One month to the day after Mexico reported its first case of swine flu, I traveled in to the country, unconcerned about contracting the illness and curious about whether the media-fueled drastic decline in tourism would be obvious.Â
The Immigration line at the Cancun airport, which I had heard is often clogged with hundreds of people, took mere moments to pass through on this weekday afternoon.Â Then, after a speedy trip through Customs, all passengers were officially individually welcomed into the country by a masked and gloved man abruptly sticking a thin white object with a red light in our faces.Â I assume he was taking our temperatures.Â The same device reappeared several days later when I returned to the airport to depart the country.Â I and the two friends I was traveling with were in robust health, so we were allowed into the terminal, which was barren save for the many, many tourist-hungry tour agents calling out to us to come see what they had to offer.Â Only fifteen minutes after landing and it appeared as if the negative media frenzy had indeed succeeded in sucking the travelers out of at least this part of the country.Â
A short while later we arrived at the Ultramar ferry landing to cross the water to our destination of Isla Mujeres, a small island just off the coast of Cancun.Â “Look,” a local man said as we walked from the ticket building toward the ferry, “we have no tourists.Â Usually the line for the ferry is all the way back here."Â He pointed to where we stood, about half a block from the water.Â That half a block looked like it would have required a long wait.Â We walked right up and boarded the ferry.Â
Once on Isla Mujeres, I was delighted to discover that we and the rest of our group, which we met up with on the island, were virtually alone amongst the locals.Â It was so relaxing to have the streets, the restaurants, the shops and the beaches all to ourselves.Â I did sight some other travelers from time to time, with approximately the same frequency as I spotted iguanas dashing about.Â Â
Yes, the swine flu craze of the spring of ’09 gave me the feel that we had, in effect, chartered this friendly, colorful and quiet little island for our own private get-away.Â With Mexico slowly returning to normal now, I am so glad we hit it at just the right time.
Sabina Lohr finds that home is not where the heart is, and a good chunk of her life revolves around plotting her next trip, or traveling. She has a Bachelor of Arts with a major in German which, like many liberal arts degrees, has gotten her nowhere except overseas to study. Unlike so many other travelers, she has never kept track of the number of countries she’s traveled to but knows her continent count stands at only three. The other four are calling.