On the weekend of March 13th, Viviana Spiers and her husband Rich, who live in Hell & # 39; s Kitchen, decided to celebrate the 6th birthday of their youngest son in Atlantic City as Mayor Bill de Blasio with a stay at home order flirted. A destination they chose because, as Ms. Spiers put it, “the hotels were dirt cheap”.
"Rich and I have been stressed about what we're going to do all weekend," said Ms. Spiers, who works as an office manager for a Manhattan-based venture capital firm. “Shall we go back to New York? It seemed so bad. At the end of the weekend we just kept going. "
They ended up in Lynchburg, Virginia, for no other reason than on the way to Houston, where Mrs. Spier's family had. Compared to New York, Lynchburg felt relaxed and relatively virus-free. They rented an Airbnb, took their two sons to Dollar General for toys, and settled down.
Mr. Spiers moved to America from his native England and spent years as a freelance music agent and concert promoter before the virus torpedoed his business. The pandemic seemed to bring out the hiker. "I don't care about possessions and the like," he said. "It's this touring mentality where you just leave with a shopping bag. Just move."
Mr. Mealer, the seminary student, drove his wife and children 1,700 miles to Texas, where he grew up and where the family had lived before New York, only to find upon arrival that there was nowhere to stay. His parents lived in Texas, but what if he unwittingly gave them the virus? The same concern applied to friends. Eventually the family found a rental home far outside Austin.
“There was a little land behind the house. We had no neighbors. We didn't see anyone, ”said Mr. Mealer. “That was our little sanctuary. We stayed outside for two months. "
Out in the hills, Mr. Mealer had patchy internet and no cable. After years of working and traveling as a journalist, and then studying in seminary all weekend, "it forced me to slow down and be with my kids," he said. He took his three children for nature walks, sat around a fire pit at night and was reconnected. By the summer the family had relocated again – heading north to Minnesota, where his wife's father was suffering from dementia. His father-in-law died while they were there.