I recently did something that I never thought I would do, I left my spouse in a foreign country during a pandemic.

I went on vacation with my husband, and with tears streaming down my face, I left him at the resort not knowing when he would return home.

Why? Why would I leave my husband in the Dominican Republic? It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t love him. I love him very much, and we had a great time.

I earned this trip as a reward for team growth in the past year. We were there, along with close to 100 of my peers, to enjoy an all expenses paid vacation at a beautiful all inclusive resort.

We arrived on Monday and as the bus pulled up to the front door, the place looked like a modern fortress. I truly didn’t know what to think. It was in a row of resorts all together along the road, and they all looked like traditional large and grand hotels. This one looked a bit like a prison from the road.

When the door swung open, we stepped into a light filled lobby, creamy tiles and walls and pools with playful, yellow rubber ducks floating in them. Floor to ceiling windows gave us a view of outdoor pools and gardens that stretched to the beach. The resort was named Live Aqua, and there were water features throughout leading down to the ocean.

Two sets of stairs framed a cascading fountain, and as we reached the bottom, we were each welcomed with a drink. We checked in, were helpfully escorted to our room which overlooked the popular swim up bar and pool, and looked forward to a week of relaxation and fun.

Our first evening was typical, my husband and I went to the Asian restaurant on site and enjoyed a variety of sushi rolls. During dinner I noticed he had the sniffles and a cough, but that’s common this time of year.

On Tuesday morning, I attended a large meeting with my peers who had also earned the trip and he stayed in our room. When I returned to collect him for lunch, he was still in the room. He suggested I eat with friends and check on him later. So I enjoyed my favorite Mediterranean foods and planned to get my suit on and head to the beach.

He chose not to join me again. He said didn’t feel like it.

I joined friends for dinner, and he ordered room service that night. When I asked why he wasn’t participating he shared that he looked up the symptoms for the Omicron strain of covid, and feared he had it.

Out of an abundance of caution, he politely kept his distance from everyone on our trip. He left the resort to play golf on Wednesday by himself, and when he returned he and I chose to do dinner by ourselves. Thursday he finally joined me down at the pool, because most of our group decided to take an excursion and the pool was not crowded.

Finally enjoying some social time with friends, he set a tee time to play golf on Friday with two other men. We were set to leave Saturday afternoon, which meant that with the travel guidelines and restrictions, we were required to test negative for Covid-19 the day before returning to the US.

We showed up early on Friday, had our noses swabbed and waited. My husband needed to get his clubs ready, so he returned to the room and I continued to wait. After several minutes, I left to go to our room, and kept watching for the email that was supposed to come for us to show at the airport. Nearly an hour went by, and I hadn’t received anything when most of my friends had.

Finally, I asked one of the staff. She took me into the hallway, and asked me where my husband was. When I told her that he was not at the resort, but left to play golf, she began speaking in Spanish to a colleague.

My eyes widened and my pulse quickened. She told me that I tested negative and was free to do as I pleased, but my husband had tested positive. She said when he returned to the resort, he was to go immediately to our room, contact our travel representative and wait.

What now? I knew this was a problem. Rumors started around the resort that friends were also testing positive and being removed from their room and taken to a separate room block to quarantine from their travel partners, who tested negative.

Friday was a long day. Thankfully, a sweet friend allowed me to sit with her on her patio by her private pool, and work to take my mind off of things. We later went for a walk on the beach, and enjoyed sunshine and conversation, while I distracted myself from thoughts of the inevitable.

How was he going to get home, and would I stay with him or return on my own?

We all knew going into this trip that testing positive was a possibility and that we needed to be negative to return home. As a part of the trip package, my company planned to cover expenses for anyone who tested positive and needed to stay. They also planned to have a representative on site at the resort with anyone who tested positive and needed to stay extra days.

As our farewell dinner began Friday evening, we learned that 12 of our group had tested positive and steps were being taken to ensure they were cared for, retested and travel plans would be rearranged for their return.

Thankfully, no one had serious symptoms. In fact, many had no symptoms at all, while one or two thought that they had food poisoning the day before. My husband’s symptoms were like the old fashioned East Texas “crud.” Essentially he had an elevated cold, something many of us would have gone to work with back in 2019, before the pandemic.

Because of his golf outing, my husband was able to stay in our room and quarantine there. I had my negative test, and had been away from him most of the day, so I was not worried about returning home.

I went to the reception with my friends, enjoyed a delicious dinner and drinks and returned to my room. We kept our distance from each other and talked about our options.

Should I leave him there and return home alone, or pay to stay extra days and risk a positive test myself and a prolonged stay at our expense?

Part of me really wanted to stay. I knew that he was not seriously sick, and I believed he had a cold. The initial test that we all took was a rapid Antigen test which will test positive for the common cold and the flu in addition to Covid-19.

A doctor and nurse were set to come give him an RT-PCR test Saturday morning to verify whether it was a cold or actually Covid-19.

Over the last four years, I’ve traveled with my company several times for conventions and earned vacations. Most recently they took us to Dubai in November of 2021. I knew that he was in the best possible hands, and that they would treat him like family if I left. With that reassurance, and his insistence I chose to leave at my scheduled departure time on Saturday afternoon.

Knowing he would be confined to our room, with only room service food options, I smuggled one last meal from the Mediterranean restaurant up to our room before I left. We talked for a bit about how he would entertain himself, and he reassured me that he would enjoy our balcony patio, watch tv and that he had his ipad and phone.

I left the hotel at 2:00 pm, and began a long stressful return home.

When we arrived to the airport it was mass chaos. Many large groups were departing at similar times, and earlier flights had been cancelled with those passengers moving to fill our flights.

Thankfully, I’m a seasoned traveler. I know what documents, what I can and cannot pack in my carry on, and what to remove my bags and body when I get to security.

The lines were long, and even though we arrived more than two hours early for our flight, I made it through security just in time to find a bathroom, buy a bottle of water and dig a protein bar out of my carry on before we boarded.

I distracted myself with downloaded netflix videos on my first flight from Punta Cana to Charlotte, North Carolina. If you haven’t seen ‘Emily in Paris’ yet, it’s light-hearted, and was a welcome distraction. With a two hour lay over in Charlotte, I had plenty of time to go through customs, collect my checked bag, recheck it, and go back through security again.

Because it was 9:00 pm, all the restaurants were closed, but I was able to find snacks.

I called a friend and she continued to distract me from the fact that I just left my husband behind in a foreign country during a pandemic, not knowing when we could return home. I boarded my next flight at 10:00 pm, and flew to DFW where I was scheduled to land at 12:15 am.

More netflix videos were watched, as my mind reeled and I tried to decide if I should book a hotel room in Dallas or drive home. I didn’t know if my adrenaline would be racing enough to last the two hour drive. After landing, collecting my luggage and walking 23 gates to my car, I was amped up and ready to be home.

I was fine for the first hour and 15 minutes. It was about Canton, when I really got sleepy. I managed to keep myself awake by snacking, and drinking water, and arrived home just before 3:00 am.

Weary, I unloaded my car and crawled into bed.

Sunday, I checked in with my husband and learned we should expect results from his test that evening. If he tested negative, they would put him on a flight Monday afternoon. If he tested positive again, he was likely stuck there until Friday.

I spent the day in phases of exhaustion, worry, unpacking and laundry. When I wasn’t unpacking and doing laundry, I took naps. With the two hour time difference, my body felt like I had arrived home at 5:00 am.

Finally, that evening we learned his results.

He had tested negative and was coming home. My company quickly arranged his travel, and he was set to come home on two flights similar to mine arriving at DFW at Midnight.

Feeling absolutely relieved, I was productive Monday and my company kindly sent me flowers as a comfort from the awful ending to what had been a beautiful week in Paradise.

Monday evening I drove to Dallas early to have dinner with a family member and watch the College National Championship game, before collecting him. This time I was prepared for a late drive.

I planned ahead and took an energy supplement, that I normally take in the morning, at 6:00 pm and it worked perfectly. His plane landed early, baggage claim took forever, but we were on the road at 12:40 am, and headed back to Tyler.

The drive was long, but thankfully he was with me, and knowing that he was back in the states and that he didn’t actually have Covid was such a relief I was energetic despite the late hour.

We arrived home just before 3:00 am Tuesday morning, and after resting on Tuesday he was back to a normal schedule.

Travel is more complicated right now. There’s no doubt about it. Many are choosing to stay home because of it, and I respect and understand that decision.

I was on a cruise ship in March of 2020, when the world began shutting down. I saw one of the world's busiest airports in Atlanta practically deserted as I returned home from that trip. We were nervous then, but made it safely home and entered the lockdown with the rest of the world.

As time went by, though, I decided that I wouldn’t let fear prevent me from living my life and enjoying one of the things I love most, travel.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve flown to Amarillo twice to see friends. I’ve flown to Cancun as a reward from my company and to Sundance, UT for business. I shared with you my adventures in Dubai and have just returned from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

I’ve worn a mask at the airports and on the flights with no issue. I’ve been cautious, had Covid and recovered, and have been vaccinated. I respect your decision to do as you choose, and do what is best for you and your family.

I share that to say this. Please live your life and enjoy it to the fullest. We never know when our time will come. If you want to go somewhere, make a plan, take precautions and go. Don’t let fear hold you back. There is a great big, beautiful world out there, and some of us are still choosing to go see it.

Lufkin, Texas - 10 Year Challenge

The 10-year challenge is getting quite the attention on social media. Let's take a look at how certain areas around Lufkin have changed over the past ten years or so.

Tyler, TX House With It's Own English Pub Inside

A few things need updates in this home, but it's pretty cool as there is an English Pub inside.