A Year of Living Precariously

While it would be high drama (and wildly misleading) to suggest our last year was “dangerous”, it was marked by constant change, joy, loss, grief, and now, with Coronavirus dominating the news, “precarious” does not feel like an overstatement. The whole world is precarious.

What the heck is going on? If our original plan three and a half years ago was to “leave ourselves behind”, we’ve done that in spades. But the world is no longer cooperating and the rules have suddenly, totally changed.

So let’s go back to when we last chatted, in August. We had finished our travels in the Yukon and were anxious to get back to Vancouver to see our grandson. (For those of you who already know this story, just scroll down to the coronavirus part.)

When we first started travelling full-time, friends warned us that things would change with a grandchild. “You’ll travel less”, they said. “Hmmm,” we said. (secretly believing otherwise.) Now, we’re not so sure. Our Leo is a pretty compelling draw, and we’re not sure we want to leave him for months at a time. Plus, we really like his parents.

I could show you dozens of photos, but I do know better. Well okay, let me add one more – our creative daughter-in-law’s first Hallowe’en outfit.

So, yes, we are smitten grandparents – the kind who show photos of their grandchildren to complete strangers.

Leo was our first big change of the year.

The second big change was our decision to sell our trailer. We put a lot research into deciding what type of RV would suit us and the Escape trailer seemed to be it. Made in British Columbia, lightweight fibreglass body, well-designed, and virtually problem-free, this was the ideal introduction to RV-ing for newbies.

Our challenge was we never got the hang of backing up. One day we would wheel right in to our campsite like pros and the next day we would wrangle it for what seemed like hours. Our other challenge was we felt like we were taking up major real estate on the road. We didn’t feel free, we felt hindered. We were “dragging ourselves behind.”
At some point, we will look for a smaller unit – a truck camper or a van. We knew our upcoming travel would be overseas, and figured it might be a couple of years before we would hit the road again. So we handed our trailer over to an excited new owner and we have many very happy memories to tide us over until the next time.

The third huge, unthinkable change was the death of my mother in October. At 89, she was a force to be reckoned with, full of life and brimming with health – we all thought she would go on forever. She and my dad came out west from Ontario in September to meet their great-grandchild, and this is the last photo I have of her before she died.

My parents had to cut their trip short because my mother was not feeling well, and two weeks later she was gone.

The months since then have been a blur of shock and grief and sadness, as well as the busyness of helping my dad get settled into his new life. We all continue to cope with a world that does not have my mother in it.

Also, we are facing the unpalatable reality that we’re next up to bat. Not yet old, but no longer young. So how do we make the most of our valuable time remaining?

Our fourth big change was our decision to put down roots and buy a condo. For the past few years we had been balancing our travel time with housesitting and renting Airbnb’s and for a while that worked very well.

Increasingly though we were feeling the need to come “home” between trips. We knew we didn’t want to buy a house, with all the yard work and maintenance that required – we wanted a comfy roost we could lock up and leave without worry. At some point, I think, I want to have a garden and house plants and a bit of a yard, but for now, we want to continue travelling as much as we did before, but come home to our “stuff.”

We decided to buy in Nanaimo – central to our friends on Gabriola and Vancouver Island, family in Vancouver and an easy walk to downtown and the ferries. We bought this condo in September, but spent the next three months in Ontario with my dad. We’ve only been living here and setting up our home since early January. We began with an inflatable mattress and two camp chairs and by now we are getting close to being furnished. The “stuff” collecting has begun once again, but this time, we are choosing everything very carefully and minimally. It has been fun feathering our nest.

This is our condo building in Nanaimo – we are the corner unit on the second floor.

And now…to travel. We had planned a trip to South America this past winter, but of course those plans were shelved. We did get away for two weeks in February to Puerto Morelos, in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Heat, colour, fabulous swimming and snorkelling, and great food. It didn’t feel new, or demanding or even exciting, but it was a tonic and exactly what we needed.

In April, we were going to drive down to Portland to visit friends. This summer we were planning to drive through the northern United States, up into Ontario and visit family and friends in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Next winter we were planning to go to South America – Colombia, Ecuador, Galapagos and Peru. Now all of that is up in the air.

Everything has changed – who knows what the weeks and months ahead will bring? Will we be allowed across the U.S. border in April? What will our road trip look like this summer? As for South America – another big question mark, even so many months away. We are all adjusting our realities on a daily basis.

We have two sets of friends who have had to cut their trips short and come home, and another who is stranded in Peru for the next two weeks. Our son was supposed to have left on Monday for Thailand – he cancelled that trip just last week, as the news became more urgent.

Covid-19 – it’s not unscary. Don’t watch the movie, Contagion, by the way – it’s not going to help your state of mind. It is immensely prescient.

We’ve been madly hand-washing, have become acquainted with the term “social distancing”, and have been postponing get-togethers with friends for at least the next week or so. We ran into an old friend today at the grocery store – someone we hadn’t seen in five years. We began this awkward hug-not-hug dance, until we gave up and took the chance on an embrace. We stopped for coffee at our favourite spot, normally packed, and today with just three other tables. Wherever we go now, we feel “germy.”

Worst of all, at 67 and 70 years of age, we don’t fit into the “frail elderly ” category, but we are considered vulnerable.

So what do we do? We go for walks in the many glorious parks around Nanaimo.

We’re reading, watching Netflix, keeping in touch with friends and family and waiting it out. Waiting for, if not better news, at least something more definitive.

Future travel – unreservedly, yes! As soon as we get the all-clear, we’re booking our trips. Not for one minute to minimize what the entire world is facing, but let’s face it, if one goes down, we’re all going down. It’s a new world order and what we knew to be true two weeks ago is no longer the case.

When we get back on the road, what will have changed? Small businesses gone? Significant health risks attached to travel that can’t be ignored? Environmental damage that can’t be ignored? None of us know.

In the meantime, we are doing as we’re told, being responsible citizens and trying to find the light and look for the humour.

Funny sign on a Nanaimo liquor store: ” Free roll of toilet paper with every six-pack of Corona.”

Stay healthy, dear friends. With any luck, we will be chatting again soon.

26 thoughts on “A Year of Living Precariously

  1. Sharon Errington March 17, 2020 / 8:35 pm

    What an amazing time you’ve had sad/happy and now you seem somewhat contented to wait out whatever happens next. Sorry to hear about your moms passing. Always a terrible time when you lose a loved one. We are leaving Los Barriles a month early due to Covid19. We leave Saturday and the Westjet flies it’s last international flight on Sunday so we got in just in time. We will be self isolating for two weeks like everyone else. Hope to see you some day either in Nanaimo or Gabriola. Hugs to you both, Tony & Sharon

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 4:56 pm

      Nice to hear from you Sharon! How disappointing to be leaving your beautiful home in Mexico, but at least you have an equally lovely spot to land on Gabriola.

      We so look forward to the day when we can all get together again – I hope the next couple of weeks go well.

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  2. Linda Deschambault March 17, 2020 / 8:50 pm

    thank-you so much.   Sure good to hear from you.   Sorry to hear about your mom, but sure wonderful to have a grandchild.    Where is your condo, I am not recognizing.  I bought at Longwood up by Canadian Tire.  Close to the Longwood restaurant and pub, great food.

    Linda   250-714-8411 cell and text, 250-729-1983

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:02 pm

      Hi Linda – so you’ve crossed over to the “dark side” as well! Our place is on Vancouver Avenue, between Island Hwy. and Stewart – just a block to the seawall. We love the area – very residential and quiet.

      We’ll be in touch when all of this begins to make sense.

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  3. Mel Lyons March 17, 2020 / 9:01 pm

    So good to hear from you two again. Take care xx

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  4. Lyn Morris March 17, 2020 / 9:34 pm

    So good to have you back on line Ginny. What a year it’s been for you all. What a lovely photo of your Mom and Leo.
    He’s looking at her with wonder and love the way the light is shining on them both. I miss her so much but talks with your Dad are getting better. He’s happy with the move. Hopefully you and I can get together in the not too distant future.
    Lyn Morris

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:06 pm

      Hi Lyn

      I love this photo of Mum and Leo – I’m so glad I have it.

      I hope you’re making it through these trying times. Aren’t we all looking forward to the day when we can see our friends again?

      Take care, Lyn – hopefully talk soon.

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  5. Joan Fisher March 17, 2020 / 9:52 pm

    I love your blogs. It’s too late to write a proper response now so I will email you. I owe you one. So many changes and most not fun.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:08 pm

      Joan – you and your family have been through an awful lot this year as well. I often think of you and especially now.
      It was always happening somewhere else in the world and now it is on all of our doorsteps.

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  6. Lorne Katz March 18, 2020 / 4:13 am

    Great to hear from you again via your blog. You gave Anne and I a laugh this morning with the image and sounds of you backing up the trailer😁.
    Let’s all stay well…..lots of travel in the future.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:09 pm

      Lorne – you know us well. There is a little plaque you can buy in some campgrounds that reads, “I’m sorry for all the things I said when you were parking.”

      Yes, let’s all stay well and look to the future.

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  7. Kris McDonald March 18, 2020 / 6:06 am

    Love hearing your “voice” again, Ginny. Your conversations with us always ring so true! Lovely to see the heartwarming picture of your Mom and little Leo….the circle of life (makes me feel like singing for some reason 😉).
    Happy that the condo is providing you a home base. We know how comforting that cozy nest can be. Sure wish we could get to ours now! We are stranded in Lima. Have booked an Airbnb for now. Military very active out in the streets. We can only go out one at a time, and only for groceries. But we have boxed wine and plantain chips…and are making the best of another unexpected travel experience.
    Hugs to you & Stephen. Let’s hope that you will be able to join us at Farren Lake this summer!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:12 pm

      Kris, we have been thinking about you and Gord so much. Trust you to have such a positive outlook to cope with what must be a terribly frustrating experience.

      We will do everything in our power to make our summer trip and you can bet we will be swapping stories on your dock.

      Big hugs to you both.

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  8. Danielle March 18, 2020 / 8:00 am

    Great to hear from you again Ginny!!Thanks for the update, the nice pixs, especially the one of your mom and little Leo!! A little break now to get better prepared for future traveling!!.
    We came back from Patagonia ,three weeks ago, marvelous trip and just in time to avoid the quarantine.So long Hugs Danielle

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:17 pm

      Danielle – good to hear from you! I have heard nothing but great things about Patagonia and what lucky timing on your part to make it back before quarantines were being enforced.

      Right now, we can’t travel, but we can dream. There has to be a silver lining to all of this.

      Stay healthy – hope to see you before long.

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  9. Lucinda Dupee March 18, 2020 / 9:31 am

    So good to hear from you, we were wondering where your travels had taken you and wanted to hear your “grandparent” joys and changes. So sorry to hear about your Mom, and I know the void that creates. We spent another winter in the Baja, staying longer in one place made it more relaxing. Look forward to more tales from you. Enjoy your nesting in your condo. Hugs, Lucinda and Bob.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:19 pm

      Cindy – how lovely to hear from you. As the weather began to turn again this fall, our fabulous memories of Baja came flooding back. What part did you stay in this time?

      Take care and stay healthy,
      xo Ginny & Stephen

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  10. Patti Stapleton March 18, 2020 / 12:39 pm

    Ginny: I am so very sorry to hear about your Mom. She did not have to live through this new world order. My prayers and thoughts are with you. We are witnessing a shift towards a softer, kinder world. My hope is that we will all emerge better people and more connected. BTW….that little Leo is PERFECT!!! xo

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:22 pm

      Thanks Patti! My mum did not have to suffer and that is a blessing. Let’s hope all of this does make us better people. If that is what it takes to move away from the ugliness of the past few years, then perhaps there is a reason for these crazy times.

      We need to give a decent world to Leo and his little buddies.

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  11. Heather Scott March 18, 2020 / 7:02 pm

    How nice to hear from you again, especially in light of everything that has happened in your lives since you last wrote. It’s certainly true that “life” happens when you are busy making other plans. However, I am pleased to hear you will be making new plans to travel, once it is safe to do so. In the meantime, enjoy those walks in nature!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 19, 2020 / 5:23 pm

      Thanks Heather! Let’s hope we will see one another in May for our grandchild’s big birthday bash. Take care xo

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  12. Shelley Tillemans March 22, 2020 / 10:40 am

    Hello Ginny and Stephen.
    How beautifully you’ve summarized your experiences of family and travel over the last year. The picture of Leo and your Mother is special, reminiscent of a Renaissance painting. We are so sorry for your loss. Conditions have changed since you posted and the importance of having a cozy home to hunker down in is even more relevant – good move! We were in Switzerland this winter and went skiing with family in northern Italy weeks before the virus broke out. A gorgeous region with some lovely old villages which then became the epicentre of the Italian outbreak. Our kids in Switzerland are fine so far but the country was slow to react and is now, per capita, second to Italy in number of cases.
    Stay well! Stay loose! Looks like we’ll have lots of quiet time to think and plan. This experience may completely reshuffle our deck of priority cards.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind March 24, 2020 / 5:05 pm

      HI Shelley

      Oh boy – did you ever get that right – “reshuffle our deck of priority cards.” I would give anything right now to see my kids and grandson and to have a glass of wine or dinner with friends.

      So far, we’re staying occupied and are in fairly good spirits. My big challenge will be to stay on task (from a list of regular tasks I’ve laid out for myself), and stop snacking.:>)

      Hope to see you sooner rather than later.

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  13. Donna Deacon March 26, 2020 / 11:01 am

    Dear Ginny and Stephen,

    So good to hear from you and know you are safe and well. I thought I’d lost this email with your blog post and then I found it again today. So sorry to hear about your mom. What a sad time for you and your family. That photo of your mom and grandchild is just beautiful and hopefully will give you happy memories in the coming years.

    What a strange and crazy time we’re in. Everything is changed and life is so much more precious and fragile. I’m so glad you two have a home to hunker down in and keep safe until you can go out into the wide world and travel again!

    I am so grateful we have a haven here on Gabriola and that people are taking this situation seriously. We had to cancel our final two performances of the play I was directing two weeks ago and though it was heartbreaking, it had to be done to keep our patrons safe. So…we stay in and we go for walks in the 707 and the beach and keep to ourselves. Thank goodness for Netflix!

    Love to you and Stephen…sending healthy, happy thoughts your way.

    Donna

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  14. Nancy Jarrell March 27, 2020 / 1:46 pm

    I can’t believe I did not make the cut in your latest blog?? I thought I may have a moment of glory…. but no… I even had to be reinstated on the mailing list?? Still love you Gins!

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