I got Covid-19 while travelling.
Updated: Apr 30
I lost my job and my business officially on September 16th, 2020 about 7 months after being forced to close up on the Governors orders. During that time, it was definitely a mental struggle. Travelling is one of the few things that I genuinely love, has consumed me for the past 10 years, and during the first few months of the pandemic I became a bit of an expert on which countries were allowing Americans. As difficult as travel was during the pandemic, I was determined to go somewhere.
I focused on Turkey. They required no testing, and it seemed fairly safe. Oddly enough, they have set up one of the world's best covid-19 testing sites at the Istanbul airport. You can get tested and get a result in a few hours for $33. I decided to head to Vegas where I would meet up with a friend and decide on my further travel later.
I arrived in Vegas on the 27th of September, and spent the next 10 days exploring, hiking, relaxing, walking, gambling, and just enjoying being away. My friend left on October on 3rd and I started to plan a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. I focused on a flight from San Francisco (direct business class on a 787) with a car rental from Vegas, a 2-night stay in Lake Tahoe, and a flight out on the 13th. but I did not book the flight…. I was still waiting (and procrastinating) to make a final decision.
On the 8th, I woke up with a headache, but wanted to go to the outlets to find a light jacket for the Lake Tahoe evenings. I found a great deal at the Columbia outlet ($9) but wasn’t feeling too good and took a Lyft back to the hotel. I took a digital thermometer with me on this trip and for the first time in 7 months, I had a fever, as well as body aches and a headache. My temperature was 100. I took Tylenol and went to sleep, waking up several times soaked in sweat.
My temperature remained elevated for 3 days, but never went above 101. My only remaining symptoms after the third day were fatigue, diarrhea, and headaches. I thought it was Covid-19, but not sure how I got it...probably just from being near other people, even though I kept my mask on, and most people in Vegas did the same.
I stayed away from people while trying to get a testing appointment, but it was difficult. Feeling surprisingly good on the day I was supposed to drive to Lake Tahoe, I decided to go ahead with the car rental and 8-hour drive. I managed to schedule a drive-thru CVS Covid testing appointment on my way. Upon arriving, they told everyone in line that their systems were down, and they could not test anyone.... UNREAL. My drive continued to my hotel in Lake Tahoe after failing to find another testing site. The next day, the weather was simply perfect, so I took a short hike in Tahoe and definitely felt a little off during and afterwards...I was still a little sick.
After that hike, I knew it was best to slow down. I figured I could get tested in San Francisco for sure, so I researched and found a few sites, but the appointments were another week away! Getting tested proved to be much tougher than It should be.
I stayed 2 nights by the airport in San Fran, while continuously trying to get a test appointment. Finally, I snagged an appointment downtown on the 15th (7 days after my first symptoms), and then booked 3 nights at a downtown hotel. I walked to my appointment where they did a free, quick and professional nose swab test and said results would be texted in a day or so. Almost exactly 24 hours later, my positive result came via text and email followed by a phone call from the California Health Department.
They asked me a bunch of questions, but told me that quarantine was no longer necessary, as they did not consider me contagious anymore. But I continued to stay away from others for a few more days anyway. I still wanted to test again because even though I was feeling better, I was excited to see that negative result. So, I managed to snag another test 3 days later, which also came back positive. But at this point, my symptoms were almost entirely gone, and I decided to book a flight to Istanbul on the 20th.
I flew into Turkey without any issues and was fully symptom free on the 21st (14 days after first symptoms). I had a 10-day vacation there and although I could have gotten a test at the airport, I decided not to risk another positive result, as it might have prevented me from flying. But to be clear, I was no longer contagious on the 16th, according to the state of California.
Another Turkish Airlines flight flew me back to NYC, arriving at JFK on November 1st. On the plane, I filled out a form for NY contact tracing. No questions were asked as I passed through customs until I walked out of baggage claim where there was a small table with two woman who asked me where my flight came from and if I had the form from the plane. I handed it to them and heard nothing until I got a phone call 9 days later from a state contact tracer. They asked a bunch of questions like "how are you feeling?" and told me to quarantine for the next 4 days. I was told that moving forward, I would get a text message daily to see how I was feeling until the 14th day. I did receive the texts the next 2 days, which also informed me how many remaining days were left in quarantine. The texts suddenly stopped, and the contact tracer called asking why I wasn’t answering the texts. Obviously, the system is still not running as it should be. They missed the first 9 days since my arrival in NY. Then, the texting system failed after 2 days. The reality is that keeping track of people in the pandemic is very difficult, especially those arriving from other states or countries.
On November 3rd, I walked into an urgent care near my home and got tested again. Two days later, I finally got my Negative result. (1 month after my first symptoms).
Generally speaking, those with minor Covid-19 cases are usually considered clear after 10 days, and those with severe cases, 20 days. It should be noted that my fever was short-lived and just slightly high, I had no cough, no sore throat, and I was able to fully function for most of my time with the virus.
Day 1 – Fatigue, fever up to 101, diarrhea, headache, body ache, sweats and chills sleeping
Day 2 – Fatigue, fever, diarrhea, headache. body ache
Day 3 – Fatigue, fever, diarrhea, headache, body ache
Day 4 (11th) – Drive to TAHOE - Fatigue, diarrhea, headache
Day 5 – Tahoe - Fatigue, headache, diarrhea
Day 6 (13th) – Drive to SF AIRPORT - Fatigue, headache, diarrhea, slight congestion
Day 7 – Fatigue, slight headache, diarrhea, loss of smell, slight congestion
Day 8 (15th) – TESTED(SF) + Slight fatigue, slight headache, diarrhea, no smell, slight congestion
Day 9 – Fatigue, headache, no smell, slight congestion
Day 10 (17th) – no smell, diarrhea, slight congestion
Day 11 – TESTED(SF) + No smell
Day 12 – No smell
Day 13 (20th) – FLIGHT to ORD/IST - No symptoms
Day 14 – No symptoms
Related post: https://www.solotravelr.com/post/what-is-it-like-to-fly-and-travel-during-the-pandemic