“Darling, you got to let me know. Should I stay or should I go? If I go, there will be trouble; if I stay, there will be double” — The Clash
Why does my life feel like an 80s- English punk song right now thanks to the invasion of the Covid-19 aka Coronavirus aka “Every Traveler’s Nightmare?” I mean, it’s bad enough you have to worry about pesky colds and air-born influenza when you travel, but now an insidious respiratory illness with no vaccination available is out there ready to pounce upon you when you least expect it.
And guess where my husband and I had plans to travel to in two weeks? Italy, of course. The island of Sicily to be more specific, and we, along with many fellow travelers around the world, have to make a decision whether we are willing to take the risk to travel during this “not quite a pandemic” situation or cut our losses and stay where we are in Croatia. There is total irony to our decision because we are actually closer here in Pula to the quarantined Veneto region of Italy (150 or so miles as the crow flies across the Adriatic) than we would be if we were in Sicily. Also Sicily has had only three cases of coronavirus, while Croatia has six so far.
So what does one do? Well, we have been fortunate in that our flights were extremely cheap and we can travel to Sicily anytime after the illness has run its course because we live in Europe presently. Also it’s very easy for us to assess the situation in two weeks and decide to just stay put or take off to Catania. For people in the USA or in other countries around the world who have invested a lot more money in transnational flights and taken time off for once in a lifetime vacations with no chance of refunds, the situation is a lot more critical and not so simple.
My reasoning at this point in time is that if it’s not a place I would feel comfortable being quarantined in for weeks on end and the hospital situation looks bad, I would definitely pass it by. It’s just not worth it. Right now I don’t think I’d like to be quarantined in Sicily, even though it’s supposed to be a beautiful place, as I have no idea what their hospitals are like. So I think I should make the decision to stay.
But, like the song says, if I stay there will be trouble. Maybe this guy below from the Rijeka carnival can keep it away.
If I stay, It will be double
It’s not like we are free and clear of the virus here in Pula as if you get in your car at my house and drive an hour or so, you are in the beautiful city of Trieste, Italy, which is closer than one might think to the Veneto region of Italy. People commute to work there from Croatia or to nearby Slovenia, with a constant flow from one border to the next. Some people in Croatia drive to Trieste just to do their grocery shopping. I mean, when you think about the delicious Parmesan cheese and Italian wine and Prosecco, which is much cheaper just across the border, it’s very tempting.
The weekend of Feb. 25, my husband and I went to Rijeka, Croatia for the large carnival there and were amazed at the lovely hands-on approach of the parade participants and marchers who shook people’s hands as they walked by and went up to the children in strollers and were playing peekaboo with them. It was right before it was well known that the coronavirus was becoming more prevalent in Italy. Then it came out that evening the coronavirus was spreading throughout northern Italy and they had quarantined 11 towns. At this point, I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
You see, since Italy and Croatia are so close to one another, many of the marching crews were from Italy as I’m sure were a lot of the visitors to the event, judging by all the Italian license plates that flew by us like Mario Andretti on the way to Rijeka. Suddenly the intimate atmosphere of the carnival seemed suspect, and I kept wondering if I had shaken hands with someone who could be carrying the disease or touched something on the public transportation that could have infected me. Who could say if I could have been exposed? Luckily I wasn’t, but it just shows how interconnected these communities are. It’s like if someone got the virus in Florida, think of how many Louisianians or Mississippi citizens could be exposed because of the high rate of inter travel between the states. That is the type of interconnected dynamics at play between Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, for that matter.
People are downplaying the virus in that it is like the flu or it only attacks the elderly, but seriously, if an elderly person could be exposed to influenza in the USA, for example, their doctor would recommend a vaccination before they could be exposed. And then they wouldn’t get the flu because it is so dangerous for them based on their ages. That can’t happen with the Covid-19 as there is no vaccination at this time. So I don’t know about you, but I love my 80-year old mother enough to not want to expose her to a virus because “I” won’t necessarily be stricken down and hospitalized with it. Does that make sense?
So the coming days and weeks will be interesting for us as well as everyone around the world. Hopefully containment will be successful and we can all go about our lives and our travels free from the stigma of this nasty coronavirus. Until then, wash your hands, don’t touch your eyes, and try to stay away from this guy below.