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My husband and I married in July, and I decided to use my Work Someplace Awesome stipend for part of my honeymoon in Portugal throughout March. We had the whole thing planned, from the hours we'd block of for work to the volcano-cooked meals and the mansions we'd visit. I was so excited to use this PactSafe perk and have an amazing time in Portugal. But then, COVID-19 happened.
On March 8, my husband and I flew out of Indianapolis. COVID-19 had been in the news for a bit of time at this point, so we were prepared to take extra precautions to keep ourselves safe while traveling.
We spent a day in Boston and took in some historical sights to satisfy my husband’s nerdy side and flew overnight to the Azores Islands. We landed at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 10. We went straight to our Airbnb and slept for a few hours. We woke up refreshed and headed out to explore. With the time change and travel, we called it an early night and slept for 12 hours straight Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, March 11, COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic.
This was not great news since we were so far from home, but we felt safer in the Azores since they didn't have any confirmed cases, and Indianapolis had confirmed its first case a few days before we left.
We carried on Wednesday as planned even though the weather was a bit rainy. We drove to the top of the island hoping to see the view of the Azores blue and green twin lakes located inside a dormant volcanic crater. As we drove to the top of the island, it kept getting foggier and foggier. We finally made it and walked out to the scenic overlook to be met with the theme of the trip: expectation vs. reality.
On Thursday, March 12, the morning of our scheduled whale watching tour, we woke up early and saw headlines saying the US would be putting into effect European travel restrictions beginning Friday, March 13 at midnight.
This caused a little stress and my husband looked into the particulars while I got ready to go whale watching. We decided to go on the excursion and were able to see two humpback whales and a baby and many common dolphins. After our tour, we grabbed lunch quickly and made the decision to try and get home as soon as possible, worried our flight home the following week could be cancelled and we’d have a hard time getting home (Spoiler alert, our original flight home was cancelled the following week).
It was already 1 p.m. by the time we got back to our Airbnb and started looking for flights and formulating a plan. We found a flight out at 4 p.m. and packed up in a hurry; we were at the airport an hour later. Talk about an adrenaline rush. We landed in Toronto around 8:30 p.m. We got a rental car and drove the 9 hours home overnight to Indianapolis.
We got home at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning and at that point had been awake for 27 hours straight. We crashed.
Our two week vacation was cut in half when we went “back” to work on Monday. Logging in for our Monday morning “Start Our Week Together,” I was met with many people relieved I’d made it back safely. Same, guys, same.
We had already planned to self-quarantine upon returning home since we didn’t know what we would be exposed to during our travels and didn’t want to pass anything to our family or coworkers.
In alignment with recommended guidelines, PactSafe had already encouraged employees to work remotely and that was the beginning of our new normal. Sadly, I didn't get to fully enjoy Portugal, but thankfully, PactSafe provided yet another stipend to get us settled into our new home/work environment, our new normal. It helped create a dedicated space for work to create a little barrier when your home is your work and your work is your home.
PactSafe's flexibility has helped me make the best of a bad situation. Though brief and full of some anxiety, my trip to Portugal was amazing and wouldn't have been possible without the stipend. My integration back into normal life was also made easier by PactSafe policies.
While this trip was one I’d definitely not like to relive, it is one I’ll never forget. I didn’t get to do as much work in someplace awesome as I anticipated, but my dog thinks it’s pretty awesome that I’m working by her side everyday now.
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