These are strange and difficult times. Of course, you don’t need me to remind you of that. We all have our unique challenges wrought by our lives being turned upside down and put on hold. As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re grateful to have a safe and beautiful place to ride out the pandemic. We know how lucky we are, in many ways. But…
The Heat, Oh My God, The Heat
I left Florida behind at age 29, and never dreamed that I would spend another summer here. Although we enjoyed a blessedly mild spring, the heat has arrived with a vengeance. Combine mid-80s temperatures with mid-80s humidity, and the heat index is hovering somewhere around “melt” and “simmer.” It’s miserable.
I know it’s gonna be a bad day when the cicadas start up a deafening chorus at daybreak.
I asked my sister the other day how we survived growing up in Miami without central air-conditioning. “We didn’t know any better,” she said. Although it’s hard to imagine now, no one had central A/C in those days. Instead, we had cool terrazzo floors, banks of windows, and fans humming day and night. We also spent most weekends in the boat and most afternoons in the swimming pool. “You’ll acclimate,” my sister assured me. That can’t happen any too soon.
Meanwhile, we trudge on, moving our daily morning walks and bike rides earlier and earlier in the day. Even getting out before the sun is fully up, we return home completely drenched. Poor Eric, with his lineage of Swedish blood, southern California upbringing, and many years of living in Oregon, has never experienced a Florida summer. I tell him it’s good for sweating out toxins. “I am never spending another summer here,” he replies.
Then again, what do we know? If there’s anything that 2020 has shown us, it’s that we can’t predict anything. Nada. Nothing. Nothing at all.
Why We’ve Decided To Swelter In Place
Back in March, Eric and I began an excruciating mental game of “Should we stay, or should we go?” We mapped out all of our options. Continue with our summer plan of traveling to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? No. While some people feel safe traveling during the pandemic, we don’t. We didn’t want to be traveling to places where the virus was worse, we didn’t want to risk getting sick on the road, we didn’t want to strain the resources of the small towns we were interested in visiting, and we didn’t want to contribute to any possible spread of the virus. Plus, as much as we love our adventures in nature, we also like visiting small towns and big cities and discovering what it is that makes each place so unique. With so much of what we enjoy shut down, it didn’t make sense for us to travel.
Our second option was to hightail it back to our hometown of Oregon. But that would have been a grueling 3500-mile trip, with not much fun along the way. We still have a home in Oregon, but we have wonderful friends who’ve been renting the house for seven years, and we’re not ready to move back in and give up on our travels.
Option 3: Stay put in Florida in my parents’ home? Sigh. Okay.
Of course, when we made that decision, it was early March. It is now July, and although we’ve grown somewhat desensitized to the terrifying word “pandemic,” the reality is that the virus is more virulent than ever. It appears that we’re not going anywhere for a good long while.
Adjusting To Our New Normal
In our seven years of fulltime travels, flexibility and resilience stand out as two of the most important traits for surviving and thriving in a lifestyle of constant change. We’ve had challenges small and large, ranging from minor (blown-out tires, appliance malfunctions) to major (running over a boulder, Eric’s surgery, managing my elderly parents’ care). These are not unusual circumstances in life (although not everyone high-centers their RV on a boulder) but we’ve always adjusted and adapted and continued happily on with our life adventures.
This Great Pause, though, feels fundamentally different. Coming to an abrupt halt in our travels, far from our hometown, with no certainty as to what the future holds is the biggest mental challenge we’ve faced. Will we be able to travel freely again? Will things ever be the same? What will our ‘new normal’ look like? As much as I want answers, there aren’t any.
Every day, I remind myself of just how fortunate we are and how insignificant our challenges really are. We’re hot and sweaty and bug-bitten, we’re lonely for family and friends, we miss our travels and adventures. But we’re healthy and safe, we have each other, we talk often to family and friends, and we have a home to live in while we wait for the dust to settle.
Tackling A Home Renovation
Speaking of dust, a month ago we decided to renovate my folks’ home. It’s a nice, solid brick home on a gorgeous piece of property across the bay from Apalachicola. But it was mired in the 80s and needed significant updates. “If we’re going to be here for a while, we might as well renovate the house,” I said to Eric. He looked at me warily. He was happy with his life of early morning bike rides, having a big house to roam around in with central A/C, watching the many birds visiting the feeders outside of the breakfast room windows, and sitting out on the screened porch overlooking the beautiful bay.
I loved all of those things, too. But the hum and flicker of the fluorescent lights in the kitchen was driving me crazy, the floor tiles had exceeded their 35-year life span and were sticking to my feet, and the interior was in serious need of repainting. It was depressing. The entire house needed a facelift.
We’ve been deep in construction dust for three weeks now. Things are going splendidly. But could we have chosen a worse time for a home renovation, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a Florida summer? I think not. We’re staying out of the house, wearing masks for brief forays indoors or standing outside to talk to the construction crew. Meanwhile, we’re living in our trailer and listening to the roar of the air conditioner as it struggles to keep us from baking. “I am never spending another summer in Florida,” I say to Eric.
Meanwhile, I’m remembering my sweet dad’s approach to life, of always looking for the best and finding joy in the everyday moments of life.
We have so many creatures that come to visit us here, from birds to armadillos to foxes.
We go to the beautiful beach on St. George Island, just a few miles away.
And we have a science project going. We’re fostering caterpillars that we found on the parsley in my herb garden. I had no idea that caterpillars poop so much. We have to change their box three times a day. Thankfully seven of the nine have transformed into their chrysalis state, which means no more poop. We thought we would have butterflies in a few weeks, but just discovered the transformation could take months! That’s okay. We’re not going anywhere for a while.