It was exactly a year ago today (December 30, 2019) while sitting in our condo in Hua Hin, Thailand that we read the news about a mysterious virus in Wuhan, China. I had that sinking feeling that I couldn’t shake off. I remember saying to Gordon ‘this could be really bad’. I just felt ‘not right’.
We started to monitor the news daily. As travellers it’s important to stay informed. It wasn’t until around mid January that things started to look bleak in China. The news wasn’t good and the ‘virus’ was spreading. We started to have problems finding face masks and hand sanitizer in Hua Hin. The seriousness of it really sank in the moment we saw some Thai workers disinfecting our favourite night market.
In late January we had a trip booked to go to the Maldives for a week. We went as planned, but things were already changing rapidly with regards to travel. We had to overnight in Bangkok the night before our flight. When we arrived at our hotel, we were met by a staff member wearing a face mask asking us vague questions about our travel plans. It seemed to us that she was making conversation to evaluate our health.
When we entered the airport the next morning, we saw several long lines of travellers from China. They were waiting to get on chartered flights back to their home country – they had been on vacation for Chinese New Year. It appeared that Thailand was closing their border to China. When we arrived in the Maldives, they too had closed their country to Chinese arrivals.
Still, the news from Canada was that there was no threat to Canadians…
March 11, 2020 – A pandemic is declared.
March 16, 2020 – what I never thought I would see happen, happened. The Canadian Government asked all Canadians abroad to return home. As we literally sat watching borders close around us, we scrambled to change flights, and then had to change them again. We thought we had it all sorted out but the situation was so fluid and kept changing by the hour.
March 18, 2020 – as borders continued to close, Gordon woke me at 5am saying “we have to go, Taiwan just shut its borders” – that was our transit country.
We had to cancel all of our existing flights that we had spent hours changing. We were lucky to find a flight transiting through Tokyo and immediately bought the tickets… but we had to leave that night. We scrambled to pack and we donated everything that we wouldn’t be bringing home including our bicycles. That flight was an expensive one but at least we would be going home.
We arrived home a month earlier than expected. We self isolated for 14 days. It felt so surreal, people lined up outside of stores, bare shelves everywhere, and our family doing our shopping for us. We would pick up our groceries from the end of Gordon’s sister’s driveway. Everything was… different.
I never thought in my lifetime that I would see the world come to a halt, yet here we are at a complete standstill. This long pause has prompted me to take a deep breath and take inventory of what’s most important to me. Everything about the way we live our lives has been called into question; how we interact with our families and friends, re-examining how we spend each day that we’ve been given, and the benefits we’ve witnessed for wildlife and nature to thrive without crowds of people.
As avid travellers, it’s given us time to really think about how we move about in this world. I feel like we’ve been taking from Mother Nature instead of living in a balance of give and take. I think we need to live more mindfully and less selfishly.
Even before the pandemic, I was questioning the way we travel and how traveling has become a double edged sword. Travellers want to see and experience everything, yet so many places are suffering from mass tourism and it’s just not sustainable. Maybe things will change when we come out of this mess?
It also saddens me to see my country so divided and not just politically. We’re divided over wearing a mask to protect others, divided over ridiculous conspiracy theories, divided over vaccines, and divided over what entails infringement on human rights.
Does it also make me angry? Absolutely! I see the anti-mask protests as a selfish act during a time when people could choose to put others first. Choose to be the nice guy. Choose to be polite and considerate towards others. Wearing a mask might feel like an inconvenience but it’s a far cry from oppression! The gatherings and protests that are potentially spreading the virus even more… are quite frankly a shit show.
Fast forward to today, we are so grateful for everything we have. Wintering on Vancouver Island instead of somewhere warm is but a minor inconvenience compared to what so many others are going through. Our hearts go out to those that have lost loved ones and to those that are struggling through this rough time.
While we wait for Mother Earth to heal and move forward to 2021 – our wish for everyone is much love, peace, health, happiness, and travel in 2021!