By Robbie Owens

WYLIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – While the world has been locked in mortal combat with Covid-19, Matthew Butschek has been in what many would consider a paradise: doing environmental work on a remote Hawaiian island, Kure Atoll.

“So, we missed everything,” says Butschek from his home in Wylie. “But it turns out it’s something that we should be glad we missed.”

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Remote Hawaiian island Kure Atoll (credit: Matthew Butschek)

When Butschek and his fellow team members left to do habitat restoration on the otherwise uninhabited island in February, he says Covid seemed like “another SARS, or you know, swine flu or just some sort of bad flu.” In fact, he recalls the news then, was that Hawaii had just gotten its first case. The island paradise was not only protected from the ravages of the virus– but the team members were also unplugged.

“So, we had no internet access and no cell phone service. We did have email capabilities, connected through a satellite phone… so for emergencies, we could talk or send text messages on the satellite phone, but our normal daily communication was through email,” shares Butschek.

Through the limited communication Butschek says he knew the numbers were rising and Covid was bad. But so much of it just seemed unreal– as in toilet paper shortages.

“It was surreal, just hearing that!” shares Butschek, who returned to the mainland last month. “It was funny– it was like: is this real??? Is that what’s happening? And even just hearing about people having to stay at home and quarantine and like businesses were closing down, people had to work from home if possible,” adding that the team’s reaction to the tidbits of news was “like, that’s crazy!”

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Once off the island, Butschek realized that normal now looks vastly different.

“I could see people wearing masks on television and how, there were no people in the crowd at sporting events, that kind of stuff was like, wow, yeah, this is, this is so strange!”

So far, he says remembering to keep his mask in the car has been his biggest adjustment. And guess what else he missed?

“Nine months without driving– I was welcoming traffic!”

Clearly, Butschek has gotten too much sun! Still, having unplugged and spent much of the pandemic in one of the safest, and arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth– Butschek says he has a greater appreciation of the little things.

“Being able to see the good in everything around you…even the small things,” says Butschek. “I would tell my friends and family: don’t forget to count your blessings, because you’ve got a lot more than you think.”

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