Before Quarantine

Sometimes the best moments are the ones we take for granted

Before Quarantine
Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

In the months before quarantine, I traveled to Peru with my family. I used to live in Peru, and I’ve often acted as a guide to Machu Picchu. The last time I went, I met up with one of my high school friends and his family. I hadn’t seen him for about ten years, and it was wonderful to have the chance to catch up and see how our lives have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.

There is always something special about reuniting with someone that plays a role in your earliest memories. No matter what they have achieved later in life, you still recognize the fundamental character traits that led you to spend time with them in the first place. It’s strange to think that you were among the first to recognize the traces of the positive qualities that would define them as an adult.

It’s odd to reflect on that trip now that we’ve all spent so many months self-isolating at home. So much has changed, and now even the basic components of an international vacation seem like acts of absolute privilege.

Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

Peru’s response to the pandemic has been even more extreme than that of the United States. One component of their lock down designated that men and women could only leave the house on alternating days. Imagine being denied the ability to go for an evening walk in your neighborhood with your husband or wife.

Today, you can’t even reasonably expect to schedule a trip to Peru. Just for my own curiosity, I’ve been checking airfare to Lima from Chicago. In the upcoming weeks there are no flights available. A few months down the road there are tickets at a dramatically discounted rate. Who knows if you’d actually be able to get on those flights when the travel date arrives?

Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

A few months ago, it would have been inconceivable to think that airlines would cease their service. We also wouldn’t have had our current concerns about sitting next to strangers in a sealed cabin. The brief chat with an immigration officer before entering a foreign country is always a bit awkward, but I can’t even imagine having that conversation now. Perhaps they’d determine you were a health risk to the nation and lock you up in quarantine for a few weeks. They have that authority.

It hurts that we can’t travel because staying at home prohibits us from seeing the people that we most care about. The best part of life is the ability to create shared memories that last a lifetime. I miss going to restaurants. There is a profound joy that comes from partaking in a fine meal with close friends at the end of a busy day. One good thing about quarantine is that it’s given us the perspective to appreciate the importance of basic things.

I miss standing in line with crowds of other excited travelers waiting for their turn to snap a selfie at a dream location. I miss brushing shoulders with random individuals and thinking nothing of it. I miss not worrying that any surface or object that I touch contains an inherent risk of contamination.

Photo courtesy of Walter Rhein

It’s odd to look at pictures from several months ago and see all the good times that we took for granted. However, I’ve taken pictures during quarantine, and there are things to reflect on in those moments as well. It’s been a joy to have my children at home, to see them throughout the day and to help them with their school work. Quarantine gave me the opportunity to teach my girls how to ride their bicycles, and these days we share all our meals and partake in many more activities together than we used to.

It’s important to remember that when normalcy is restored and we look back on our quarantine pictures, we will experience the same nostalgia that we feel now at the sight of our pictures from a few months ago. Even within the tragedy of a pandemic, it is possible to strengthen relationships and share special moments.

We don’t control every circumstance in our life, but it is within our power to recognize and enjoy all the moments we have together. Our shared moments are the most precious.

south america
Walter Rhein
Walter Rhein
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Walter Rhein

I'm a small press novelist. Shoot me an email if you want to discuss writing in any capacity, or head over to my web page www.streetsoflima.com. [email protected]

See all posts by Walter Rhein