This worldwide lockdown happened pretty fast. It’s incredible to think that I was on a different continent living my dream just last week, only to have it ripped out from under me. I recently spoke with a friend and described it as such: I spent two years putting all of my eggs in one basket, and that basket was just set on fire.
When all of the news started to swirl around COVID-19 in the U.S., the stock market started to crash. I was at the bottom of the world. Surely I was safe. I was hiking through Patagonia in Chile. No virus down there. Actually, for the past month, all of South America was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. There weren’t many cases being announced. When I left Brazil, there was one case in Rio. When I got into Santiago, they took my temperature in customs. They provided me with a slip of paper to call if I felt symptoms. “Probably more than they’re doing back home.” I thought to myself. After a week down south, I made my way to the north of Chile, to the middle of the Atacama desert, the driest (non-polar) place on earth. After a twelve-hour travel day, I packed a backpack full of beer and took a bicycle from the hostel to the middle of the desert with a couple of strangers.
One thing to know about the Atacama desert, the stars are amazing. It’s host to one of the biggest observatories in the world. On average, it’s 8,000 feet above sea level, and with virtually no light pollution, the stargazing is incredible. Do you know those pictures of the night sky where you can see the milky way galaxy? Yup, I witnessed that with my own eyes. Sadly, that was the only thing I got to witness. I had a whole week of things I wanted to do there before moving onward to Peru, but I saw the news: Peru to close borders amid the COVID-19 outbreak when I got back to the hostel. I was buzzed and tired. I would deal with it tomorrow.
With luck, I was able to get out. There were roughly seven of us, and we booked a last-minute shuttle that evening with a late flight to Santiago. It was good that none of us were alone during this time. I wouldn’t describe the feeling as stress, but we were all sad. All of us had further travel plans, ranging from weeks to months, and we were all forced to go home.
Through intermittent WiFi, I was able to book a flight from Santiago to Orlando, with a layover in Panama. As I kept trying to book, tickets kept selling out. It took several tries, but it finally went through. I was forced to spend extra money to sit in business class, but it was an emergency; at least I was comfortable. The whole trip took twenty-four hours. That’s right, through forty-eight hours, thirty-six of them were spent traveling. To the desert from Patagonia, then from the desert home. The leg home sent me through 5 airports. If I didn’t have the virus then, I certainly have it now. In either case, I am home safe and sound with no idea what to do next.
I really can’t complain, though. The trip was supposed to be eleven months, and it ended up being two. In those two months, I was able to gain some fantastic experiences. I got to see places I’ve never seen, launch an entire new platform around a subject (VC) that genuinely fascinates me, and meet individuals from all over the world. I did what I set out to do, just not for as long as I set out to do it.
On the negative side, my Spanish is still trash.
But here’s the thing, I’m not done. This is only a setback, and one I will deal with as patiently as I can. When the dust settles around this virus, I will pack my bags once again and chart a new path. Where will my next destination be? No idea. In the meantime, I will continue to publish some interviews and articles remaining from my time overseas and do my work remotely.
Thanks for continuing to support what I’m doing; stay safe during these wild times.