When leaving for a trip, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what could derail your plans. Maybe someone gets sick, maybe your flight gets canceled, maybe there’s a storm that keeps you inside and off the beach. But even if you do think about what can go wrong, you likely don’t consider the possibility of a global pandemic.
Yet that’s how Lauren Davenport and her husband Daniel Fernandez found themselves temporarily trapped in Morocco.
The couple was already in Spain and planning to head to North Africa the next day (for a trip to camp in the Sahara Desert) when President Trump made his announcement about restricted travel from Europe on Wednesday, March 11.
“The initial message was that we had to get out by the end of the day, but Homeland Security quickly fixed the miscommunication and explained that it would not apply to U.S. citizens, only to foreign nationals,” Davenport said. “This obviously caused a sigh of relief. It was important to us that we didn’t make a decision based on fear, so after we recovered from the initial shock, we checked the CDC to make sure there weren’t any new travel restrictions to Morocco and there weren’t. This seemed like a smart move, as it wasn’t a virus hot spot.”
When they arrived in Morocco, however, they realized that there were more obstacles to their return than they’d thought they’d potentially face. “When we arrived in Marrakesh, Morocco on the 12th, we got to our hotel, checked our phones, and discovered that we had been on one of the last flights that Morocco was letting in from Spain,” Davenport said. “We were shocked. In addition to this, we got an email shortly after this telling us that our flight back to Spain was canceled (after Morocco, we were supposed to spend a week in Portugal before flying back to the States). At that point, we knew our original plans were scrapped, but figured we could fly into Portugal instead, as the virus didn’t seem to be spreading there. Looking back, this would have been the best time to go home. But, our Sahara Desert camping adventure was the next morning and it just didn’t seem like there was much risk in waiting four more days. We were wrong.”
Davenport and Fernandez went ahead with their plans, spending a few days camping in the Sahara. While they were there, Morocco announced that it was grounding international flights. Because of that, the couple is unsure of when or how they’ll be able to return to the United States. Understandably, that’s a difficult situation to be in.
Looking back, this would have been the best time to go home. But, our Sahara Desert camping adventure was the next morning and it just didn’t seem like there was much risk in waiting four more days. We were wrong.
“There are some emergency flights out of the country that are being coordinated by commercial airlines, but the airports are packed and we are hearing stories of flights being canceled or turned around mid-flight as borders are closing by the hour,” Davenport said.
But Davenport stressed they are doing OK and are preparing themselves to be in Morocco for awhile longer.
“For now, we are safe and healthy,” she said. “We travel about 75 percent of the time anyway, so we don’t have a mortgage back home to pay for and our jobs can be done remotely. So, we are hunkering down and self-isolating to ensure we do our part to ensure the virus doesn’t continue to spread. We have no idea when we will be able to come home. Right now we think it’s safe to expect it to be at least two weeks, but more likely 30 days or more.”
“It’s a lot,” she added. “But, everyone is dealing with a lot. This pandemic is completely unprecedented and there isn’t much that is more stressful than the simple unknown. For now, we are just trying to get past the shock of being stuck in a country that is not our own, and help others who are stuck here and less fortunate than we are.”
If you have travel planned, now’s the time to cancel it unless you absolutely have to go. Her best advice? “If you are safely at home with your family, take the time to be grateful for this blessing. If you are on the road and don’t have an immediate medical or financial reason you have to come home, stay put. Science is showing us that the best thing we can all do right now is to practice social isolation and stop moving around so that we can decrease the speed at which the virus is spreading. It’s a sacrifice, but people are making the sacrifice all over the world. Every single person’s choices matter at this point. Together, we can beat this thing.”
This pandemic is completely unprecedented and there isn’t much that is more stressful than the simple unknown. For now, we are just trying to get past the shock of being stuck in a country that is not our own, and help others who are stuck here and less fortunate than we are.
If you want to follow along with Lauren and Daniel’s experience in Morocco, follow Lauren on Instagram @wander_lauren.