My husband and I have lived in NYC for the past twenty-two years. Our three kids, now 14, 12 and 10, were born and raised in the city. They all attend public schools. When the pandemic hit, like many others, we began to question whether we'd like to continue living in Manhattan. Personally, we are extremely disappointed with the way the mayor is running his town and did not want to stay in the city while a hotel was converted into a homeless shelter right next door and crime was soaring through the roof. We couldn't think of where we'd like to go but we knew we had to step away for a while. The Hamptons seemed so cliché. When remote schooling was confirmed to be an option we decided to pack up our things and take an indefinite road trip through the USA in hopes of giving our children a strong lesson in patriotism, knowing they would fall in love with our beautiful country. Most importantly, we decided to maximize our time by making some wonderful memories.
We have been on the road for two and a half months now. We have hit Hilton Head, Charleston, Kiawah Island, St. Simons Island, Asheville, Smoky Mountains, Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Marfa, and Santa Fe (to name a few). Our plan is to continue heading west. We've witnessed firsthand how other cities are dealing with the pandemic. While some cities like Memphis are clearly suffering, others like Austin seem to be thriving. We also quickly learned that the media is feeding incorrect messages to its' viewers and readers. "Blue states" do not all wear masks and "red states" are not all unmasked. In fact, Asheville, a "blue city", was the biggest violator of unmasking with large scenes of unmasked crowds in downtown not practicing social distancing guidelines. Yet most towns in "red" Texas wore their masks dutifully. Our kids are also learning that they hold onto many false assumptions based on what they hear, read and learn. When we arrived in Texas, our oldest son expressed that he expected everyone to be walking around armed. They are also realizing that people in mostly Republican leaning states are actually nice, "normal" people. Seeing banners supporting Trump in front of homes and businesses no longer makes them feel uncomfortable. They are no longer freaked out by Republicans and are beginning to have more conservative viewpoints. My husband and I quickly understood that all these years we have wrongly boasted about how incredibly diverse their upbringing in NYC has been. While they have been exposed to a diversity of cultures, ethnicities and sexual orientations they have also been shielded from diversity of political thinking and values. Through their teachers and friends a not-so-subtle, deep rooted bias against Republicans and Trump supporters was brewing. It honestly hasn't been so difficult moving through the different states and their varying political points of view. We have been respectful of other people's political perspectives and they have been respectful of ours. How can we be rioting for equality when we can't genuinely accept others for who they are regardless of color, sex, and political preferences? The latest color war is now blue vs red. We even have purples. Can’t we stop pinning people against one another based on color?
Being on the road has been quite a journey. Our plan is to safely travel as long as school remains remote, until crime rates go down back home or until we absolutely fall in love with another place enough to relocate to. As of now, NYC is still our favorite place to call home - or at least NYC pre-pandemic. Further fueling the fire, De Blasio just approved plans for the Radisson Hotel in FiDi, our home, to be converted into a shelter for men with criminal backgrounds. Can our mayor please come out of his coma so we can come home soon?
When we return, we hope we come back to a safer city and a more tolerant one. During the election we'd like to find a cave somewhere in the desert that is wired with Netflix and WiFi. We are purposefully planning to avoid any big cities when the new President is elected. Sadly, it seems like too many large cities have succumbed to chaos, riots and intolerance as they claim to hide behind a move towards equality.
The best way to really love and accept others is by getting out there and interacting with them (masked and distanced of course!). Take a weekend trip to a city that is opposite of your own political stance and talk to the locals. Really listen to them and consider that they have their best intentions to be good human beings and the best citizens they can be. There can be different ways to arrive at similar solutions. Mostly, a USA that is strong, united, proud and healing.
For now, my family is focused on learning how to take a deep breath, shutting off the news when the sensationalism begins, listening and learning from others and sanitizing the heck out of everything we touch. We are cherishing this epic journey and all the lessons that come with the breathtaking landscapes, foods and people we encounter. What comes next, we just don't know. We'll just sit tight and hope the color wars will end soon and that we can all begin to live a life where the only colors we see are the ones that abound in nature. After three months on the road, totally immersed in the outdoors, I am beginning to wonder if people got out more to obtain their fix of nature-gifted colors, perhaps they wouldn't be so fixated on the abstract and artificial colors they have created for themselves.