NOLANVILLE — Erin James has been cautious about venturing out of the house too much during the COVID-19 pandemic, but last week she finally decided enough is enough.
“I’ve been in the house too long,” the 39-year-old mother of three said. “I haven’t gone too far — haven’t been out to eat yet, or anything like that – but at this very moment, as we speak, I’m getting my toes done. I couldn’t go any longer.
“I’m sitting here with my mom, my (two) sisters, and my daughter. There’s five of us here — we’ve got the whole row. It feels really good.”
A native of Longview, in East Texas, James is a single mom who has lived in the Killeen area for 19 years, including the last three years in Nolanville. For a long time, she managed large institutional kitchens for places like school districts and hospitals.
Last summer, she started her own home-based travel agency, Traveler’s Unlimited (https://www.facebook.com/TravelersUnlimited2019/ and https://aaronjames.inteletravel.com/booktravel.cfm) and the business took off with flying colors. She was booking lots of trips throughout the year, and then the pandemic struck.
“I decided to start my own travel agency because I wanted to travel myself,” James said. “It’s actually been going pretty good. I started it in mid-July, so most of the travel that I booked was for this year, and most of it has already been canceled. But with the partnership that I am afforded, I still get my commissions, even on the trips that had been canceled.
“March was pretty hard. Everybody was canceling; everybody was scared. There’s been a lot of cancellations and stuff like that, but people are starting to book again. People are having cabin fever and they’re starting to move around. Carnival (Cruise Line) opens up their ships in August, and they’re already filling up.”
Anyone interested in starting their own travel business or needing someone to help with travel plans is welcome to contact James via her website or Facebook page.
Her children, meanwhile, have had a bit of a struggle during the COVID-19 shutdown, finding things to do and stay busy. But mom has been on top of everything, helping out with their home schooling and other activities.
“They’re having to find different things to try and stay active. They’re going to school at home now, so it’s a big change for them,” James said. “It’s challenging to deal with teenagers, and them not being able to cope with all the changes that are going on. It’s been a big adjustment.
“My daughter, who is 16, goes to Early College High School (a Killeen Independent School District facility), so she’ll have her associate degree before she gets her high school diploma. They got out for spring break and haven’t been back, so it’s been a challenge keeping her going.
“I think slowly but surely, everything is going to open up. It’s just going to be a new normal – it’s not going to be the same as it was before.
“I think we’ll be wearing masks from now on, and people will be more mindful of their hygiene, especially when they’re out (in public). I don’t think it will be long before everything opens back up, but I think it will take a little while before everybody will be able to trust everything that’s going on. People will let other people go out and see how that goes for a while, then they’ll start trickling out.”
In the meantime, one way she found to help the kids manage their cabin fever was adding another member to the family, a sweet female chocolate Labrador retriever puppy.
“We got a Corona puppy,” James said. “Her name is Java. She helps keep the kids busy.
“We’re trying to train her, and I’m also trying to teach my kids about business with her. Later on down the line, we plan on breeding her, and so I’m teaching them aspects of the breeding business and how to be a good breeder. I’m teaching them a little entrepreneurship.”