The Pandemic Persists: 7 Lessons We’re Learning

One month ago the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Is it just us, or does it seem like six months?

In that time we’ve all learned to wash our hands, wear our masks, and for Pete’s sake, don’t touch our faces. Most of us are probably over the initial shock. But as the crisis stretches on we’re learning that new challenges – and opportunities – keep popping up in our day-to-day lives.

This is the most important historical event in our lifetimes, so what are we learning?

1. Porch-sitting is back in fashion and it’s the perfect social-distancing solution. We live on a lovely, tree-lined street of houses and apartments built in the 1920s and 1930s, and each one has a small, private front porch facing the street. With stay-at-home restrictions, restaurant, bar, and business closures, porches are alive with folks enjoying the delightful spring weather, and chatting with neighbors and passersby. The interactions are a breath of fresh air – literally, and an instant cure for cabin fever.

2. We’re juggling new jargon. Just think of all the unknown and rarely used words and phrases that have become common in our everyday conversation: coronavirus, social distancing, flattening the curve, incubation period. shelter in place, asymptomatic, exponential, community spread, epidemiology, and herd immunity. We’re always interested in increasing our vocabularies; we could have skipped these terms.

3. Here’s our chance to hit the pause/reset button. Natural disasters happen somewhere on the planet every day. On the other side of the globe hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people lose their lives. But this crisis is happening in our own back yard … everyone’s own back yard.

For all of us, dire concerns, forced isolation, and radical changes in our routines have given us the chance to pause and reflect on who and what is truly important in our lives. And hopefully, when it’s all over we’ll return to center with a clear awareness of our real priorities.

4. Don’t fall for clickbait headlines. Too much time, TV, and internet mean that we’re all suffering from news overload. When bouncing from page to page online it’s easy to be sucked in by sensational clickbait. You know the ones: “500 Positive Coronavirus Tests in 24 Hours.” What the headline conveniently leaves out are the 2,000 negative tests.

Don’t get us wrong, as blog writers we understand the need for attention-grabbing titles, but it’s important to keep in mind what you absorb and how you react to headlines.

“Major news organizations do not see their role as mouthpieces for public health communication.” — University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Your mental health and stress level will be much improved if you try to get the whole story and understand the real implications of what you read – and don’t panic.

5. Social distancing is a good test of our self-entertainment skills. All this forced isolation is enough to drive you bonkers, and maintaining your mental health may take a bit of extra effort. Well, now’s the time to indulge your curiosities.

Whether it rib-stitch knitting, multi-line kite-flying, or Buddhist archery, now you have a chance to dig into the details – and there’s no better time. This is a golden opportunity for busy folks to take some “me time.”

6. We’re even MORE dependent on the internet. Whether for better or worse, with the ongoing or recurring need for social distancing everyone will become more dependent on the internet, social media, and other online resources for their daily lives. If you believe the internet is a panacea then we’re heading into a better world, but for those who think cyberspace is a seductive mistress depriving us of real, face-to-face interactions, it’s a slide down a slippery slope.

7. Prepare to play the long game. We all desperately want things to return to normal … and fast. But it doesn’t take an epidemiologist to see that, given the off-the-charts spread of COVID-19, it’s going to be a long time before the planet gets back to anything approaching normal. As every parent knows, asking, “Are we there yet?” only makes the trip seem longer.

Vivian Greene said it best:

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,
it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Happy Trails and Stay Healthy,
James & Terri

P.S. And if you don’t remember how much fun it can be to dance in the rain, just check it out!

Photo Credits: 1. Jeremy Bishop 3. alexey turenkov 4. Rene Vincit 5. geo uc


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

56 thoughts

    1. Henry, from what I read the virus is going to be with us for a while. And whatever normal life is going to be, we’re going to have to get on with it. We’ll all adjust in our own way, but for me, this quote captures it perfectly. All the best to you and be well. ~James

  1. I keep asking myself what I’m learning from all this. I’m still trying to figure it all out! Wouldn’t mind sitting on one of those porches to mull it all over though!

    1. Tracey, I keep wondering what we could have done to be better prepared, and other than not committing to a long overseas trip, I really couldn’t come up with much. Wisdom comes slowly I guess. ~James

  2. Some great reflections during this strange time. I´m taking advantage of this time to read some classics I´ve wanted to read for a long time. If not now, when? Pleased to hear you are both safe and well. Love porch sitting!

    1. Darlene, anytime I have lengthy downtimes, reading some of the classics I’ve missed always comes to mind. And I have to admit, I must have started “Ulysses” five times. So I vacillate between good non-fiction and total escapism, which seems to keep me entertained. I hope things are improving for you in Spain. ~James

      1. Thanks. I’m reading “Hoe Green Was My Valley” and don’t know why I hadn’t read it before. It is so good. Things are getting better here: the strict, policed isolation is working. They are allowing construction workers to return to work. That will help the economy too. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Stay safe.

  3. I love the idea of porch sitting. Unfortunately our neighbours are university students who have gone back home now the university is closed. Definitely a time to reflect and try to remember old skills. It seems to bring out the best and the worst in people.

    1. Anne, we live in a university town as well, and the students have been gone for a while. Fortunately, our neighborhood has a good diversity of age groups, so there’s still lots of activity – that we can watch from our front porch. 🙂 ~James

  4. Life isn’t about…” has been my motto for what feels like forever, never knew who had said it! Your n° 1 is good, here in Rome our apartments aren’t made that way, so we’re quite isolated…

    1. Bea, we haven’t always been able to have a porch, and this was usually when we lived in bigger cities like Rome. But if we can make it happen we do. Every time I read about Italy I think of you and wonder how things are in Rome. My impression is that things were much worse in the north, is this still true? ~James

  5. I’m afraid lesson #7 is the one many of us will struggle with. There are days I am quite content with my new normal, but there are other times I chafe greatly at the seclusion, almost all because of my inability to see my far-flung family. Learning to enjoy where we are will be key, and that will mean pushing aside the thoughts of everything we are missing, in our case, baby showers, bridal showers, baby arrivals, maybe even a wedding. 😦 Hope you are finding contentment most days.

    1. Lexie, I can imagine how frustrating it must be to miss out on important family events. We were totally bummed about cancelling our travel plans, but once that was done, we tried to move on. But you’re right that finding contentment in the present is the key.

      It’s encouraging to see that both Italy and Spain are relaxing their restrictions a bit, and eventually the US will follow in their footsteps. I hope that the timing works for you to make at least some of your family’s special occasions. ~James

    1. That’s a great way to look at it, and probably true. I just see the downtime as a long Christmas and New Year’s holiday without all the stress and hassle of the holidays. All the best to you for good health and fun relaxation. ~James

  6. I feel like I’m also learning how hard this is for my extroverted friends. I am happy as a clam alone at home, working, reading, walking, writing… but many of my friends call me or we skype to have that social connection that they are really suffering without right now. I can only imagine what it’s like for families who were all so busy just a month ago running themselves from one activity to another. And now — now they’re all home together. That’s a lot of togetherness. The social dynamics of all this fascinates me.

    1. Juliann, Terri and I are pretty much like you, in that we’re just fine staying at home, and we have no problems keeping ourselves busy and entertained. We’ve spent lots of time on our own over the years, so we’re quite comfortable with each other for long periods of time. Of course, I will say that it’s good to be able to go outside for exercise, and the occasional picnic. I’m sure that being truly locked-down would be harder. I agree with your comment on social dynamics. I wonder what things will be like on the other side. Take care of yourself and be well. ~James

  7. We’re definitely dancing in the rain … well, sort of. We have plenty to do since we’re recently retired, and all those projects — cleaning closets, organizing photos, sewing unfinished quilts, etc. — are now on the front burner. I’m not sure we’re as productive as we should be. We spend longer sipping coffee, taking showers, and watching TV than we used to. But, as one article said to mothers trying to home school for the first time, “Pace yourself. It’s OK if you don’t get it all done in one fell swoop.” Good news for us.

    1. Rusha, it sounds like you and Bert have an excellent mix of projects and chill time. One upside to a forced order to stay at home is you don’t have to feel guilty because you aren’t out doing something productive. After one year in our apartment, we finally put up the last bits of art that had been taking up space in the closet. It was no big deal, but as you say, it got moved to the front burner. Feels good actually.

      And BTW, for some reason your comment got sent to our spam folder. Not sure if it’s happened on any other blogs, but you might want to check around because of your new theme. On the other hand, it could just be a problem with WordPress on our end and nothing for you to worry about. So you guys take of yourselves and be well. ~James

      1. Thanks for both if your comments. I’m now getting comments and “likes” sent to my email, but I don’t remember asking for that to happen. I’ll see if there’s something amiss. No matter what — your comments are always welcome!!! Stay safe out there. And get your projects done!

  8. Having just stumbled across your blog, I agree with what your saying, there has definitely been some sudden changes, probably some for the better. Also I feel this won’t suddenly be over once lockdown has been lifted, and i feel we will need to adapt. Also nice choice of pictures 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment Victoria and for dropping by the blog. This virus will survive and haunt us for a long time because of all the asymptomatic spreaders wandering around thinking they’re healthy. Unless we all get tested and then get the vaccine (not gonna happen), it will just keep cropping up. Sad but true. In the meantime life will go on, and as you say, we will need to adapt. Stay safe and be well. ~James

    1. Alison, that is absolutely fantastic! He is just as graceful and effortless as Gene Kelly. Thanks so much for sharing it. I hope that you and Don are staying safe and healthy. All the very best, Terri

    1. Thanks David. With all the grim news now, we’re wrestling with what to write about. Another travel post doesn’t seem quite right, but at the same time, people must be getting tired of hearing nothing but sad news and need a diversion. Not sure where we’ll end up. All the best to you. Stay safe and be well. ~James

    1. Christie, if there’s any silver lining to this whole affair it’s as a reminder and opportunity for everyone to re-examine priorities. Luckily, these life-altering events don’t happen too much in most people’s lives, but it’s easy to get complacent and lose track of what’s truly important. Take care of yourself and be well. ~James

  9. We are learning a great deal during this time. There has been a huge silver lining for me in being forced to be still. All of my life i have been a person who has been goal driven and busy. In current times, our travel blog and social media made for much of that. In the blink of an eye travel was done and the thought of it a far distant vision. The quiet has allowed me to see the priorities in life. As awful as this all is it will be my major takeaway from all of this. Be grateful for what we have, like a front porch, rather than what we might like to have or do in the future.
    Stay well friends.

    1. Sue, our lives have always been full of change; most of our choosing, but some not. But there’s a lot of comfort to be gained from a simple routine, particularly when one is safe and has all the basic needs fulfilled. And for Type A folks having a simplified life forced on them gets rid of the guilt of “I should be doing something productive.” It sounds like you’re in exactly the right place because you appreciate it for what it is and don’t fret over what it should be. Good for you. You and Dave take care and be well. ~James

  10. Awesome is this quote

    “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,
    it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

    It is real, this two liner has got life. All the best for your writing !

  11. Hi from England! We two are in total Lockdown due to my health issues, but kind neighbours do shopping and collecting medicines. We spent more than usual ordering plants online for hanging baskets in our tiny ‘court’yard out back. In this part of the world there are few lovely ‘English gardens’.

    But weather lovely. Graham busy making masks for neighbours and local doctors, who will distribute to most needy. Govt a big letdown in not sending enough PPE to the NHS and particularly Care Homes for the elderly.

    Very worried to hear of dictatorial intentions to ‘open up’ USA. It has to be premature. Business is not the be all – though we feel for SMALL businesses and MICRO businesses everywhere – here too.

    Cannot get in touch with our best friend from New Orleans, now resident in Baton Rouge. She is computer shy and her brother is in hospital. Do not have a telephone number. We are worried – did she go to Mardi Gras?

    Our very best wishes to you both. We occasionally shout across to neighbours from our doorstep. As we are the most vulnerable, they keep well away from us.


    Jackie and Graham Usher.

    1. It sounds like conditions are very similar in the UK and US – everyone getting by day-to-day as best they can. Most folks have settled into a routine and panic seems to have subsided, but everyone is still very anxious and wants life back to normal. It’s good to hear that your neighbors are helping out where they can and good for you for making masks. The US government has voted in a “stimulus package” which gives each person $1200 + $500/child. There are many people out of work, so this should help in the short term. As always, politicians are politicizing the crisis at a time when they should be focusing on helping people, and honestly, most of us are getting fed up with it all. As for “opening up” the way things are organized here, the state governors have more influence on this than our president, thank goodness, so when it happens it should be less damaging. We’ll see. In the meantime, take care of yourself and be well. ~James

  12. indeed its gonna be a long haul before we realise how life is no longer what we understand it to be. We were worried about how we would reverse the mess that we made of the climate and in one fell swoop, the universe took over and self corrected. Self corrcted by almost annihilating the transgressors,us humans. Now we have to take cover and learn to “sing in the rain”.
    A wonderful article. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Experts have been predicting a global pandemic for years, and while I agreed that it would probably happen, I was positively astonished at the speed at which the virus spread to all corners of the globe. We are indeed the most intelligent species and the top of the food chain, but anyone that doesn’t see Covid-19 as a reminder of the omnipotence of nature and our place in it is kidding themselves. We’ll come out of this, but it will be a changed world. I hope that you are safe and healthy. ~James

  13. Its clear we had much to say on the impact of this pandemic on our daily life activities but soon the will win the war against the invisible enemy.thankx for this post.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. The fact that the virus is global means that scientists around the world are searching for answers, so a vaccine is a good bet. The question is, how long will it take and what damage will be done in the meantime. I have faith, but at the same time, my fingers are crossed for a quick resolution. Take care and be well. ~James

  14. Thanks for articulating your thoughts. I enjoyed reading , and agree – there are some really important things happening during this season. We don’t have a porch to sit on, but find ourselves walking our neighborhood sidewalks or bike trail. I think we are meeting and speaking with more neighbors than ever before on a street we’ve lived in for 20 years, simply because we’re all at home and without the normally hectic schedule.

    Both the extra time and the reset button factor have prompted me to blog for the first time, and reading blogs like yours reminds me that conversation over important thoughts and new perspectives is a gift we might never have gained this spring. Perhaps the chance to digest what we are learning with each other will help to give our new discoveries staying-power once shut-down is in our rear window.

    1. Beth, thanks for your comment and for dropping by the blog. This is a delightful comment and we appreciate your kind words. We’re all in uncharted territory these days, and most of us are suffering lockdown fatigue. Given the stress and uncertainties in our daily lives and with no end in sight, it’s difficult to be positive; so your comment is a welcome reminder. But if there has been a silver lining for us, it’s having the chance to reflect on what’s truly important, and we hope to keep that in our hearts when all this business is over.

      One of the pleasures of blogging is making new contacts and opening a dialogue with readers like you. Thanks again for your thoughtful and meaningful comment. Take care of yourself and loved ones, and be well. ~James

  15. I think number four resounds with me the most. I’ve been working on practicing some social(media) distancing. A hundred sources can cover an event and come up with a hundred different versions of what happened and perhaps one or two will be the un-opinionated truth. And every reader will color what they read with their own perspective. With our travel plans on indeterminate hold, I’ve found lots of projects to fill my time. I’m currently refinishing some patio furniture so we can porch sit in style! Best to you both!

    1. Laura, don’t get me started on these clickbait headlines. I think that one of the requirements for high school graduation should be a statistics course. About 90% of the headlines I see are stated for maximum negative impact. Yes, a 3% mortality rate is bad, but that also means that you have a 97% chance of NOT dying: seems like pretty good odds to me, and certainly no reason to panic. Anyway, I hope that you and Steve are well, and good luck with your porch furniture projects. It’s a good time for porch sitting in FL. ~James

  16. This post was the need of the time. Just the title made me struck on this. Thank you so much for this helped me to think optimistically when i was just too much engaged in worrying about all this.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. I’m pleased that you like the post, and if it helped you in this stressful time, that’s even better. Take care of yourself and be well. ~James

  17. Thanks for this post. Not yet heard of rib-stitch knitting, multi-line kite-flying, or Buddhist archery, but Youtube is great for finding new creative activities. Also people have offered free online courses, which is great and generous of them. And yes, you do need the internet to receive the instructions, and then you can ‘fiddle’ about with your hands and create something new!

    1. Bertie, I think that your “lemons to lemonade” attitude is perfect for these strange times, and you’ll probably come out of the experience with new skills. How cool is that. Not everyone shares your philosophy, and they’re the ones who are having problems. Take care of yourself. ~James

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