A little over a year ago, Tyler and Rachel Torres were partway through their whirlwind tour of Asia when a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess forced them to quarantine as the boat docked in Japan.
"We kind of got a head start on everyone else, I guess,” Rachel Torres said.
Throughout the month-long affair, the couple shared their experience online and in TV interviews.
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For nearly two weeks, they were mostly confined to a tiny stateroom.
From their window, they watched as dozens of sick passengers were transferred from the ship to ambulances. In the end, more than 700 passengers tested positive.
“People that they’ve been taking off the boat have been leaving in quarantine bubbles with people in hazmat suits, and they’re being separated from their families with people are required to remain on the boat,” said Rachel in an interview at the time.
The couple both tested negative. And just three days shy of the end of quarantine, they learned the United States would evacuate them from the ship.
But rather than head home, they’d be transferred to a military base for quarantine round two.
After more than 20 hours on a cargo plane, the couple found themselves at Lackland Air Force Base, facing another period of isolation.
By the time they arrived home, they’d been gone for more than a month.
Just two weeks later, Texas was shut down.
“Before we left and went to Lackland, we were like, ‘OK, we have another two weeks of this. It sucks, but then afterward, we’ll be back to normal. It’ll just stay over there,’” Tyler Torres said
“I don’t think we ever imagined though that we would actually shut down,” Rachel said.
During that time, the couple said loved ones would turn to them looking for ways to occupy their time.
On the ship, Rachel had focused on learning Spanish and planning a friend’s event while Tyler kept upwards of 200,000 people abreast of the situation on board through a Reddit feed and blog.
Back home, Rachel focused on home improvement projects while Tyler cooked.
Though they may have had experience with isolation, they said round two wasn’t necessarily easier.
“We had an end day in our quarantine. We had a set date we could look forward to, only two more days, only four more days, whatever. And even when that got changed, we knew eventually we would leave," Rachel said. "I think now everybody waiting in the unknown just kind of waiting until it’s over. It would be nice if we all had an end date. But we don’t. I think we had a lot of hope in those end dates. I think now we’re all having to find hope in other things."
Both vaccinated as health care workers, the couple is hopeful the end is in sight.
They’re even dreaming of the day they can travel again, perhaps even on another cruise.