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  • Cynthia Fortlage

COVID – Lessons Learnt Through Lockdown

I know when this goes to press, as the saying goes, the COVID threat is still very active and real for all of us. Concerns regarding second waves and spikes and clusters fill our days' news.

Government press releases and updates are daily things that almost define the days' schedule.


The debate over restrictions and social distancing pale in comparison to the conversations over the economy and how to restart it.

Protests by groups over; restrictions, lockdowns, martial law (which wasn’t in place), wearing masks in public or also wearing gloves as recommended or mandatory, or even anti-vaccination messages proliferate the discussions although a vaccine doesn’t even exist yet.

You see I am Medellin, Colombia. When the world began to halt all travel I was faced with a decision whether to stop my world travels or pause here in Colombia. I would like to tell you it was a simple decision that it was still winter in Canada where I started my travels from, but alas that would be too easy of an answer.

The reality was that many, many days were spent factoring in everything I knew and could anticipate as well as my risk assessment. The speed of information flow was overwhelming, I know some folks who just stepped away to gather themselves from the grind of information overload. I certainly took a pause and when I reached a decision I also stepped away as I had enough to conclude the turmoil of processing and reprocessing the waves of news that didn’t change the conditions on which my decision’s where being made anyway.

How did I reach that conclusion, let me give you some insight;

Health – I was healthy and had been for the last 90 days while travelling. Leading up to my decision to travel I had reduced my medications requirements, so I was no longer a diabetic nor was I carrying a CPAP machine to aid my breathing while I slept. I had also eliminated some medications down to two medications and a handful of supplements. That meant that I was not in the high risk or even elevated risk target group even though I am in my mid 50’s.

Safety – I am in Medellin, the former home of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (although they don’t speak his name here, we refer to him publicly as he who shall not be named after Harry Potter evil villain Voldemort). I am not naive enough to suggest that the drug trade is gone from Medellin just as drug problems exist in every city I know of. Yet I am in a very safe neighbourhood that is patrolled by police and security very often. My living facility is fenced and guarded 24/7 and they know me by name and apartment number other than by my look alone.

Affordability – While I was paying my travel program a good fee for access initially to these services and others, doing it alone was very reasonable and Colombia was the least expensive country in South America of the three I have been to. The first two weeks of lockdown were still under the last payment to my travel program so ongoing costs were not initially as clear to us as they have become. In short, I am living very well at about 50% of my previous travel living costs which were less than living in Canada.

Roommates – When we began our time here in Medellin, I had two roommates, I have one currently. The other departed when the USA reached a level four alert level and many American’s in our travel group scrambled home to the USA fear of being cut off or having to face the Colombian health care system. No decision was wrong as everyone made their decisions for their right reasons (that’s acceptance in action). My roommate and I very quickly reached similar decision’s and we both have a corporate experience that allowed us to filter a lot of noise from the volume of information that was coming at us all. While we didn’t know each other too well at the time, we knew we could be roommates. Although I will admit that she more than I was a strong pillar of strength in the beginning as she reached her decision first. That has turned out to be an amazing choice as far as I am concerned as we do very well making decisions and reaching supportive decisions independently. We share costs without debate and when making suggestions as to an issue we independently have had the same thought and reached a similar if not same conclusion on the matter at hand.

Living Conditions – I have a post office box and storage locker in Canada, that’s it! I do have friends that offered me a place to stay but more on that shortly. I have a home here and while we knew the immediate term was covered with our previously mentioned travel fees, we felt confident about securing other accommodation via Airbnb or even apartment rental contracts. As I mentioned under safety that was a secure facility that I felt safe in.

Weather – OK let’s get this out of the way. Medellin is the city of eternal springs where the temperature is between 24-30 degrees Celsius daily and about 16-18 overnight 365 days a year! Canada was still in Winter in March when these decisions were being made. I live in my shorts here, occasionally putting on longer tights or even my jeans on mornings where its cooler feeling although 16 degrees Celsius isn’t cold. I love summer so this is like living in summer every day.

Acceptance – Let’s face it, one of the global tests for 2020 and me personally was to be myself around the globe, the ultimate test seeking acceptance while I shared the message of acceptance without understanding. I was not only looking to societies for acceptance, but truth be told working on my acceptance, the latter still being a work in progress in some ways for me. I had not been misgendered while travelling, all my documents are in order of course so the name, gender, and of course myself are all in alignment which is why I wanted to test myself and the world. This acceptance is such a validation that all others see is me and there is no past or old me to wrestle with in terms of memories or current status. While I still prefer to be seen in public with my hairpieces and makeup on even the Amazon forest trip was a raw experience that taught me so much as I did not bring makeup as I was in the Jungle and it was too hot to wear the hair when I got there. What I was learning about myself and acceptance there is more to learn in the Jungle which is why I will be back again. Suffice it to say that I had no issues with acceptance which was refreshing but also contributed to my feeling of safety.


Mindset – I had already planned to be away travelling for a year, so I might as well continue.

Risk of Travel

So, given all that I was safe and healthy, and I felt safe!

If I travelled, I put at risk my health and ultimately those I care for (friends and family) that I would come into contact during my 14 days of initial lockdown when I got back to Canada.

I had discussed with my children options and plans for living post the 14-day lockdown, I had a few offers for residency at different locations across Canada so the place wasn’t to be assumed although there was a lot of draw to Manitoba or Saskatchewan if I did return.

Travel Dream

This idea of being a digital nomad had been percolating for a few years until my friends knew that I was making it a reality. The impetus to travel was spurred on by my living costs in Winnipeg skyrocketing and when I did go look at other places nothing felt right, so I followed my heart and decided to travel. My roommate knows this, but I have never uttered it out loud until today, If I return, I am afraid that the dream will be done for and I worry that I won’t ever get a chance to leave again. As long as I am on the road the dream is alive.

I believe that by putting this out there the universe knows I am working on this worry/fear and that’s how I will win and overcome this.

Death

I know what a horrible topic to talk about. You see there are two stories here that you need to be aware of.

The first is my own story, during my first experience with psychedelic mushrooms I had a guide for that trip, it was death. I looked death in the face and laughed as I realized that death is but another transition in life from this corporal body to one of a spiritual being. I do not want to die, I love living, but I am not afraid of death. There is so much more to talk about but for the sake of this article, you need to understand that my mindset was not one of fear for the worst possible outcome due to Covid.


Lessons

I believe there are many lessons I have learnt but the most important is about myself. Trust myself, I have good instincts, I make good decisions and I can be a good roommate to live with.

Epilogue

You may have noticed that I said there were two stories when discussing death, but I only spoke of my insights and dealing with the fear of death in a previous experience.

On a weekend in early May I was informed a dear friend Christiaan, a fellow travel family (tramily) member who was stuck in Lima, Peru for reasons I won’t go into here, passed away. He went into the hospital for Pneumonia and passed away a few days later, I had such strong bonding of friendship with Christiaan, we shared numerous adventures and we shared our heart stories with each other. I miss him so much!!

I have stopped trying to understand why on his passing but instead accept it and ask what do I need to learn from his passing at this time. Here’s what I have come up with;

All we know is we have today, tomorrow isn’t promised, live it fully
Today is a gift, what’s why it’s called the present

Con Amor Y Abrazos de Colombia,

Acceptance without Understanding

Cynthia

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