Return To Travel Project Phase 2 (COVID-19): First Flight To Baja California Sur

by | Nov 1, 2020 | Mexico, November 2020: Baja California Sur | 0 comments

  1. Weigh the opportunity cost of travel (as a frontline healthcare worker I may burn out/can’t take care of anyone safely if I don’t recharge appropriately…and I have taken practice steps with small domestic trips before leaping on a trip abroad)
  2. Leave from a low prevalence area (or self-quarantine in a low prevalence area for at least 10 days without symptoms before leaving)
  3. Travel to a low prevalence area 
  4. Ensure you have the correct entry requirements of the destination 
  5. Choose a responsible airline 
  6. Face coverings when inside and not eating 
  7. Always eat/socialize outdoors if you can help it 
  8. Stick to outdoor activities 
  9. If in a group, make sure everyone either tested negative for COVID-19 right before the trip (or self-quarantined in the destination for at least 10 days without symptoms before meeting them)
  10. Be prepared to cancel the trip (or mandatory self-isolation) for anyone who develops symptoms


With the country still reopening after what seemed an eternity combating the pandemic of COVID-19, the consistently low infection rates in NYC, and our successful 3 week trip across the USA (twice!) overland without causing any infections, casualties, or hot spots, we now have taken the next responsible step in returning to a life of travel while minimizing our exposure and negative impact on public health.

During the virtual world premiere of Raubern’s film, our public audience had encouraged us to travel sooner than later with a domestic road trip this August. What seemed like an errant statement of hope soon materialized within our community: we determined if we keep a trip in small, contained cohorts of COVID-negative travelers, we could both travel on an epic adventure without negatively impacting the world around us. And given our previous experience leading a southernwestern national road trip on the famed Route 66 from NYC to California 5 summers ago, it had seemed perfectly appropriate to take the northwestern route this summer from NYC. We always follow the signs.

And then that trip happened. With the success of being one of the first (if not the first) adventure travel groups to pull off an official and COVID-free trip in the era of COVID-19, we now take the next step by leaving domestic borders for one of the safest areas in Mexico: Off the coast of the Southern Baja California Sur Peninsula far remote from any COVID-19 hotspots in the middle of pure outdoor nature and sea, we will join forces with Nomad Diving to witness a rare event: when thousands of Striped Marlins congregate in search of their next meal.

And just for your reference the last plane I ever boarded was almost 8 months ago on March 7th, when I was returning from a 2 week trip in Angola. How little did I truly appreciate at the time what was waiting for me around the corner when I saw my first COVID-19 patient the next morning on March 8th in Brooklyn.

…as you can imagine it has been another kind of journey where I felt like I’ve lived multiple lifetimes since. And yet nearly paralyzed by COVID-19, I nevertheless must stress the small steps I have taken in returning to and recharging with travel: at first with small private road trips, camping, and finally a proper domestic monsoon across the country. With each consistent success and no infections since, I still would wait another 2 months holding out as long as I could before I would feel comfortable stepping on my first flight abroad.

8 months later, on the first day of November, that would be that day.



After confirming a negative COVID-19 test the night before at my own workplace (even though Mexico currently does not require such for travel, it’s still good to be sure), I set out at 4:00am in the morning for a scheduled 06:00am flight out from NYC to ATL with my new monsooner in tow, Nancy Nunez, a travel ER nurse who would sign up for this trip via my Instagram and meet me for the first time today.



Other than the chair stickers and the masks, it feels like nothing’s changed:



And the great thing about Delta, Southwest, Alaskan Air, and JetBlue is that they have all been extremely strict about enforcing face coverings onboard and physically distancing passengers by keeping their middle rows empty. It’s made a huge difference in preventing infections (as well as leaving a lot more overhead luggage storage for us!).

As all modern aircraft cycles and filters the air at a rate more often per hour than trains or subways, the better rate-limiting and game-changing variable that you can control for during a pandemic would be more the airline than the airplane itself. My vote — during a pandemic of all times — would be the strictest. Because why take an unnecessary risk if you don’t have to?



They also handed out sealed plastic baggies for the onboard snacks:



After a 2 hour flight, we landed in Atlanta, after which I rushed over to the international terminals to catch my connecting flight out to SJD airport.



And within the 15 minutes we had until boarding, I took the time to check out both The Club at ATL (with my Priority Pass which remarkably still works!):



…and the Delta Sky Club (by means of my Amex Platinum membership):



How much did I miss the free food at lounges?



This much.



Then it was another 4 hours before we arrived in SJD airport and my first foreign country in over 8 months (which is a big deal considering our frequency of international travel for the past 5-6 years).



Once we hopped on a 2 minute bus ride to the terminal, they checked our forms, took our temperature, and had us sanitize our shoes and luggage:



Make sure you have all your forms filled out beforehand, including the health declaration form you can do online a few days prior:



On the home stretch past customs, be wary of the nearly endless line of touts waiting to sell you either a taxi ride, a timeshare, or both. Some things haven’t changed.

If you don’t need either and want to play it smart just look the other and ruuuuunnn….



While outside, Nancy and I got some drinks and waited for my friend and guide Pier Nirandara (who I just saw 2 months ago when I stopped in LA!) and her 2 friends Helena and Liya to arrive before we hopped on a shared van to The Marriott Fairfield Inn.



We all freshened up quickly for 20 minutes before setting off with our responsible face coverings for a boozy brunch by the Ocean at Sur:



If there’s a particular “sight” you want to venture out from here, that would be The Arch of Cabo San Lucas:



Otherwise, kick back and just enjoy the ocean breeze:



And if you’re here on Halloween, aka Día de los Muertos, try to enjoy the local festivities! We wandered a bit after a sunset massage ($36 for one hour!) at one of the beach bars.



We then returned to our hotel for a bit of a recharge…



…and then had dinner at The Office:



but by 11pm saw that next door Mango Deck, normally renowned for its party scene…



…and the rest of downtown Cabos would be shuttered early (even on a Saturday night holiday) from COVID precautions:



These are new times. The group therefore instead spent the rest of the night staying up and getting to know one another over crazy travel stories in Pier’s hotel room before retiring at 2am.

 –EDIT: November 5, 2020–

This post was written both for me and for you, tracking down all that I did to make sure I would travel safely. And for what it’s worth, it’s now been more than 6 days (COVID-19 symptoms on average take 2-5 days to manifest for 98% of patients) since and none of us, who also tested negative for COVID prior to the trip (which wasn’t even required by our airlines or this destination), have any symptoms.

So as a group — as monsooners — we continue to do things right and explore living as fulfilled lives we can have during uncertain times, both responsibly and ethically.




- At time of posting in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 58% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly sunny


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