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Stetson finds himself quarantined abroad

For nearly a year, Scott Stetson, a former Trojan, has been on a journey of self-discovery that led him to explore South America. He happened to be in Argentina in late February and early March, at the time when COVID-19 began to dominate the news headlines. And, also impact how he completed the rest of his journey.

“It had come highly probable that there would be a pandemic but my thoughts in those moments  were that it would be worse in the United States than in South America where there were only a handful of cases at the time,” Stetson said. “I was not in an urgency to come home and wanted to continue my travels as I had already made reservations in certain places in Chile. I don’t have United States health insurance so I didn’t want to be put in a situation with a very expensive medical bill. My coverage was for international only.  Plus, if things were to really get bad, which they did, then my idea was that I would quarantine myself on a beautiful island in Chile called Isla Grande de Chiloe. I would mediate and play the guitar and exercise until the world appeared normal again.”

However, Stetson didn’t get to that beautiful island in Chile.

“Events seem to move very quickly in mid-March as governments around the world began to announce their responses,” Stetson said. “I had a bus ticket for March 20, from Mendoza Argentina to Santiago de Chile and would then fly to Puerto Montt where I would make it over to Isla Grande.”

As is with the best laid plans of mice and men, Stetson’s plan quickly fell apart.

“While still only  having just a few cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Argentina wanted to spare little chance of an epidemic and they mandated a nationwide lockdown and quarantine,” Stetson said.

All domestic flights and cross country buses were canceled and borders were closed. Most of South America followed suit, with the exception of Brazil.

“I underestimated the strict response. I assumed that we’d at least be able to enjoy the beautiful fall weather in Mendoza and go to the parks, exercise, move about,” Stetson said. “At this point I’ve been playing a waiting game.The first repatriation flight in March, through Ethiopian Airlines, was canceled so I’m glad I didn’t cross the country on an expensive private transport shuttle to try and make that one.

“However, there was a second flight out of Buenos Aires on April 25 through an airline known as Eastern. Despite its availability, I chose to stay in Mendoza mostly because I had made up my mind to bunker down here. Everything is so fluid and there is so much uncertainty, the flights are a couple of thousand dollars to fly back to Miami, and you have to book special transportation to cross the country that is also expensive. Because my Airbnb, where I stay alone, is safe and has what I need, my decision was to wait and hope better transportation options would be available sometime in May.”

However, there are still many unknowns.

“The quarantine has been extended here in Argentina until May 10,” Stetson said. “I’ll be looking for flights to repatriate after that date as I’ve paid rent to stay where I am until that time. The biggest downside is being alone with no human contact for over a month now. I can walk a few blocks to the supermarket and get things to eat and also call uber eats for delivery. I occupy my time studying Spanish, doing home exercises and reading news that stresses me out about the world we live in.”