Braden Taylor and Lyndsay Fillier were travelling in Mexico when news about COVID-19 started to emerge and (Contributed)

Vernon van dwellers self-isolate in Mexico amid COVID-19

Vernon couple opts to stay abroad instead of risking exposure on long drive through U.S.

  • Apr. 2, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Canadians abroad have been rushing home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but one Vernon couple has found safety in the mountains of Mexico.

Braden Taylor and Lyndsay Fillier were on their second winter retreat through Mexico in their camper van when Canada began issuing alerts to citizens abroad to make their way home, followed by a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

That advisory has since become more firm.

Those abroad are instructed to return to Canada “as soon as possible,” according to the federal government’s travel health and safety web page.

But for Taylor and Fillier, who live in their van year-round while spending the winter months in warmer climates, coming home would entail spending days on the road through the United States, and the two decided they’d have a better chance of avoiding exposure to COVID-19 by staying put.

“It’s so cheap for us to buy food and water and find a free place to stay up in the mountains, instead of spending all this gas and food money trying to make it back to Canada, where it might not be any better,” Taylor said in late March.

“We don’t have a house to go back to in Canada either, we just live in our vehicle. So we figured we’re kind of used to this already, so we might as well just stay and see how it goes.”

The two had driven from the City of Mazatlan to Durango in the middle of March.

The people they encountered seemed fairly relaxed about the pandemic at that time — roughly the time when toilet paper panic-buying was reaching its peak in Canada — but after seeing enough red flags in the news and from Mexican agencies, they decided to avoid city centres and head for the mountains.

The two were at an archaeological site around March 18. As they were leaving the full parking lot, an employer passed on word the COVID-19 situation was getting more serious, and they should search for less crowded areas.

Fillier said changes in attitudes towards the pandemic threat happened, in some cases, overnight.

“We were just outside the city of Durango in a little town and we were staying next to a really beautiful park, and the groundskeepers were kind of joking about it,” she said. “The next day we woke up and they had put coronavirus signs on all the park bathrooms.”

As of April 5, Mexico has 2,143 cases of COVID-19.

But for now, at least, the couple is sticking to their plan.

“We’ve been thinking about it, but to me, it just seems like now is probably not the best time to be sitting at the border and trying to B-line it back to Canada and maybe put ourselves at risk of getting sick.”

“Now that we’ve decided to stay, we kind of have to live with that decision,” Fillier said.

In the mountains, a few hours west of Durango, Fillier and Taylor said they’ve found a picture-perfect place to stay isolated — one that even reminds them of home.

“It’s a lot like the Okanagan actually,” Taylor said. “We’re in a really dry pine forest at quite a high elevation. It reminds us of being in Kal Park.”

The couple said they also have great cell reception on the mountain, allowing them to keep abreast of the latest coronavirus news while hunkering down.

As Taylor puts it, the two are spending COVID-19 in a “prime-time self-isolation area.”

“We haven’t seen a soul so that’s also reassuring,” Fillier added. “We’re just kind of hanging out here by ourselves and we feel pretty safe up here.”

While Taylor and Fillier aren’t moving around much these days, they have documented some of their earlier travels on Instagram @lifeat90kph.

View this post on Instagram

Over the course of the last two and a half years, Braden and I have covered a lot of ground in our little Casa Rodante. Indeed, last year at this time we were on Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. This year, we decided to take things a little slower. Without a specific, far off destination in mind, we've had ample opportunity to slow down an smell the roses…or in this case, the salty sea air. – We're still rather north in Mexico, but the weather here is very agreeable. Finally, we've found a beach worthy of spending a little extra time at. Playa Piedras Pintas, near the very touristy town of San Carlos was beautiful, fairly clean, and surprisingly quiet, except on the weekends when locals pop in for brief fiestas. – Here, the mountains rise almost directly out of the sea, creating little coves all along the shore line, keeping the wind and the waves at bay. – Soon, we will be heading south for Los Mochis, where we will meet Braden's handsome brother, Logan for a trip into the mountains on El Tren Chepe. There, we will exchange sandy little beach towns for Pueblos Magicos and indigenous villages. – We can hardly wait!

A post shared by Braden & Lyndsay (@lifeat90kph) on Feb 18, 2020 at 1:26pm PST

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Brendan Shykora

Reporter, Vernon Morning Star

Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com

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