I walk through Moscone Center’s doors and I am happily greeted by the staff every step of the way. It’s not crowded and doesn’t look all over the place. In fact, everything is so organized and in order. For some reason I expected chaos, long lines, and spending a good chunk of time there. But from the long row of check-in booths, to the stickers on the floor that tell you what direction to go in, to the sitting area where you wait with 2 big clocks on each side, everything was planned out accordingly and in a very efficient way. Each of my visits for the 1st and 2nd dose, I was in and out in less than 20 minutes.
When I entered Moscone Center, for just a second, I forgot I was on my way to get a dose of the vaccine. I expected the vibe to be serious, but I was surprised to find a light-hearted, welcoming, and joyous atmosphere inside. Workers were dancing happily to the music while escorting you to the next step. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with how this vaccine site was operating. Even more so surprised with myself, since I never expected myself to be so eager to take a vaccine.
I’m the type of person that only visits the doctor’s when I absolutely have to. That’s just how I was raised to look at the hospital – you don’t go unless it’s a must, if it’s not that serious, you treat that shit at home and drink water. I would go for the necessary documentation, like if I needed a TB shot for work. I have all the vaccines that I needed to go to school, but if it’s not required, I wouldn’t take it. So when COVID happened last year and talks of a vaccine started circulating, I was dead set on not taking it once it was available.
Like many others, I just didn’t trust putting foreign things in my body. Trust is a big reason why people refuse to take the vaccine. There’s a distrust in the medical field, in doctor’s advice, and how this pandemic is being handled in general. There’s just so much opinions and beliefs that all point to people not trusting the vaccine. And I totally get it. But being in the pandemic for over a year and seeing what effects it had on people, businesses, and people’s every day lives, it really made me reconsider.
I can only speak from my own experiences, and I know at the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinions and are in control of their own bodies. But the last year alone has really changed my perspective on the medical field and people in general. This pandemic brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of people. For me personally, COVID really showed me who took the guidelines seriously, and who was just out for themselves, acting selfishly for their own pleasure and not for the safety of others and those around them. I found myself so conflicted with trying to keep myself safe, my family safe, but still trying to keep peace of mind. It was so hard not seeing my friends for a long time, and nothing to do but stay home, watch the news, and be fearful of what’s spreading.
From mid-March until June 2020, I woke up everyday and had the same routine. I would anxiously watch the news, seeing cases rising in California, and seeing the effects of what COVID had on my community. I watched Gavin Newsom make his speech everyday, his raspy voice calm and collected, while California watched in uncertainty. I got used to life indoors – not going out to eat to meet up with friends, wearing masks, not seeing people I regularly saw before, and so forth. When we first shutdown in March 2020, I never would’ve thought that over a year later, we would be in a similar spot. I had no idea that life would still be like this in 2021. When news of the vaccine distribution started going around, I was totally against it. I wasn’t in the first tier, so it didn’t really matter if I wanted it or not, it would still be a long way until I could even make that decision.
Initially, I was against the vaccine, but didn’t really have solid reasons why. For some reason, I believed that more people would be against the vaccine than being for it. To my surprise, it seemed the opposite. I had some time to think about whether or not I wanted the vaccine since I’m a childcare worker. I definitely wanted to wait a while first to see how people reacted to the vaccine before I decided if I wanted it or not. To my surprise, my older relatives got the vaccine. Most importantly, my 97 year old Tatay got it. That really made me change my mind. I wanted things to go back to normal so bad, and finally, the vaccine was that hope for me.
At first, I wanted nothing to do with the vaccine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t get vaccinated. Since the beginning, I took the pandemic seriously. I follow the rules, I wear a mask, I keep my distance, I trust the doctors’ opinions, but also know that this pandemic is something new to everyone – they’re not always going to be right, so I keep cautious anyways. I despised people that refused to wear masks, not follow the rules, and make a commotion because they feel that staying inside is taking away their rights. I was tired of everyone being only about themselves and being selfish – helping to spread the virus around because of their own selfishness and carelessness. Though in the beginning I was anti-COVID vaccination, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted life to go back to normal, if I want to keep myself and those around me safe, and if I wanted to help end this madness, this is what I needed to do. Not believing in the validity of the vaccine would be contradictory to what I’ve been practicing this whole pandemic – which is being safe, believing in the severity of this virus, and playing my part in reducing the spread.
I didn’t know how bad I wanted the vaccine until I couldn’t get an immediate appointment. When it was finally my tier’s turn to get the vaccine, I was in no rush. I saw that there were a lot of appointments through Moscone Center, but didn’t sign up right away. At that point I knew I wanted the vaccine, but didn’t make it a priority because I was still a little nervous about it. That all changed when I realized Tatay already had his appointments to get vaccinated. I read that people who are fully vaccinated and are not part of the same household could be indoors maskless. Suddenly, I wanted to be fully vaccinated right then and there. I desperately refreshed my phone with no luck, everything was booked. This pandemic has taken a toll on Tatay’s memory. In the 2-5 minute visits that we make to his house every Sunday, he questions why we have masks on. At 97 years old, he is not aware of the pandemic, and it breaks my heart to slowly see him not remember who we are, where he is, or what time frame he’s living in anymore. I’m anticipating the day I can remove my mask at Tatay’s house, hoping that my face triggers his memory, to be able to give him a hug hello and goodbye without feeling anxious about it. And that day draws near as I just got my second dose.
Never in a hundred years did I think that I would be desperate to be vaccinated. I was hesitant because this is all so new. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if people back in the day had the same mentality for Chickenpox, Tuberculosis, and all these other diseases that are basically no threat now and not common, we would still be battling those same diseases at an alarming rate right now. Nobody thinks twice on why children need certain vaccines to get into school because they have been a requirement for some time. I believe that’s where the COVID vaccine is headed – it’ll be a required vaccine to get to attend schools, etc. And it only seems like a big deal right now because we are the first wave of people getting it. But with time, herd immunity will kick in, and we will slowly go back to where we were before the pandemic.
The past year has had so much change. People have been isolating themselves, nervous to go out, and worried for their health. For me, getting the vaccine is a glimpse of hope. Not only am I protecting myself, but protecting my family, people I come in contact with, and even the people that don’t want to get the vaccine. I know to each their own – I was anti-COVID vax, but changed my mind. And I know there will be a lot of people who won’t change their mind. But speaking for only me – I chose to believe in science, even if I’m a little uneasy. This year alone has proved that staying home and living the lockdown life works, but isn’t going to rid the world of COVID. I’m optimistic about the future, as I see cases dropping and things scheduling to move up into the next tier.
The sticker board where you can place the sticker they give you with your time stamp on when you can leave 15 minutes after your shot, was near the exit of Moscone Center. I don’t believe it was there when I got my first dose, but noticed it on my way out after my 2nd dose. Seeing this wall reassures me that things are looking up.
Wenxi and Pat both crave adventure and traveling. The two young entrepreneurs never saw the typical 9-5 job in their cards and wanted to find other ways of making a living. After all, Wenxi has always been interested in a very minimalistic and free lifestyle. She isn’t one who likes to be weighed down by everyday things like work, bills, and other commitments. Wenxi has a part-time job while Pat is a full-time student. When their schedules sink up and they have the chance, they enjoy traveling, but they also know that nothing lasts forever – eventually the vacation will end and they have to go back to their regular every day lives. Wenxi dreams of waking up in unknown locations with breathtaking views with no schedule to follow and no date of returning home. The vanlife really intrigued the couple because of how minimalistic and easy it is. It gives them the opportunity to travel, be on the go, and have a roof over their heads at night – all on their own time.
“Full-time vanlife is something I am working towards, but it is not something I can afford to do at the moment,” Wenxi explained. “But that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about vanlife and looking for converted van sales anyway. It’s like window-shopping for your dream life online!”
If it weren’t for Wenxi’s late night and early morning window-shopping, her and Pat probably wouldn’t be business owners right now. Wenxi was up all night when she scrolled on a Craigslist listing for VanVenture. The listing stated that the deal would include 2 converted vans and everything the current owners had built up until that point. The original owners of VanVenture were looking to sell the business because it wasn’t growing the way they had planned. They both had full-time jobs and didn’t believe the return they got was high enough for all the time and effort they put into the business. So, they posted up their listing hoping that it would catch someone’s eyes. It did. And it was Wenxi. It was 5 AM, but she didn’t hesitate to wake up Pat to tell him about the listing. They agreed that the offer was definitely a sweet one, and they were considering the idea of possibly following through. Later that day, they brought up the idea to Pat’s family while they were all at a family gathering. Pat’s family supported the idea of them possibly buying a business. But the couple didn’t really give it too much thought because they weren’t taking it too seriously yet. They talked about it more on the drive back home and realized they were out of their league – they needed professional advice.
“We were hesitant because we didn’t know the first thing about owning a business,” Wenxi admitted. “We didn’t know how to look at the books, we didn’t know how to judge the deal, we didn’t know if it was going to be profitable.”
Wenxi and Pat started off by asking their accountant friends for help looking over the books. It was pretty unanimous across the board – everyone told them that it was a bad business move to invest in the vanlife. Their friends explained to them that it just wasn’t worth it, the costs for maintenance were just too high and the return wouldn’t be high enough. Their friends were focused strictly on the facts and previous numbers. And Wenxi didn’t blame them. On paper, the business didn’t seem worth it. Vanlife wasn’t mainstream at the time, and it was 2 months into the pandemic – were they really going to start a business venture during such unprecedented times? Still, Wenxi and Pat saw potential in the business, since they planned to use the vans for personal use if they weren’t booked.
With the overwhelming amount of “no’s” they got from friends who analyzed the books, with time, Wenxi and Pat started to also lean towards no. It seemed that their dreams of the vanlife would have to wait a little bit longer. VanVenture really put Wenxi and Pat on their toes, but they pretty much already came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen for them. Still, they wanted to see the vans in person anyway. Their peaked curiosity and love for converted vans is what ultimately led them to be business owners. Wenxi and Pat went to see the vans, knowing they weren’t even considering buying anymore. But the moment they stepped into the vans, they knew they had to get it. Wenxi shares that when she hopped in the drivers seat, Pat probably saw her pupils double in size. The look they gave each other confirmed that they were both on the same page, it was a full 180, they wanted VanVenture for keeps.
Wenxi and Pat decided to look past all of the “no’s” and go with their gut feeling. They took into consideration the fact that their friends have never owned a business, had no experience in the RV rental industry, and didn’t see the personal gain from owning VanVenture. The two had to think and act on the deal fast, because someone else was eager to go through with the buying process of the business as well. It was then they knew that they were making the right decision. Their biding competitor was a sign to them that this business deal was a good one, you know the saying, you don’t know how bad you want something until someone else has it! At first, they tried to negotiate the selling price, but their competitor put in a bid for the previous owners’ exact asking price. At that point, they had little wiggle room to negotiate, but at the end of it, Wenxi and Pat became the new co-owners of VanVenture in July 2020.
“We figured we are still young, we can afford to make mistakes, we can recover,” Wenxi said remembering their thought process at the time. “Even if we lose everything and start back at square one, we can. We don’t have a family, mortgage, or other big bills we need to worry about, so we have a lot more freedom to take risks and make mistakes.”
To Wenxi and Pat, VanVenture was more than just their business to make an income. A big deciding factor in buying the business was the fact that they were interested in the vanlife already and wanted a van for themselves. It seemed like a dream come true to have two converted vans that they could use for personal use, while also using them as another stream of income. It seemed foolish to them to pay someone else to rent their van for a few weeks, when they could invest that money into owning their own. So many people told Wenxi and Pat that VanVenture wasn’t a good deal and they would be better off if they started from the ground up to build their own vanlife empire. Their friends recommended this because it would be cheaper than what they paid for the business, and though that was true, Wenxi and Pat disagreed that starting their own business would be a better idea. They saw the value in the existing brand, and took it for what it was.
Wenxi explains that taking over an existing business and learning their techniques on what worked and what didn’t saved her and Pat the headache of trying to figure it out for themselves. VanVenture already had a good reputation on Google Business, rental platforms, Yelp, and other rating sites. On top of that, the previous owners were going to teach Wenxi and Pat everything they needed to know to run the business smoothly – sharing with them what they have learned and tried in the past. By having the previous owners guide them, they would be skipping the trial and error period all together. This is another reason why Wenxi didn’t look too deep into the their books, because the previous owners were only in business for 3 years and feeling out the process. Wenxi and Pat had the opportunity to skip the awkward start up phase and use their new knowledge to build up the business.
Since the couple had a deep yearning to purchase their own van to travel, this made buying the business so much easier. Of course they hoped and planned for the business to be successful, but if it wasn’t, they would personally “win” either way. If the business didn’t work out, they would just use the vans for personal use for their own adventures. Having this win-win mindset made the business venture less stressful and more exciting. They were eager to start their training from the previous owners. Training took place 2 times a week for 4 weeks total. The previous owners showed Wenxi and Pat everything from beginning to end. Some training nights were focused only on cleaning, which is not underrated especially during COVID. Having a step by step training process really helped the couple transition into being the new owners. Wenxi was thankful for this process because it made it so much easier to own a business without any prior experience. To this day, Wenxi and Pat still keep in contact with the previous owners. One of the previous owners even cosigned one of his vehicles with them, a great way for them to expand without investing a lot of money for more vans. Wenxi and Pat appreciate that they have built friendships with the previous owners of VanVenture because they can learn a lot from them.
Being business owners was something completely new to the two. Pat is a full-time student, and has yet to have a 9-5 job. At the moment he is balancing school and their business ventures. Wenxi graduated college a few years back, but has only had part-time or remote job. Luckily, her other job is remote and she controls her own hours. Something that really surprised Wenxi was how “easy” it was to own her own business. Not in the literal sense, since running a business takes a lot of time and hard work, but she was surprised how smoothly it went to take on a business. She always thought that she couldn’t have her own business until she “had x, y, and z” under her belt. Now, she sees that it was just her and Pat making a conscious choice to pursue something they were passionate about. They didn’t have the prior experience, and just like VanVanture, on paper, it seemed like they bit off more than they could chew. But they know now that it’s just a matter of stepping up, gettting out of your comfort zone, and taking that chance.
“We started off 2020 in a very different position,” Wenxi shares. I felt stuck, unsure what my next moves were. . . I was unmotivated and worried that I wouldn’t end up following my passion of branding and experience creation. The opportunity reignited a fire for the both of us to continue pushing and chase for what we want. We were honestly on cloud 9 for the whole month that it took to finalize the sale, and it didn’t stop there. There are still moments where we say : Damn, we own a business. Life isn’t bad.”
They knew that they were taking a huge risk by buying a business in the middle of quarantine. However, with Shelter in Place Orders, businesses shutting down, people working from home, and other factors like travel bans, Wenxi and Pat knew that they couldn’t be the only ones itching to get out. Especially with people working remotely, not having to come into a physical location, and working from the comforts of their own home, now “working from home,” could take place ultimately anywhere. Suddenly, the vanlife industry started to gain popularity since people wanted to travel but were more cautious about public places and hotels. COVID really helped VanVenture once Wenxi and Pat took over the business. People were working from home and being cooped up with their families. Suddenly, people had more time with their loved ones and could finally cross things off of their bucket lists. At the same time, parents are burnt out from having their children bored at home and doing online schooling. And with more people booking their vans for trips, Wenxi and Pat make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize everything in the van once it is returned. They follow the CDC guidelines and clean with a bleach mixture, and switch out all gears and linen after each rental.
“Recreational vehicles are the go-to options for traveling during COVID since you do not have to go from hotel to hotel,” Wenxi shared. “You can avoid coming in contact with others and avoid highly touched surfaces. You’re just in your own pod, touching the same stuff and bringing that stuff with you. . . Travel will always be in style, and now people have their eyes set on a new way to travel.”
When Wenxi and Pat first took over VanVenture, the company’s reputation on platforms were already highly rated. But their reputation on Outdoorsy brought in most of their costumers. The couple started to use Facebook and Instagram ads to bring in business on slower months, and they started to see an increase in clientele. With the help of ads, VanVenture started to receive more and more reservations. Because they knew how the previous owners were advertising the business, it made it easier for them to play around with other options and test out what worked, what didn’t, and what brought in new customers.
Diving into VanVenture actually lead to Wenxi and Pat starting up a second business. SCVLE Management is a “marketing and lead generation company aimed towards connecting van conversion companies to clients who are interested in building their next dream home on wheels.” SCVLE Management came about when the two started to dig deeper into the vanlife community. They quickly realized that there was a big gap between renters, builders, and those who were interested in living a life on wheels full-time. The two vanlife enthusiasts wanted to bridge that gap and give a space for others in their community. They are excited to explore and test out their business ventures together to hopefully bring in other different streams of income. Wenxi and Pat are excited to see where they can take SCVLE Management once it is fully established. They are predicting that SCVLE Management will end up being a bigger company than VanVenture, but their top priority at the moment is their vanlife services. The original plan was for Wenxi to leave her current part-time job, but ever since SCVLE Management was created, she groups her duties under the business, giving her the opportunity to work on branding and marketing. By using the skills that they already know and to merge it with something they are personally interested in makes it that more rewarding. Aside from traveling, Wenxi loves branding and marketing, and thought it would be a great idea to merge her two loves together.
How Wenxi and Pat determine what they offer with their businesses really comes down to putting themselves in their customers shoes. They think it is key to having a successful business and product. Wenxi loves to browse on Outdoorsy and Airbnb, analyzing their listings and seeing what she likes about it, dislikes, and what it makes her feel. Seeing other listings helps her see what she would want as a customer, ultimately tweaking what they offer on VanVenture. After all, seeing the disconnect between everyone in the vanlife community is what led to SCVLE Management – they created what they wanted to see and use as a customer. It’s also a plus that the van enthusiasts were interested in the community already – they know what they would want in a van / rental, and want to offer the best experience to their customers. If the opportunity for VanVenture never came up, Wenxi and Pat still had plans to eventually convert and build a van for personal use. The passion for the vanlife has always been there, and they feel really lucky to be doing business in something they truly love, since not a lot of people can truthfully say that.
They are also thankful that VanVenture and SCVLE Management is not getting in the way of their relationship. Owning a business with your significant other can either make or break a relationship. Wenxi admits that she was a little hesitant to start a business with her partner because she tends to take full control – not worrying about what other people have to say. Luckily, Wenxi and Pat openly communicate and talk through any disagreements they may have about their businesses. Wenxi believes that talking things through together and having both people align their expectations to make sure they are on the same page is crucial to make a business successful, but also maintain a healthy relationship. Plus, co-owning businesses with your significant other has its pros. They enjoy working at any hour of the day or night since they live together, that they can talk business any time one of them has a new idea, and being near if anything business related comes up. Working together has been going so well for the two entrepreneurs that they have yet to have a con at the top of their head. Whatever one person lacks, the other person will step up in.
Another upside about pursuing business ventures with your loved one is knowing that they know you inside and out – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Wenxi says it plain and simple, her and Pat are “just some kids trying to figure it out.” Like many others, they deal with depression, anxiety, ADHD – and Wenxi used to believe that she couldn’t be a successful business owner until she felt she was in control of her mental health. There are times when the bad days outweigh the good, but Wenxi wants people to know that it’s all about getting up each day and pushing extra hard on your good days. She believes everyone – no matter what you’re dealing with – can be a successful business owner. She fell victim to the misconception that all entrepreneurs have their lives together and have everything in their life under control. She knows now that behind every success story is endless stories and hours of personal struggles. The two businesses has definitely given Wenxi more things to be anxious about, but she appreciates Pat for being there and being her crutch if she needs him. As for depression, their businesses has helped them remind themselves that they have a wonderful opportunity in front of them, and VanVenture and SCVLE Management is giving the young entrepreneurs a lot to be happy about nowadays.
Dealing with her depression and anxiety is part of the reason why Wenxi is obsessed with traveling. She loves that it gives her the opportunity to witness different cultures, and see how different people live. She gets so fascinated by how every single person has a totally different experience than the next. She sees her life as “normal,” being a city girl and living the Bay Area lifestyle, and is intrigued by different variations of people her age in another part of the country / area / world. Traveling is Wenxi’s way of escaping every day life and experiencing something new. It keeps her on her toes and puts her on cloud 9. Long drives has always done that for her. It calms her, puts her at ease, and it gives her a chance to stop overthinking. She describes it by saying:
I love the idea of ultimate freedom- To be able to go as you please and not live life for anyone else but yourself and whatever you want to do that day. I honestly love a long drive. Its the only time I get to be at peace with my thoughts. I have so many anxieties throughout the day, always stressing to make the best decision and doing the right things. I feel like I am always multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another, and I panic because I feel like I am not progressing enough in whatever endeavors. However, when I am driving, I put all those stressors away because for that moment I am just trying to get from point A to point B. I cannot do anything about my problems at that moment, so why stress? What good will that do? The only progress I am trying to make is the distance needed to travel to my next destination, and I am doing that. Plus, I have ADHD which means I am constantly jumping from one thought to another. However, I think the best when I am physically doing something else. Driving gives me something to focus on at the same time I can be in my thoughts and really sort my ideas out.
The vanlife has helped Wenxi in so many ways, and she encourages others to give it a try. VanVenture is such a unique experience because you have the opportunity to live in a van and be on the go. It literally takes the phrase, “go as you please,” to a whole other meaning. Forget about check in and check out times, booking your flight, also booking a hotel for x amount of days and nights, and worrying about transportation. VanVenture takes care of all those tasks and checks off all the boxes. Wenxi describes the vanlife as the ultimate freedom. The converted van has everything and then some. It’s basically an apartment on wheels, since they have a mini kitchen set up that allows you to cook food. Now, waking up next to the waves on the beach is not too much to ask!
Wenxi and Pat’s goal for 2021 is to add at least two more vans to their collection to use for business. And they are already 50% done with that goal since they recently picked up their 3rd van. They have met with their contractor over Zoom to discuss the build of the van, and they are hoping to have it finished and put together in time for March – when business starts to pick up again. Their 3rd van is a little different from the first 2 – it is bigger, will have an indoor kitchen, an indoor shower, and a booth seat with a 360 view, perfect for people who work from home! They will also be including 2 additional detachable seats so families can rent the van, since their current vans can only hold 2 people. Eventually, Wenxi and Pat want to add a pop-up tent on the top of the vans. Another goal is to offer consignment services under VanVenture, where other people can rent out their vehicles when they are not using them.
The vanlife has definitely gained a lot of attention since the pandemic started. Wexi and Pat had a guy rent out one of the vans for 4 weeks to take a solo trip. The cool thing about VanVenture is that there is no limit to how long you can book a converted van. As long as they are available, it can be rented out for as long as long as you need. The original two vans that came with the business can only seat and fit 2 people. Their third van that is being converted from scratch will be able to seat 4 and sleep 4 guests. And the vehicle that they are obtaining through consignment can seat 5 and sleep 4. VanVenture is expanding their products to try to fit more people so families can start to try out the vanlife too! Customers can use VanVenture’s vans to travel anywhere in the United States, but they prohibit taking the van out of the country or to the Burning Man Festival. Interestingly, the Burning Man ban was a rule left by the previous owners, and Wenxi and Pat intend on upholding that rule.
Their back up plan and safety net made them content knowing that if the business went under, they would still have 2 converted vans for personal use. Now, they are booked pretty regularly, and ironically, have not used the vans very often. Since the vans were being constantly booked during the warmer months, the couple was left with only using the vans when they were not booked, which was during colder times of the year. However, Wenxi is excited for the new van to be completed and predicts that they will be using that van during the next winter season because it will have an indoor shower. The two “kids who are just trying to figure it out” are hopeful for the future. They found a business that aligns with them and their personalities.
“The plan is to grow and automate the business so we can build out our dream home on wheels and travel across continents with our dog, Tofu!” She shared.
Going into the business, Wenxi and Pat had no idea whether VanVenture would be successful or not. So many people were telling the couple that buying the company would be a big mistake. They bought the business because they saw the value in the existing company that stood for everything they enjoyed and believed in. The vanlife was their calling even before the business opportunity came about. It was their passion for the company and their willingness to step up to the plate and take a swing basically blindfolded, is what led them to be young entrepreneurs and successful business owners. They walked in as the new owners of VanVenture not even knowing if they could handle the business, run it properly, and make a profit. They want people to know that it’s okay to not know everything about the business side of things going into it. You don’t need to have x, y, and z under your belt to be successful, you just need to give yourself the opportunity to try.
“It is ok to not know anything as long as you are willing to make mistakes and learn,” is what she wants readers to take away from her and Pat’s journey. “Being an entrepreneur is as easy – and as hard – as making a choice, making the choice to do it regardless of your fears.”
Check out VanVenture‘s avaiability and book your next trip by checking their website: www.vanventure.co
It’s crazy to think that in mid-March we really thought that we’d only be Sheltering in Place for 3 weeks. Here we are over 4 months later, and things are actually worse than when we originally shut down. It’s nearing the end of July 2020, and 3-4 weeks ago businesses started opening back up in the Bay Area. Doing so caused a spike in COVID-19 cases, so some businesses are retracting and closing back down again. Was America really ready to enter phase 3?
Sheltering in Place, wearing masks, and social distancing is the new normal. But when I look back on the timeline, it wasn’t always like that. This new “normal” took some getting used to. It really does blow my mind how 2020 took such a turn so quickly. I started hearing about COVID-19 talk around December 2019. Of course I knew what was going on in China, but I never thought it would be as big as it is now.
As I mentioned in previous blog posts, it wasn’t until I came back from Massachusetts in late January that I started to see the severity of the situation at hand. I swear, I left for Boston on Thursday night, January 23, 2020, and returned back to San Francisco that Sunday afternoon, January 26, 2020. It was like I came back to a different world. In Massachusetts I heard side conversations of COVID-19 and people fearing that it will be a problem in the U.S. I was naive. I really didn’t think that COVID-19 would explode in America, or anywhere outside of China, to be honest. I thought maybe a couple hundred cases total worldwide aside from China, but this thing isn’t going to be a big deal. I couldn’t be more wrong.
When we stepped out of the plane at SFO, everything just felt different. There was news of planes coming in from China the same time we were at the airport. I started being aware of what I was touching, and avoiding touching anything at the airport. It’s like we left the Bay Area for less than 3 days, and came back to news of people panicking. One of the Ubers we got into, the driver was in a mask and wearing gloves. He was straight schooling us on facts about COVID-19 and how China basically fucked us all by trying to keep the outbreak hush hush. He explained how it’s going to come to the U.S. and how life for us is going to change. He told us to get masks and cleaning supplies while we can. I thought he was being overly paranoid. But what he was saying shook me up enough to think “…Maybe he’s right?” But I still had the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
It wasn’t until about mid-February that I realized, Yeeeeeah… that Uber driver that I thought was trippin’… what he was saying… he’s right, this virus is spreading around… And it started to get real. It’s like my eyes were glued to the news. Slowly, different states started reporting their first confirmed cases of COVID-19. I had constant anxiety knowing eventually it would make it’s way to California. All of a sudden I was slapped in the face with reality. What I thought was very unlikely – COVID-19 turning into a pandemic – was a hard pill to swallow. At the end of February and early March I would wake up everyday to get ready for work and think, I can’t believe this is for real. By this time the cruise ship with COVID-19 patients were docking in Oakland.
By March I was completely paranoid. I take public transportation to work everyday. I started fearing for my health and thinking everyone and anyone had it. Colleges, high schools, grade schools started to slowly shutdown in the Bay Area. Sports gatherings, events, concerts, started getting canceled. What the actual fuck was happening? I really couldn’t believe it. Everything was happening so fast but it was like I was experiencing everything in slow-mo. The 2nd week of March, my boss called it. Friday, March 13, 2020 would be our last day in session, then we would be shutting down for 3 weeks to be safe. I never thought that would happen. I really thought we’d be back after the 3 weeks. You’d think at this point my guessing would get better, and I’d realize that this was a big deal. Nope. Naive! I really thought 3 weeks we’d be back at work.
Those first couple of weeks of Shelter in Place were tough. I’m a home body, and I usually like staying home anyways. But it’s a different story when you’re told you can’t go outside. All of a sudden you get antsy, even though it’s something you would’ve preferred anyways. It’s all mental – wanting what you know you can’t have. After the 3 weeks, it was finally April, things were supposed to reopen after 21 days. Instead, the Shelter in Place got extended. By this time it was mandatory to wear a mask or face covering whenever going in public areas. It was like everyday was the same routine. I would wake up and think, holy shit, it’s really a pandemic right now, and go upstairs to watch Gov. Gavin Newsom give his daily speech and updates. I was hooked on the news. It’s all I wanted to watch, even though it was making me stressed.
New cases, hospitals overcrowding, not enough ventilators, New York getting hit the hardest, essential workers quarantining from their loved ones, people dying, people losing their jobs, unemployment sky rocketing, toilet paper and cleaning products clean off of the shelves, not making testing available to all, people refusing to wear masks, this was the new reality. Nobody would’ve expected 2020 to be like this. I felt like I was in an episode of Black Mirror.
Towards the end of April, everyone was antsy. Would the shutdown extend until May? Yes. And it did. And people were upset, refusing to wear face coverings and protesting. People wanted to go back to work, and they were upset that Newsom kept extending the order. But by this time, I was used to Sheltering in Place. In fact, I was scared of readjusting to life after the pandemic. I was getting used to the routine of working from home and straight chillin’. The first 3 weeks of Shelterting in Place and shutting down was the hard part. Everything after that just reminded me of my summers back in the day when I didn’t have a job and didn’t have anything to do. I enjoyed doing nothing.
But obviously this situation was a lot different than my lazy boring summers back in the 2000’s. People are dying. The world is battling something we can’t see or control. It’s a whole pandemic. I feared for those I know, but especially my Tatay who just turned 97 this July. We were extra cautious to not see him or come in contact with him. He doesn’t really understand what’s going on pandemic wise, and that makes it all the more sadder. Does he think we’re just not visiting him? Is he getting weaker? Will we get to celebrate his 97th birthday with the whole family? (We didn’t). What if we never get to see him again? Stop. I didn’t want to think of it anymore. Because it seems like these are all valid possibilities, especially with how long this pandemic is being dragged out.
Towards the end of May, Gov. Newsom revealed the “phases” California would take to slowly open back up the economy for Californians. June 1st I was back at work because I was part of phase 2 reopening. It felt weird being back at work and taking public transportation. My hands are cracked from how often we wash hands at work. We are working wearing masks our whole 8 hour shift. This is the new normal. Since I’ve been back at work for almost 2 months, sometimes I forget that we’re in a pandemic. I’m so used to wearing a mask now, that it’s almost second nature. When I take bus home is when I am reminded – we’re still in a pandemic. The MUNI buses are significantly less crowded, traffic is not as congested, the SamTrans buses’ fare is free because they aren’t letting passengers in through the front door, BART is a ghost town, and nobody sits next to you. I’ve gone back to a semi-normal routine again since being back at work, but I forget that majority of people are still working from home.
When California started its phase 3 – the opening of restaurants, gyms, malls, in mid-June, it didn’t take long for the stats to come in showing that the COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing again. Meaning, the 2 and a half month Shelter in Place order that started mid-March was basically for nothing since California reopened prematurely. California is in a shittier spot than when we originally shutdown. And I’m a little surprised that a second mandatory shutdown hasn’t happened yet.
It’s crazy to think that more than half of 2020 is already over. At the end of 2019, no one could have guessed that this would be our reality. With the pandemic, upcoming presidential election, and civil unrest, America is showing it’s true colors. When I go on social media and see videos of Karens and Kens being ultra mega racist, it makes my blood boil. But I know that these incidents been happening, and the only difference is people are starting to record. It’s crazy how Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 became political issues.
From the get, people believed COVID-19 was a hoax. And we have the idiot president to partially thank for that. He foolishly took the side of entitled Americans who put their own wants and needs over what is best for the country. All the while calling BLM supporters thugs. It’s disgusting. COVID-19 really brought to light everything that is wrong with America. People have to prove why others should care about black lives, we have to encourage others to care for their neighbors, we have to deal with idiots who don’t want to wear masks.
The people who don’t believe in wearing masks or COVID-19 as a whole are the same people that believe wearing a mask makes you a conformist. These are the same selfish people that believe that wearing a mask and Sheltering in Place is “taking away our freedom.” I can’t help but laugh. How fucking entitled and privileged is that 💀🥴?! These are the same people that talk down on the BLM movement and argue that if these “thugs” just comply with law enforcement, there wouldn’t be a problem. Yet here they are not complying with mask orders. Ok.
Selfish. That’s all I got to say. It’s frustrating because things aren’t getting better because people act as if there’s no pandemic – not wearing masks, not taking precautions, not getting tested- because they believe this is a joke. But at the same time they want to complain about not going back to work. This pandemic really put into perspective what this country values, and that is self.
It’s “please comply and follow the rules,” until it’s a minor inconvenience. Then it’s “well this is taking away my freedom and my rights.” Please have a thousand seats. People are so selfish and will only care if it’s someone they know. And that’s why America is taking so long to recover from COVID-19. We have a weak leader that refuses to see the weight of this issue. He turns a blind eye to the information, data, and experts. He refuses to comply because he doesn’t want to seem like he’s going back on his previous statements. So, some follow his lead.
I don’t care if you think COVID-19 is a crazy conspiracy theory. The truth of the matter is : REAL PEOPLE ARE DYING. Regardless of how COVID-19 came to be, people are losing their lives. And the fact that some people are refusing to wear masks in an act of defiance is truly pathetic. If wearing a piece of cloth over your mouth and nose is “taking away your freedom,” I’m not sorry to say that you’re privileged, selfish, and entitled. And describing wearing a mask as “taking away your freedom” is so insulting to those in this country whose freedom is actually in jeopardy.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for the day where I don’t have to wear a mask anymore! They can be uncomfortable, I can’t get fresh air, and it’s definitely hard to talk and teach to little ones. BUT they save lives. And no matter how uncomfortable it is, wearing a mask 46+ hours Monday to Friday (don’t forget that 1+ hour commute back home), I’ll continue to do it because I know this pandemic is real, I know people are dying, I know I’m doing my part. So, do your part and wear a mask, asshole.
Around this time I had just landed my current job, located deep in San Francisco. I was to start right after New Year’s break. New year, new job, new transportation route.
I guess you can say it’s our family tradition to exchange Christmas gifts after returning home from my dad’s side’s Christmas Eve celebration. We get home during the early AM hours. My sisters and parents will all get settled down, change into pajamas, put away gifts we received, and eventually meet upstairs at the livingroom to exchange the gifts we got for each other.
My older sister handed me my gift. I forgot what the main gift was, but I sure as hell remember the 2nd gift. I unwrapped the littler present to discover a pink can of pepper spray, keychain addition.
“…uh, okay?” I probably said. My little sister got the same gift jr.
“You’re gonna work in San Francisco now and be walking home at night. You never know.” Spoken like a true Ate.
At the time, I probably thought it was a bit dramatic, but was thankful because my broke ass didn’t have to buy it for myself.
I never put my pepper spray to use, but roaming through San Francisco all hours of the night – from night classes to just being out – I realized this was something I should’ve had a long time ago. Especially as a woman.
It made me feel more safe being out. Walking home from Bart, I would keep it in one hand, tucked under my sleeve. Paranoid, I know. I knew I most likely wouldn’t need it, but I wanted to be prepared at all times. I always thought of scenarios where I have my pepper spray in my backpack or something, and then something happens where I need it, and it’s not like I’m going to say, “Wait, ma’am-sir, pause, I have pepper spray in my backpack if you could so kindly wait for me to retrieve it…” Nah. If my parents taught me anything, its trust nobody, and be aware of your surroundings.
Almost a full year of having said pepper spray, not once did I ever have to use it. However, I came close to using it during that racist Uber ride, you know, the story I tell on “This Is America.” But I thankfully never had to actually push that button.
My cousins and I took our first big cousins trip, and we were 23 1/2 people deep in SoCal. We decided to look around Downtown Disney, and so much had changed since the last couple times I’ve been. There were metal detectors and stop gates. I don’t know why that shocked me, but I do understand the “why” and the necessity of these check points. I gave them my bag and hella forgot my pepper spray was in there.
“You’re going to have to toss this out or we need to take it.” The police officer told me.
I must say, I was that bitch. “What?! Why? I need it. If I give it to you, will you give it back to me later when I leave?”
The answer was no. I debated with them for about 2 minutes before I finally caved in. Bye bye pepper spray. I was annoyed about parting ways with my pepper spray, and my cousin thought it was lame too. He reassured me that he would try to get it back for me when we left.
When we made our way out of Downtown Disney, my cousin tried to talk his talk with the police officers.
“But come on, she works in downtown San Francisco! It gets dangerous! That’s how she feels safe! It makes her feel like a woman!” He told them, halfway serious and halfway laughing.
At the end of it, I didn’t get it back. I was more so irritated over the fact that I had to buy a replacement. I didn’t realize how unsafe I would feel walking home without it though. When work started up again after the school’s winterbreak, I dreaded walking home by myself. It was still winter time, so it got dark around 5 pm.
I was scared to walk home with my earphones on. I turned around behind me often. I kept my phone and valuables tucked away and hidden. I would even tuck in my chain so it wasn’t visible at first glance. I’m a tough girl, and I’m sure I could fend for myself and fight like a badass, but what terrified me was being defenseless against someone with a weapon.
But then I thought, “I’ve had the pepper spray for over a year and never had to use it. I’m good until I get a replacement.”
Early months of 2019
I will admit that it took weeks to even maybe a month or 2 to replace my pepper spray. It actually took a scary encounter for me to get it asap.
I was walking home from Bart. It was really dark out, even though it had to be around 6-6:30 pm. There’s 2 guys about to cross the street, they’re about 1.5 steps into crossing, but then they turn and look at me, then at each other, and they trade words. They turn back around. And they step back on the sidewalk and stand behind me, as we’re waiting to cross the street, perpendicular to where they were about to cross.
“Oh fuck nah,” I thought to myself.
I started walking to cross the street, and of course they followed. I’m not even trying to throw shade, but they were legit probably homeless, high on drugs, or both. One was wrapped in a blanket, and they both seemed like they haven’t bathed. Once I got to the sidewalk and they were still following me, I got a bad feeling. So I turned into the dollar store so they could walk off and leave me alone.
Negative. They waiting outside of the dollar store. Just standing there, looking at me, and waiting for me to walk out.
I. Think. The. Fuck. Not.
I started freaking out a little bit. I pretended to shop around and would look up at the exit every now and then. They were still there. Guarding the door, I would definitely have to pass them to exit. I panicked.
Should I call an Uber? That’s such a waste of money, my house is literally 4 blocks away. I’d have to pass them anyways to call an Uber. Do I tell the workers? But what are they even gonna do?
I started going to the back aisles so I was no longer in plain sight. I started dodging, going deeper into the store. Making it hard for them to pinpoint exactly where I was. One of the guys entered the dollar store, the other stayed outside. Then the 2nd man went inside and pretended to be looking at stuff closest to the exit. I inched closer to the exit and waited for both of their backs to be turned. I was legit calculating my moves, if I fuck up and exit at the wrong time, it’ll get creepy real quick.
Thankfully, they both had their backs towards the door, and I saw my opportunity and ran. And when I mean ran, I literally mean ran. I ran out of the dollar store, probably looking like I stole something. I ran for about a block and a half, looking behind me to see if they were following or running as well. I didn’t see them.
That experience was so crazy. I felt so unsafe and defenseless. A day or 2 later I got a new mace pepper spray.
It made me sad to know that I only feel safe when I know I have spray on me. And even with pepper spray, sometimes we still don’t feel safe. And I know that this is the sad reality of a lot of women. The extra steps women (not to forget gay and trans people) take to feel safe is mindboggling. From what you carry, to what shoes you wear, to what clothes you wear, to what route you walk, etc. We learn at a young age to be aware of our surroundings and those around us more than the average heterosexual male. “Not safe” is engraved in our minds. And it sucks when real events support that theory.