The only sounds I hear now from my front porch in Athens are symphonies of birds in the trees and cattle singing from down the road. Len and I live in the middle of nowhere, and we love it. The symphonies and singing have always been here, but now, devoid of cars and trucks, we hear the joys of nature more clearly. Never have I loved beginning my day on my porch more than now.

As of today, in Oconee County, Georgia, a bedroom community of Athens and home of The University of Georgia, there are 24 confirmed cases (no deaths) of COVID-19. This is relatively low compared to most of the country, yet it is enough to cause us to second-guess every move we make. When the local schools closed, the pandemic became real to me. Len, who normally commutes to an Atlanta suburb daily for his IT job, is now in his fourth week of working from home. For me, working from home is business as usual. It’s kind of nice to have a warm body on the other side of the wall.

Life Without Travel is a series of first-person accounts from the Getting On Travel team. Each post offers a personal glimpse into the lives of our travel writers and bloggers apropos of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Unexpected pleasures

Our son, who lives in an apartment in our home, has helped beyond measure. Not only for grocery runs to fill our fridge but also laughter to fill our hearts. Ty was born for entertainment, and when all this happened, it only made sense that he pull out his T-Rex and bring it to life. It’s the little things, right?

I have more time to bake, and I’m taking advantage of the time. From Irish soda bread to southern caramel cake, I think I have successfully made the best there is, so now is the time to stop. My waistline will thank me later. However, I just ordered Joanna Gaines’ new cooking book, Magnolia Table Volume 2, so I think I might have just shot myself in the foot.

The writing life

As for writing, since January, I have been completing some 16 assignments commissioned by a regional magazine in Georgia. On Friday, I submitted my last. I have one more assignment from another magazine and then, assignments are over. I’ve lost several outlets due to no one traveling. Press trips have been canceled, and no one seems too eager to talk dates. So, we wait.

 Planes landing over Maho Beach in Sint Maarten.

Planes landing over Maho Beach in Sint Maarten

What a difference a month makes

Before this craziness, Len and I had decided to curtail personal travel (other than press trips) in 2020 to concentrate on my writing, our photography, and our home. In February, we took what would be our only travel of the year, a sailing excursion on the S/V Mandalay from St. Maarten. I remember heading to the airport on our last day hearing reports on the car radio of how the virus was spreading. That was March 1. What a difference a month makes.

Judy and Len of Athens, Georgia: Our second trip aboard the S/V Mandalay sailing the Southern Caribbean. This is the last year it will be a passenger vessel.

Our second trip aboard the S/V Mandalay sailing the Southern Caribbean; the last year it will be a passenger vessel

With time on my hands, I’m taking classes. Never stop learning. If you haven’t discovered Creative Live, now is the time. It offers free classes on photography, business—basically anything for the creative. I learned the ins-and-outs of the wedding photography business here; now, we have a successful side hustle that allows us to utilize our camera skills while staying active within our home community. Currently, I’m taking a food photography class (got to put all this cooking to good use) and a product photography class. Len and I want to expand our travel and wedding photography to include more commercial shoots.

When the quarantines and travel bans are lifted, Len and I will be the first in line at the airport; although there is anxiety, this has not deterred our love for the world. Experiencing other cultures has taught us who we are and has filled a void inside of us that we had no idea we had. Travel is such an integral part of our lives that sometimes we find ourselves in our living room, staring at our photo of Doolin, Ireland, that now rests above our mantle. Len turns to me, “I wish we were there.” We simply smile at each other, and realize that we will return soon. But until then, we have lots of memories and images to stoke our dreams.

We wish for you health and safety in the coming months. Keep dreaming and planning.

So, as I end each post these days, from Len and myself to you: Stay safe. Wash your hands. Say your prayers. Count your blessings.

GOT Contributors Judy and Len Garrison

Based in Athens, Georgia, Judy and Len Garrison are Seeing Southern. Both writers and photographers, they capture the spirit and culture of this incredible world. Both have contributed to multiple publications including Georgia Connector, BBC, WHERE, AAA, AARP, Delta Sky, plus many others. Len is the primary photographer and uses his images to illustrate her words. They are happiest when they are traveling, together. They are members of SATW.