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FXExpress Publications, Inc. Staff, Readers and Writers Share COVID-19 Experiences

by Kimberly Krol

Mar 25, 2020
eFlyer Lead

For the next several weeks, we are compiling the thoughts and experiences of our staff, writers and readers about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. As a travel publication, we’ve all been affected during these difficult times, as have many of our clients, friends, partners and more.

Below, hear more from our freelance writers, intrepid travelers who are often all over the world at any given time; our Globility Board, a vetted group of our subscribers also usually around the globe; and from us, the team behind Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com.

How is the current situation affecting you? When do you expect normalcy to return? Will you travel right away? Do you have upcoming trips planned? Tell us. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

From our team:
This is a very odd time of the year for me as I should be in or just returning from Asia. After the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, I flew to Florida on the way home and spent a little downtime before the Christmas holiday and New Year’s. We often take a Christmas cruise and we usually take the Norwegian Gem as it departs from NYC, making it easy to get to the ship. It’s a great cruise at it covers the entire holiday. I was investigating doing this again, but now that my adult children are working, taking that time off would limit their time over the summer. We should have taken the Gem!

January was spent on a few business trips to Chicago and NYC and, in February, I took some time to visit the Outer Banks over Valentine’s Day. The week after, I took a quick trip to Florida and this is when the COVID-19 news was hitting Korea. We honestly were ready to plan a trip to South Korea when all hell broke loose and Korea shut down. We stayed in constant contact with Jeff Hwang, our good friend and great sales representative in Seoul. So, I really did not cancel a trip as it was never booked.

There probably would be more trips, but COVID-19 didn’t allow for that. I do have a trip planned over Easter followed by a golf trip to Kiawah Island. All the flights have been booked for a while and I hope it goes through.

I think now is a great time to book a trip for the summer, all the airlines are being so flexible and there are some great deals. This too will pass!

Francis X. Gallagher, publisher and CEO

 

So far this year, I’ve had two trips in April fall through due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I booked a trip to Los Angeles in early April for a bachelorette party. I just canceled my flights for that trip last week. My husband and I had a friends’ trip planned to Charleston in mid-April for the High Water Music Festival. The festival was canceled and we’re planning to cancel our flights.

The rest of the year feels up in the air, as far as travel plans are concerned. For the time being, I’m focusing on being productive around the house and enjoying the convenience of FaceTime to keep in touch with my loved ones!

Katie Skrzek, vice president and digital director

 

From our writers:
This pandemic is decimating the industry. I was set to go to Bhutan (via India) this week with Intrepid Travel so that was canceled. Ditto for a trip to St. Kitts in April for a Food and Wine Festival that’s been canceled. And St. Lucia in May for a jazz fest that’s been canceled. I would have had a lot more trips canceled, but I had pulled back a bit on travel recently due to some family issues. But a good friend and fellow freelancer has had 15 trips canceled. I have so many friends and colleagues in hospitality (as we all do) and it’s just heartbreaking.

As far as the business goes, some deadlines are getting pushed back as content needs to shift, though print is still moving forward. However, I have had luck pitching COVID-19-related content that still relates to travel, food and beverage, though from the angle of being homebound.

Kelly Magyarics

 

After a flight back from an assignment in Washington, D.C. (repeatedly sanitized my area on the almost-empty plane) early last week, I’m sheltering in place.

I canceled a trip to Switzerland (late April) and to Haida Gwaii (late May). Still on for a trip to Africa (south and north) in November. And a trip to the south of France in late October, early November.

My husband is the chief videographer at Red Rocks (a concert venue in Colorado). The beginning of the season has been canceled (some of the performances are being rescheduled for early fall).

Otherwise…food delivery and some welcome time to clean out my very messy office in preparation for life to resume as soon as possible.

Oh, and a blizzard in Colorado last week. Yikes!

Irene Rawlings

 

Most watched the morning news as one state after another turned red to indicate positive coronavirus tests. You may have notice that tiny Mid-Atlantic state that hung on morning after morning as “virus free.” It even drew some praise, as if West Virginians were somehow immune. Unfortunately, it meant residents with symptoms were having difficulty getting tested and getting results.

I live in West Virginia’s “Eastern Panhandle,” that odd-looking part of the state jutting toward Washington, D.C. It’s a bedroom community for the metropolitan area, so I expected the first case of the coronavirus to happen here. And it did, eight miles from my home, in a charming little college town where many retirees live and Washingtonians used to visit every weekend. The two cases confirmed there jumped to eight state-wide overnight.

I know what I’m seeing here is happening in neighborhoods throughout the country — and the world. We’re all in this together. Like 9-11, this is something I never thought Americans would experience. I was as unprepared for COVID-19 as I was for 9-11. And COVID-19 is a sneaky, silent killer. What we don’t know will literally kill us.

Every assignment I had evaporated last week, and I’ve canceled two trips, one regional and one to the southern Caribbean. My freelance income is probably shot for the year, so I’m dependent on Social Security. I am among the “age-challenged,” so I can’t volunteer at local food kitchens or animal shelters. But I can contribute a little and perhaps foster pets for those in need.

It’s easy to feel helpless, but we aren’t helpless. Small acts of generosity and compassion, multiplied by acts of others, can make a big difference.

It’s also easy to feel hopeless. Instead, I’ve decided to count my blessings — and I’m encouraging others to do so.

  • No one in my family is sick
  • I have a home, food, entertainment and companionship
  • I have internet service and a phone
  • I have a dog to walk and a bike to ride
  • Spring is here, my favorite time of year, and I have two acres to mow
  • I can still write — with no deadlines or word counts
  • Local golf courses are making it possible to play with no human contact, so I can reward myself occasionally and keep greenskeepers working
  • I’m an American, and I have faith in Americans to do what’s right

Dale Leatherman

 

From our Globility Board:
As an author who travels, on average, more than 150 flights per year, the ongoing pandemic has certainly changed my life. For the first time in 20 years, I do not have an “upcoming trip” (domestic or international), as every business and personal trip over the next two months has been canceled. But I’ve also discovered the joy of spending more time with my husband and my cat. I can’t remember the last time I was home for more than a week at a time! My travel plans for the fall remain intact and as exciting as ever. I’m planning a trip to Antarctica (the only continent I haven’t yet visited) this December, along with a visit to Saudi Arabia, which last year opened up to independent U.S. tourists, something I discovered in an advertisement in Global Traveler!

Eric Chiang

 

I flew to Florida the first week of March for my annual media training session with minor league baseball players. Things were just starting to ramp up. The players had literally just received an overview from Major League Baseball about the virus, so we were all in precautionary mode, especially nixing the handshake portion. Hotel was full and lively — nice beach, evening music and tacos at the Port Charlotte Sheraton. Returned to Chicago with no disruption, everything seemed normal.

By the way, American Airlines staff — crews, gate agents, Admirals Club — were all sporting new uniforms, which looked great, so I doled out the compliments and they were appreciative. Everyone was upbeat.

On March 11, I headed to Arizona for round two. ORD was not as crowded and there was a sense of uncertainty all around. Checked into the Phoenix Marriott; was only planning an overnight before switching hotels for the next three days. On the morning of March 12, I was headed to Scottsdale Stadium when the MLB ceased operations. I returned to the hotel, which was rapidly emptying. I stayed in my room and watched coverage of positive tests, seasons gone, Final Four (my next stop) canceled. I felt a mix of extreme concern, shock and disappointment. I knew immediate future travel would be impossible. I could not leave PHX until the next day, the ticket change on the website was smooth and no change fee. By the way, they were so kind at the Marriott they allowed me to stay gratis. Five stars for them!

On the return flight, the women in the seat next to me vigorously scrubbed her seat for 10 minutes, refused any in-flight service and stared at all of us ominously the whole time. Most of us were just trying to make the best of the situation and glad to be flying. The crew was fantastic, thanked us several times — the pilot personally came out to speak to us.

In retrospect, it was probably serendipitous my projects were canceled, given the circumstances.

My husband Randy and I are now teaching all of our Loyola classes online, an interesting challenge, especially for public speaking. Thank goodness I can change the screen background on my laptop since I’m at home.

Regarding future travel: More serendipity … I had just missed the deadline to apply to teach at Loyola’s Rome campus this summer, which, of course, would not have happened had I been accepted. I have every faith things will return to normal by summer of 2021, so I’ll aim for next year. I’ve been wanting to do it for years. Everything immediate is on hold, which feels surreal and strange for those of us who are born to fly.

Sue Castorino

 

We’re currently in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, debating about whether we should head back to Atlanta. Things here have gotten a bit quieter in the past two to three days, but nothing like we’ve heard about in the States. Although there are two-plus confirmed cases in the state of Guanajuato, there’s not been panic buying as there has been at home. Perhaps that’s because there’s little news coverage, unlike home.

We’ve already canceled a hiking trip in July to Switzerland and Austria, to an annual Belgian Beer Festival in the Grand Place in Brussels and also to our apartment in Germany. Hopefully, we can get there in November and hopefully the Christmas markets will still be held!

We’ve not been exposed (that we know of) … and are not worried about the medical care here in San Miguel. We’ve used the doctors and hospital and found both to be top notch!

As far as future travels, we can’t wait to get out again. After previous events that affected travel, we were back out and going as soon as possible. If something is meant to happen, it will happen at home or wherever!

Doug Guthrie

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