“Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”
― Jane Austen, Emma

This wisdom-laden quote in fiction is not concocted and uttered by everybody’s favorite Jane Austen heroine Elizabeth Bennets from Pride and Prejudice. It is found in Volume II of Emma – whose latest big screen adaptation garnered some positive reviews. (I abhor the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Her unnatural accent and lackluster performance amidst a group of well-trained actors renders the production bizarre and unwatchable.)

There are those who fly to Europe in a heartbeat, maybe attending a Verdi opera at La Scala in Milan, maybe joining Bloomsday festivities in Dublin, or gazing at Velázquez’s Las Meninas for a few minutes at the Prado in Madrid. Every day after I cancelled my trip to England — previously scheduled for May — I am reminded of this Austen quote.

My preparation did not reach the tedious stage of booking flights and hotel rooms; it started last year, gradually enriched with not only an itinerary detailing fun activities but also my imagination of where this 10-day vacation would teleport me: Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Dover, etc. In Cambridge I will enjoy afternoon tea al fresco, at the historical Orchard Tea Garden in an actual orchard. In Dover I will dine at Mrs. Knott’s Tea Room inside South Foreland Lighthouse, painted pearly white to complement the magnificent White Cliffs of Dover probably. In Bath it’s the Pump Room, of course. I could have gone in May 2019 and reminisced all about my travel at this very moment. While I prepared and prepared to perfect the journey, I lost track. 

Preparation, however, is of utmost importance when attacking COVID-19. As late as January, the World Health Organization (WHO) hesitated in declaring the outbreak a “global health emergency”. Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and his team have been so supportive of China’s struggle and endeavor. Very unfortunately, they failed to share the facts and counsel the rest of the world. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated a Public Health Expert position in Beijing. The remaining U.S. presence in China — be it civilian or governmental, even secret services — must have directly or indirectly warned the Trump administration of the dire plight and human suffering in cities like Wuhan. Yet the outbreak was downplayed via tweets and at news conferences, and was insensitively compared to influenza and auto accidents based on casualty count. COVID-19 was destined to be a pandemic, but it should not have caused today’s extreme predicament.

Travels soothe and rejuvenate like no other activities so I proceeded to explore options. I have wanted to check out the tea scene and stay at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The short flight from LAX to PDX lasting only two and half hours does not help when air travel is found most prone to viral infection. A pleasant Amtrak ride transported me to Santa Barbara last time. Because of proximity I had not considered re-visiting until recently. There is a tea business that tailors teas and hosts events for clients in the woods, at the beaches – anywhere in the greater Santa Barbara area. Like other operations and all California residents, it may have to undergo recovery on so many fronts after the lockdown is eventually lifted.

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