“The world is different now”: Rafters return to coronavirus pandemic

Gayle Murphy and her boyfriend Chris Murray spent the past year dreaming about rafting through the Grand Canyon. For most, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The 24-day adventure took them down the scenic Colorado River...away from cell service, internet and far from the outside world.

“It was pretty much radio silence,” Murphy says.

The Portland, Oregon couple anticipated returning to everyday life would be difficult, but they never expected a new reality.

Murphy and Murray were some of the last people in America to learn about widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They returned to a world where schools were shut down, movie theaters were closed and people used an unfamiliar phrase, "social distancing."

“There’s a normal amount of culture shock when you come back from being disconnected,” Murphy says. “Right now, it’s like coming into a completely different world.”

The Portland couple didn’t have much time to get ready for re-entry. They both work in health care. Murphy is a nurse who does leadership education. Murray is a social worker in a psychiatric emergency department.

“It sunk in that this is a big deal,” Murray says. “I need to go back to work in an emergency department in 36 hours.”