What happens to a travel blog when Travel As We Know It ceases to exist?
The Covid-19 pandemic, besides being devastating to those affected by illness, unemployment or existential angst, shook up everyone's lives and every industry. With global (and local) travel brought to a standstill, Without an Umbrella became Without any Content.
The best bloggers out there did what everyone had to learn to do during the time of upheaval -- they adapted. What did I do? I spent 2020, and the first half of 2021, knee deep in my husband the Oysterman's shellfish business. Keeping an oyster farm and seafood market operating with a skeleton crew over the weirdest year in our collective memory was a few full-time jobs at once. Writing a personal travel blog for fun and inspiration was not one of those jobs.
In January of 2020, we got married after a 7 year-long date (see "Whales, Waikiki and a Wedding"). We both returned and promptly fell ill -- down for the count for two weeks (though Oysterman worked through it). Given our symptoms, yes, we probablyalmostdefinitely had Covid-19, like 50% of your friends who are also sure they've had it but never got tested.
I pulled it together enough to host a wedding celebration at the Oysterville Cannery on Valentine's Day, which would end up being one of the last merry group gatherings we'd have for nearly a year.
Two weeks later, we ventured on a honeymoon to Turkey, including a return to one of my favorite cities, Istanbul. As we were busing around the country on our 11-day GATE 1 tour, news was burbling up about a new flu originating in China. We were marginally concerned -- for me, it meant that most of the Turkish historical sites were nearly empty of tourists.
A few days into our tour, Italy banned fans from soccer matches. Oysterman said, "If it's affecting football in Italy, it must be serious." Then came the outbreak at the nursing home in Seattle -- our home city -- just a few days before our tour ended. Would they let us back into the country? On our last day in Istanbul, we thought hey, it wouldn't be too bad to be stuck here -- though we'd have to adjust to the scarcity of happy hours.
Not only did we not have any problems re-entering the U.S., it seemed like no one was all that concerned. But one week after we returned, Washington state was shut down. Our business was considered essential and able to stay open, but our small staff was in quarantine mode.
For two strange weekends, Oysterman and I ran the show -- he farming, harvesting and culling oysters, me running the retail, kitchen and office. It was a challenge, but it was also...fun? It reconnected us with the business -- and each other -- in a deeper and more meaningful way.
We were lucky to find some new employees who'd lost their regular gig working with cruise tours, and a couple of our long-termers returned to work in time to help us through one of the busiest summers in recent memory. Once local travel opened up, vacationers and stuck-at-home families flocked to our coastal community, as we all really did try to "get through this together."
Then it got really interesting.
Oysterman decided to run for public office, because you can't complain about the system if you're not willing to try to change it.
His bid for County Commissioner against a two-term incumbent was nearly successful but the other guy prevailed. Despite how depressingly eye-opening it was, (in illness and politics, you find out who your true friends are) I'm glad he ran. Putting yourself out there manifests change, and shortly after the election, he was approached by someone interested in buying his business.
It wasn't just his business, though, it was his life's work (or at least 32 years of it), a family legacy, his lifestyle, ourlifestyle. Letting go of Oysterville Sea Farms was not a small or easy thing to do, logistically or emotionally, but it was the right thing to do, and it came at the right time.
So, after a few months of paperwork, packing up and moving out, I was ready for a restart -- back to the plan I'd had when I moved to this lost corner of the Pacific North Wet seven years earlier.
I was finally going to get down to living a writer's life.
I cracked my knuckles and rifled through my trip logs. I opened my Wordpress site and started a draft. I previewed it and...404 error.
My blog was broken. The latest Wordpress update and an outdated theme finally killed my darling. Or was it The Covid?
I finally had the time and space to write -- and a husband who was now free to travel year round -- but I had to really think about whether or not I would revive my blog.
I'm five chapters into a memoir, I'm building three websites and developing a web content consultancy. Do I have the bandwidth for a travel blog that has no other purpose than to go on about unforgettable destinations, memorable meals, and a world of interesting faces?
Welcome to Without an Umbrella, v. 2021, newly hosted on the Wix platform.
Travel -- and travel-writing -- is forever changed.
Covid tests, vaccine passports, airplane masking and NO IN FLIGHT BOOZE for us coachies (as of this writing) create another level of difficulty for something that already pushes you out of your comfort zone. Fun and sexy airport layovers are now structured and suffocating. And the delta variant isn't a new mileage program from that airline based in Atlanta.
During this past year and a half of living infectiously, many of us have realized what we took for granted. When it comes to traveling, maybe we've realized we need to go while we can, because you never know when the floof's going to hit the fan.
I've managed to squeak in a few domestic trips this year -- our delicious trip to Charleston, SC is in the blog queue -- but this fall, we'll be taking what will be our first major trip in over 17 months. It will involve six flights, four countries, and eight cities. There will be pierogies, hoagies, martinis, and mici.
Where in the World am I going? You'll just have to wait and read about it.