Texas Sized Germs and Little Mountain Towns

Channel avatar Wander Woman

Wander Woman

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When my sister sent me this meme on my second or third day in Manitou Springs, I was fairly certain it was a joke. At the same time, the visual imagery struck some sort of chord in me. There seemed to be a lot of underlying honesty in that meme. 
I did see a loooot of tourists hanging out on Main Street in Manitou. I don’t know if these tourists were from Texas, but I will say that a lot of us really do have a tendency to leave our hot and humid state in the months that we aren’t vibing it there (me shamelessly included), and head for the Colorado hills--or anywhere else that’s less hot, or less muggy.
I talked with multiple people this summer about this Texas exodus—how everyone seems to know someone who all of a sudden has a summer home somewhere in Colorado. There they can escape the big cities and go out to the stores and presumably do regular tourist activities like they used to, within the calming backdrop of whatever more rural Colorado city they’re in. 
I didn’t want to cause any extra concern for the little town that was harboring me at the moment, and I felt kind of bad for sporting the Texas license plate on my car.
So, these are the measures I took to try not to be a jerk of a traveler who starts a new Covid-19 hotspot:
First, I let everyone know where I was coming from, especially within the first two weeks.
Before I asked to stay at my friend’s house for my weekend visit to Fort Collins, I made sure it was ok with her and her boyfriend, who had been working/studying from home for months without seeing outsiders. 
Before I went to the gliderport, I explained the situation in detail to my point-person to make sure he and the rest of the club would be ok with the visit. At the gliderport, I came in wearing a mask, but actually took it off after the first 15 minutes or so, after asking. For one, it was extremely hot, and we were able to space out quite nicely outside. Also, nobody else was wearing one, and it’s amazing how being the odd one out still wears me down as an adult. 

When it came time to get in the glider for a ride, though, I asked my pilot if he would prefer me to wear a mask since we’d be contained within the same aircraft for 20 minutes. Our conversation basically went like this:
Me: “Would you like me to wear a mask?”
Him: “Only if you want to.”
Me: “Well, if you want me to I will.
Him: “Do you have covid?”
Me, flustered: “Uh, haha, no!”
Me, to the photographer also there from CO Life: “Josh, did our editor have any expectations about mask wearing?”
 Josh: “No, and I probably won’t wear one just because it’s so hot.”
And it was—within ten seconds of being closed up in that glider, with the sunshine beaming in through the glass, I was burning up, even without a mask.
So, there you have it. Was I being an irresponsible Texan, despite trying to distance myself from the skeletal stereotype in the meme?
If I had been the ultimate responsible traveler, maybe I would have quarantined for two weeks upon arriving in Colorado, despite there not being a quarantine mandate in place. Or maybe I would have gotten a rapid test before leaving or upon arriving. Or worn a mask despite the heat and others not wearing them. 
But I didn’t get tested, partly because I had no symptoms and also because I was frustrated at the stupidity of the testing system here and I didn’t want to engage with it. I know that sounds self-centered and privileged, and it probably was. 
On the other hand, I did a really good job of practicing risk management when it came to germ exposure. I didn’t go into places I didn’t have to, and I only saw people who were taking the same kind of precautions I and my family were. Covid or not, I have always done my best to eat well, get plenty of sleep, take my vitamins, wash my hands, and go outside and exercise. I also made a real effort to communicate with people before getting too close, taking off my mask, coming into their homes/spaces/whatever. Basically, just practicing good consent!
In a time where traveling even just to your neighbor’s house could be dangerous for yourself, your loved ones, your neighbor, their loved ones, or their loved ones’ acquaintances who are somebody else's loved ones, how important is travel, really? Why are we still doing it?
I’m still trying to answer that question. But I know for sure that I will never again travel like I used to. May we all take good care of our little mountain towns!

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