HOUSTON - As the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the globe, tens of thousands of U.S. citizens were stuck far from home and looking for ways to get back.
The State Department reports, by mid-May, it helped more than 85,000 Americans get home, from 131 different countries and territories. While some were traveling for pleasure and others were working, Houstonian Juan Pinzon says everybody had to wait their turn.
"The first weeks, I got stuck, basically," says Pinzon.
He traveled to Colombia, for work, in early March and COVID-19 concerns quickly closed his path back to Houston. The Colombian government set a mandatory quarantine that ran through May 25th, and Pinzon says he didn't leave his corporate apartment building for 30 days.
"Having family two-blocks or hundreds of miles away was the same: My fear was about when the airport would be open, when commercial flights would be available and the answer, in those days, was 'zero'," he says.
Pinzon has snapshots that chronicle his routine over the 78 days he spent stuck in Colombia, looking for an opportunity to get home: An exercise-bike set near a window to stay fit; A birthday celebrated alone; A vital internet connection to stay in touch with family.
The best part of his journey came after securing a seat on a humanitarian flight for U.S. citizens, that took him home to a waiting family that was ready to see him again. "Knowing I am surrounded by my loved ones, in the near distance, that's priceless," says Pinzon.
While talking to his family and seeing them is certainly nice, a big family-hug when his self-quarantine is complete will be even better.