you could check out a Pacific island. Rapa Nui? Won’t take too long to research.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shame about Azerbaijan—I would have loved see your posts.

      Mauritius has great UNESCO sites:

      Don’t know why but I am not into the statues on Rapu Nui, though Chile is a good idea. A good use of frequent flyer points for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Planning is such a big part of the fun of travel. I start months in advance and pretty much follow your approach except locating the public toilets!
    We have decided to stay in Australia this year, a decision made before the virus hit. We just did a short stay less than a 100kms from town. No airfares so much cheaper!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheaper, better for the environment and no jet lag!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Actually no virus in Banff and Lake Louise area….beautiful snowy Rocky Mountain area. I think the hotels are cheaper now. (Not necessarily the cheapest.) So fly into Calgary, immediately take a bus that goes straight to Banff or Lake Louise. It’s this gorgeous area:

    Bring your snowshoes or snowshoes since it will be cheaper on the Canadian dollar.

    It’s snowing right now where I am after a few days of warm weather.

    Or there’s Montana. (which to me is not as lovely and with more stuff to do in Banff).

    If you go, we can meet up in Calgary. 😀


    1. Thanks for the great suggestions Jean! Your photo of the Lake Louise looks so beautiful! I am pretty rusty with snowshoes but I could relearn, and of course it would be lovely to meet you in Calgary. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Snowshoeing in the mountains is an incredible experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Heading to Turkey on a tour on Wednesday. No CV there – they got on top of things early, closed borders and restricted travel. A FB post from somebody who just returned from a tour said they had the tourist sites basically to themselves. RT airfare is pretty reasonable right now to Istanbul… Just sayin’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only been to Istanbul so far but I’d really like to go to Göreme National Park. Where are you headed? I don’t fear CV there but I am slightly frightened by aggressiveness of the rug sellers. Hope you have a great trip and if you buy a rug it was consensual!


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