Aspen Princess: Staying blissfully calm in Costa Rica |

Aspen Princess: Staying blissfully calm in Costa Rica

Alison Berkey Margo
The Aspen Princess

In 2007, I went to Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Honolulu and practiced hot yoga in a makeshift studio with 315 other people. We were mat to mat. The room reached temperatures in excess of 120 degrees. We literally sweated all over each other. For nine long weeks, we practiced twice a day for two hours or more, then sat on the floor in that very same room for hours on end for various lectures. Of course, I worried about getting sick just because the program was so rigorous and unforgiving.

But I never got sick.

Anyone who has a young child or works in a school knows what little petri dishes our little rug rats really are. Sometimes it gets to the point where you notice the times they aren’t sick, then start counting the days until they get sick again because if they’ve been healthy for a while, you know it’s coming soon.

More often than not, our little germ carriers get viruses of the cold and flu variety that can’t be treated or cured. The pediatrician will tell you don’t even bother coming in unless they get a fever higher than 104.

Levi gets sick as much as any kid, and when he does, he wants his mommy. When he’s sick, I usually sleep with him, just because he will call for me in the night anyway. He’ll cling to me all night like a barnacle, drool on me, breathe on me, sneeze on me, and yes, sometimes he’ll even puke on me. But when you are a mother, you don’t care about anything except taking care of your baby.

Even when Levi is sick, very rarely do I get sick.

I guess what I’m getting at is I’ve never been one to worry about germs. I trust my immune system to do its job, and when it doesn’t, which does happen, that’s just part of life. I’d rather suffer for a few days feeling ill than spend my life worrying about it.

That’s why I’m sitting here in Costa Rica as I write this, completely baffled by the widespread panic (not the popular jam band that honestly isn’t my favorite) but like, the whole world is seriously freaking out.

I understand a potential pandemic and its ramifications on the global economy are unsettling, to be sure. But unless you are old or have a respiratory condition, this virus is not a death sentence. It’s a bad flu.

What’s really scary is the way fear makes people behave. Unless you are talking about childbirth, fear is almost always worse than the thing itself.

This isn’t the bubonic plague or AIDS or cancer. There’s a post that went viral that was written by Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious diseases specialist from Toronto who writes, “I am not scared of Covid-19. … What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world.”

A friend of mine posted this morning that City Market is out of toilet paper. They also are out of sanitizing wipes and rubbing alcohol. What the hell is up with that?

Fortunately, my pharmacist Tad who owns Basalt Clinic Pharmacy rationed his supply of travel disinfectant wipes so I was able to buy some before we left for our trip to Costa Rica. Yes, we decided to travel despite the apocalypse. At the time of our departure, there were no documented cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica. No, our travel was not essential, but I still wanted to go. We would take the necessary and reasonable precautions. We would wash our hands, sanitize our airplane seats, keep our distance from other people.

It was business as usual at the airports. Travel was easy, because so few people were traveling. We breezed through customs in less than five minutes.

The day after our arrival, we learned of several new cases in Costa Rica. One in Jaco, a few in San Jose including an outbreak at a local hospital in Alejuela where my brother has a house.

For all my calm, I panicked. My throat felt raw with worry. What if we got stuck here, or worse, in Houston? What if I had to be quarantined or separated from my child?

Within minutes, I had changed our return flights and shortened our trip by three days. The length of time was arbitrary — I guess I still wanted my vacation, but also wanted to make sure I could get home, even though both those ideas are completely irrational.

As I sit here looking out at our jungle view where we’ve seen parrots, toucans, and monkeys and watch Levi and Ryan play in our beautiful pool, I am tinged with regret. Why did I cut our precious vacation time short? So we can return to Aspen where — guess what — COVID-19 has already arrived? So instead of sitting on a beautiful beach where there is no one, I can go to City Market where there’s no toilet paper? Why would I not stay here and eat sweet coral-colored papaya with flesh so tender every bite tastes like a kiss or eat the mango that’s in season right now, so sticky and sweet you don’t even care when it dribbles down your chin?

It’s hard to be calm and rational when everyone in the world, everywhere, is freaking out. I’m also an anxious person with an emergency stash of Xanax in my night stand. But I am not scared of COVID-19. I’m scared of widespread panic, and again I’m not referring to the band.

Like the old saying goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” And so is this stupid flu. At least if I get sick, I’ll do it with a tan.

The Princess promises to bring home some Lizano salsa. Email your love to