Pandemic Journey: Travelers Carry Office In Their Backpacks, Adventure In Their Hearts
While they wait to return to their offices, several Mexican employees have redefined remote work as they backpack through the country while doing their jobs.
After several months of working from home, Itzel Padilla, a teacher and tutor from Mexico City, decided to travel despite the pandemic.
“At first, I was scared to go out. When people began to be careful and respect the sanitary restrictions, I thought, ‘I know it [the coronavirus] has not disappeared, but there is a way to avoid getting infected.’” she said.
Padilla monitored Puebla’s infection rate and discovered that at that time, it had dropped. So she packed her laptop, face masks, hand sanitizer and car keys and moved there. She hoped to visit Magical Towns — highly touristic villages, usually with historical, architectural and gastronomical heritage — and places open to the public in her spare time.
Atlixco, downtown Puebla, Cholula and sites in Tlaxcala and Querétaro were on her list.
Like Padilla, several people have taken the home-office experience as an opportunity.
Verónica González, a Peruvian engineer and graduate student, emptied her apartment in Lima and embarked on a life-changing experience.
“My idea originally was just to move to another apartment. But then I thought working remotely meants I can go far away. So, I asked a friend in Mexico: Could you host me at your place? I sold everything, bought a ticket and, without much thought, headed for adventure,” she said.
González was surprised by the cultural differences.
Mexicans’ hospitality made her feel at home, and the town of Bacalar, Quintana Roo, captivated her. Every day, as soon as she finished working or studying, she discovered its landscapes.
“The lake’s beauty, the sunrise, the little birds’ chants… I thought, ‘Wow, I did the right thing,’” González said.
The more relaxed rhythm of small towns, where people can also enjoy nature and tourist attractions, has led many living in big cities to rethink their lives and sometimes make significant changes.
“In the city, everyone is rushing. Even if you are not in a personal hurry, you run with the rest just for the sake of keeping up,” said Maria Mata, who left her job in the customer-support and administration departments of a Mexico City restaurant last year. Mata began looking for work opportunities in Oaxaca and Campeche.
“While I was solving my work life, I discovered many places, beaches, natural reserves and lots of people. I gave myself the opportunity to try new things, not knowing if I was good at them. Discovering places and people have helped me grow,” said Mata.
These stories could push other people to take a break from their home-office routine. However, the COVID-19 infection rate is still climbing.
Padilla got infected in February 2021.
“I was alone and sick, and it was not pleasant at all. I am still dealing with some minor sequels, but it doesn’t scare me off. … I know I can get infected and my body can deteriorate more. Still, I believe that if we have the opportunity to do what we want, we should not be scared [and go for it], under controlled measures and with responsibility on our part,” she said.
Marisol Molina, a clinical researcher based in Mexico City, knows the contagion’s risks. She plans a month-long trip and has already packed hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, a face shield and 50 face masks. She also registered to get the vaccine in Guerrero.
Molina will embark on a solo trip visiting several cities of Guerrero, including Acapulco and Taxco, and the state of Querétaro. Her father died from COVID-19 recently, and she has been working nonstop since the wave of infections began. She felt she needed the break.
“There is a before and an after the pandemic. My dad passed away in February, and it has affected me emotionally and physically. I am sure this trip will help me revisit my life and see it positively, forgive what needs to be forgiven, and reconnect with my father,” said Molina.
More than enjoying a landscape or visiting a Magical Town, Molina is ready to undertake an internal journey.
“Fear paralyzes you … but you may overcome seeing the issue from another perspective. I no longer fear losing someone. … I accept it a little more, and I am a little more [comfortable] with myself and the people I love,” said González.
Mata reflects on her traveling experiences.
“It is nourishing [for your soul] to get out of your comfort zone, test yourself, discover your limits, overcome your fears and build a foundation around your roots,” she said.
Padilla reached similar conclusions. The pandemic taught her “how short life is. [We can] reflect about what we can do for our world, other people and ourselves,” she said.
Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos; edited by Fern Siegel