You can read about why I decided to still go on the trip, in this blog post. We left middle of February, before things turned to where they are today. So much has certainly changed and I thought I’d share how the trip went, what I observed and my thoughts about being back home and how we’re handling this – all to be positive because I have hope and faith.
Also, I had an incredibly fun, memorable time with my parents. Thank you for being on the journey with me, sending me sweet DMs encouraging me to post, loving on my parents and being the community I always wanted. I didn’t plan on posting so much because I was under the impression travel wasn’t an interest of my community (based on past observances). But many of you explained it wasn’t about what I did, but rather who I was and your encouragement allowed me to post freely, naturally, and without feeling pressure to post beautiful picture perfect IG stories with dreamy filters. Thank you for allowing me to use the platform the way I want, freely and in the moment. I think many liked my dad because of his free attitude of not caring about what others think and his witty attitude, and it encourages me (and hopefully you) to do the same. We all love people who are unapologetically themselves, right? I made a Taiwan highlights on my Instagram profile (@dianaelizabeth_) mainly featuring my parents and funny moments, and unique finds in Taiwan. The pretty stuff you can see on my feed.
Now back to the traveling experience during the Coronavirus and what it’s like to be back to what’s happening after three weeks!
Japan was canceled twice + making new plans
The Japan part of our trip was canceled twice – the cruise ship we were supposed to be on three weeks later was the exact one that found COVID-19 and was quarantined for weeks.
Because I still wanted to go to Japan so badly (again, before numbers are where it is now), my mom booked a separate guided tour so we’d fly into Japan instead, so on we went and flew to Taiwan to see family (it’s where my mom is from). But, after spending a week in Taiwan, we found out the day before we were supposed to depart for that trip, we found out a few members in our booked tour group bailed which meant the entire group couldn’t go to Japan. But we discovered a few days proper that anyone who returned from Japan to Taiwan, had to undergo at home quarantine for 14 days. It was perhaps because of this reason why those people didn’t want to go – who has time to be quarantined at home for 14 days? My cousin who went to visit her classmate in Japan came home and missed the first few weeks of the new school year because of her visit.
So, like everything that happens in our life, God is sovereign and there is a reason for everything. My parents and I decided to stay in Taiwan and explore. My cousin had a friend who was a private van tour guide and he was now free due to lack of visitors, so we hired him to shuttle us around Taiwan for the rest of our 2-week adventure. God protects and he also can use your time to bless others, so we just felt peace and accepted our trip was going to be different than we expected.
Though we booked this trip last fall, we didn’t get to see many of of our relatives because as the three weeks went on, the Coronavirus topic began to get more serious and our relatives were frightened to see us – and that was respectable. We traveled more inland, away from crowds and into the fresh air mountains.
Traveling through Taiwan during Coronavirus scare
In Taiwan there are 24 million people, whereas here in the US we have 327 million. The UK has 66 million, just to give you an idea of size. And in Taiwan, of the 24 million, there were 30 reported cases of those infected with the Coronavirus (as I write this). I’m unsure of their instructions regarding the Coronavirus but my mom told me based upon conversations she had with our relatives that residents were instructed to stay inside as much as they could – pretty much what we are experiencing now. On another note, the China Travel Restriction which meant no Chinese national can fly out of China. There were no Chinese nationals in Taiwan which is a huge part of a country’s tourism.
We felt this, starting with our arrival at Taiwan’s airport. It was nearly dead with the blinking words in red “Canceled” most of the flights from China. Nearly everyone was wearing face masks around us starting with at our gate in San Francisco to the airline stewardess – we packed them ourselves as well. Chinese people are in Taiwan of course (if you are familiar with Taiwan’s history), but no Chinese tourists which typically help with tourism in many Asian countries, if not the world.
With the lack of tourists and the China travel restrictions, Taiwan felt this as we roamed seemingly empty streets, were the only customers in some restaurants, and checked into scarce hotels, much like what is going on here. The lack of crowds around us in Taiwan was also incredibly enjoyable as a tourist – and it wasn’t entirely dead though. But the amusement parks were still open, rides, and there were shows and meetings. It wasn’t in complete cancellation mode and stores weren’t closing except in remote places where tourism was already scarce.
We still went to night markets and enjoyed ourselves, there were definitely still crowds in attendance – but I don’t think this was looked upon poorly. Those who attended wore masks I would say 90%+, and it wasn’t crazy crowded. I liked this, it seems so respectable and no one coughed, or if they did they wore masks (not always but 99%) or you ran away when you heard someone cough, kinda like we do now.
At the end of our trip when we were closer to the big cities like Taipei, we drove by a line for people waiting to get face masks – it was maybe 20 people long, no chaos or anything. I was told they allow two masks per week for every citizen and they have mapped out locations to where they can be picked up. My aunt joked that Taiwanese people are very obedient and follow rules.
How Taiwan was managing with Coronavirus
Many hotels checked our temperature to make sure we didn’t have a fever, and one time my dad actually couldn’t get in! His forehead was hot from being in a metal structure at a park and we had to stand outside. I was first worried but then he was able to get his temperature down and we carried on. For bigger venues they had a monitoring system like a camera pointed at the entry way and a screen that showed your body temperature. This helped move people along quicker. Temperature checking applied to only indoor settings while outside it wasn’t an issue with the fresh air. And, over 90% of people wore masks and 100% of employees of any hotel, restaurant, or business wore a mask.
My parents and I did rarely wore masks on our trip, though we had them. We wore them when necessary, like when we landed and thought we had to, but once we realized how seemingly contained it was, and calm in Taiwan, we didn’t unless we were in high traffic areas. As someone on vacation, this is incredibly great because you are on vacation roaming around, checking in and exploring with an entirely different mentality – you’re on vacay mode. Also, a few weeks ago it wasn’t seemingly serious back home in the US as it is today.
I saw plenty of toilet paper, groceries, readily available, even toilet paper outside of convenience stores. No one was worried about starving.
My mom said there was a shortage of masks and antibacterial products (as told to her by my auntie who lived there) so we left all the bottles of Purell sanitizer I brought with her. A few weeks before my trip I had loaded up on cans of Lysol sprays and Purell and Clorox wipes and wet wipes. It’s surreal to think these things are now unavailable on shelves, but it’s just lack of supply now that everyone wants them, it’s going to happen, but we won’t need as much as we think now that we’re all social distancing ourselves.
Perhaps because we were in vacay mode and I can’t understand Chinese 100% on the news, it kept me a little less focused on what was going on. This was also three weeks ago. A lot has changed in three weeks.
You can read this article by NBC about What Taiwan can teach the world on fighting the coronavirus.
Coming home to the US after 3 weeks
Coming home certainly feels like an entirely different place than when I left. However, when I think about it, I’ve been in the same environment but my vacay mode has been switched off. Citizens of Taiwan have been instructed to stay home as much as possible and so are we – and now I’m home, and so that’s what I’m doing as we’ve been instructed here.
I have so much to do now that I’m home – I found the Reminders app on my iPhone and it’s been downhill from there you guys, lol! You may never see me even after we’re given the OK to socialize in big gatherings again. I started jotting down every house project I needed to do and the list is about 30+ long. I tackled about 10 yesterday though, my first full day back in Phoenix.
When I came in through customs directly from Taiwan to San Francisco I didn’t undergo any screenings through customs. I arrived early Friday morning around 6:30 am. I don’t know if the order of screening was put into effect after I landed because we know how chaotic going through customs is today, or if it was because I came from a pretty controlled, low-risk country.
Knowing this, I’m just doing my part and I’ve been home since my last travel to self-quarantine and be respectable to distance myself and avoid close contact – I’m not planning on going overboard, but being very aware and selective is important not just for me, but for everyone since I just got back.
I adjusted or have canceled a few personal appointments that require face-close contact over the last few days because I’m not sure how I am, not necessarily scared of others. I’m feeling just fine. I think it would be wonderful if we could set up a body temperature checking system and encourage wearing masks for everyone in service or businesses meanwhile if we keep certain large events open or know there can be a larger group of people. And I don’t mean to downplay the situation right now but I don’t believe fear or thought process that everyone we come in contact with has the virus is a good idea – just be cautious and do as much as you can to do your own part as a caring good human will help all of us hopefully feel more settled about it and flatten the curve of the spread.
But back to some thoughts. We have to remember we’ve all had what we needed as long as we can remember so there is plenty for all of us, the hoarding part is what brings supply down. Having seen what Taiwan has already been doing, I think it’s a good idea to respectfully distance ourselves just a little bit and be cautious about it – though my heart is totally broken over this because I miss my friends so much who are like family to me and I’ve already been gone for three weeks. *cry* But don’t be judgmental to those who are with others for personal reasons, or are running errands, or traveling because we don’t know the situation. I mean look at what my parents and I were doing through Taiwan. Let’s just not be judgmental in general and focus on doing what we feel we need to do. We aren’t on lock down (yet) but all of us are modifying some part of our daily life. There is no need to be fearful because I think we are doing great steps and doing our part to problem solve this together as a country, as a world! God is in control, he hears our prayers and He is sovereign.
We will party again with friends and we will be so grateful. And what amazement it is to see that we all care so much about each other, the hospitals, and those who are more receptive to getting seriously sick that we put a few things on hold for the time being – remember life is not on hold, we’re just adjusting a little bit and adjusting priorities. I know we’re going to be so much more grateful for so many things and each other after this! Meanwhile, I’m getting back to my Reminders list and heading outside to catch up on my gardening and organizing, and I’ll check in with some home decor and gardening posts, and Taiwan travel posts, that I hope will bring some glimpses of normalcy in our every day lives. Many of us are still working, just from home. Sending you lots of love! ♥
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Diana Elizabeth is in the middle of stringing up her backyard lights on a better wire. She also cleared out our closet of about 50 items and is having a friend pick it up immediately. Time to also work on photo books.