Since the article about our family trip around the world during the Coronavirus and the changes we had to make last February was published, our family trip around the world has taken a turn that I never thought was possible.
These changes, which are only a few weeks old (but it seems like forever since things have changed so quickly), were ultimately only the beginning of a series of decisions that we had to make to protect our family from COVID-19.
In just a few weeks, we have gone from a world where it was still good to travel to one of restriction, isolation, border closures and quarantine.
It rains deaths and infection of the coronavirus covid-19… more and more every day.
Fear, worry and doubt are now part of our lives, everywhere on the planet.
We really weren’t spared; we were on the front line as world travellers trying to get back to their country through all these new restrictions that were falling every day.
So, I’ll tell you about our long journey, from the moment we decided to end our trip around the world in family to today, back in Quebec.
COME BACK OR STAY
This is how our family trip around the world, which was supposed to last a year, ended after nine months. It’s somewhere before the mid-March when Trump announced the closing of the United States’ borders and the rest of the world did the same in the hours and days that followed, that we decided to return to Canada.
Since Trump made this announcement, and the Government of Canada asked all Canadians to come back as quickly as possible, it hasn’t been easy.
Just so you know, at that time, we were still in New Zealand, and we were scheduled to make a week-long stopover in mid-March in the United States, where my sister and my mother-in-law were to visit us. Then we were to go to Costa Rica and stay there for a month. We had also already purchased our plane tickets to Mexico and Puerto Rico, our next destinations.
In the few days following these two important announcements, we were still waffling between returning to Canada or going to the next country we were supposed to go to (Costa Rica) and waiting “until it passes”.
I’m “laughing” today when I think we had this thought…
Every hour that went by was extremely stressful, from the moment we decided to assess the situation as to whether we were coming back and then when we made the decision, to do it: to be at the expense of future government decisions, of the air carriers that were already cancelling flights every day. We were praying heavens so nobody would get sick (a cold or the Coronavirus), it was a lot.
In this time of global coronavirus pandemic, here is the story of our long journey to return to Canada.
A RACE AGAINST THE CLOCK
We took 2-3 days to make our final decision, which was to return home, as you already know.
Like I said earlier, we already had a scheduled flight in mid-March, which was to take us to Los Angeles. So, we kept it, and the rest of our itinerary changed.
At first, we planned to honour or Booking reservation in Los Angeles since the host never wanted to reimburse us and, therefore, stay in the USA for a week and then leave for Vancouver.
As the days went on, the more cases of Covid-19 spread around in Los Angeles, and rumours of Canada’s borders closing grew, making us fearful of being caught outside.
Anyway, a day before leaving New Zealand for the United States, we finally booked a flight to Vancouver, which was two days after our arrival in Los Angeles.
At that time, we still hoped that it was only a break (not to say a bad dream) from our world tour and that we were going to be able to leave a few weeks later. #Ha-Ha-Ha
So, we took our New Zealand/Los Angeles flight as planned in mid-March.
Just after landing in the US, we learned that the borders between the United States and Canada were closing, and rumours began saying the city of Los Angeles would be quarantined very soon.
So, it’s only a few hours after our landing in the United States that we moved our flight to Vancouver a day earlier: the next day.
It’s an understatement to say that I was tired of all these twists and uncertainties as to whether we were going to be able to return home finally.
We also decided to confine ourselves to our hotel room in Los Angeles during this short 24-hour stay. We didn’t go out once to make sure we were in as little contact with anyone as possible.
Every hour, we checked that our flight was still on and that no one had a fever, in addition to following the news to make sure there was no new veto.
And the stress wasn’t over…
LIKE THE PLAGUE
The next day we took this Los Angeles/Vancouver flight bringing us back to Canada, but more importantly, we were still in airports. I like it there because it represents freedom and a new adventure. But with everything that’s going on, the airport was pretty scary at that moment.
Now in Vancouver, another huge stress was added.
Since we had no place to go, that we have limited backpacker’s budget, nothing except what can fill two 40-litters backpacks for a family trip around the world in countries where it gets hot and that we’re maybe carrying the Coronavirus, we couldn’t come back to the country and land wherever we wanted.
In this already extremely unique moment in our lives, our situation was exceptionally special. It’s not like we came back from three weeks in Cuba, and we just cut our trip short and went home wisely. We don’t own anything anymore.
We have no house and no personal effects. Actually, we do, but we don’t get it all back until July.
We had to make the difficult but thoughtful decision to land at Sacha’s in Vancouver to be in quarantine and be able to plan the rest of the months ahead.
We had planned to be at Sacha’s until mid-April, do this quarantine and a bit more, then go back to Quebec, before provinces could close, as there were rumours at the time.
It allowed us to have a roof over our heads, with everything we needed to live well during these few weeks. It gave us time to do some research and find a home that could accommodate us until we could have our house back in July.
But every day was always more stressful. Between checking each morning that everyone was fine, that no one had flu-like symptoms or fever, stressing that our flight planned in three weeks will get cancel, then finding a completely furnished home in Quebec, unoccupied, that we could use for the next two months and that was in our budget. I can confirm that my anxiety level was high.
THEN, WHAT HAD TO HAPPEN, HAPPENED
Our flight scheduled to return to Quebec in mid-April was cancelled, as were all Air Transat flights.
We had to change our plans again and find another way to leave.
$3000 later and new plane tickets to Montreal (oh yes and another phoquing travel credit of $1000 with Transat who doesn’t want to give us a cash refund) dated for the next day (there was no way my loophole was getting cancelled right in front of me). We were saying goodbye to Sacha a few days earlier than expected.
And then, we’re going through the stress again when leaving Sacha, because we would be back at the airport and flying from Vancouver to Montreal.
So we were in public, in public transports, interacting with other travellers. Breathing the same air as the others…
Then relive this scenario of checking every morning for two weeks that everyone is fine, that no one has flu-like symptoms or fever.
Phew, we were so looking forward to being safe…
We finally got on that plane, which was going to take us back to where it all started nine months ago… Where we expected to be back somewhere in July, in the sun, find our home, with family and friends waiting for us with open arms…
We rather found cold, isolation and loneliness – in addition to losing in an instant this intense freedom that only travel offers and in which we have lived for nine months around the world with my family, going outside everyday, in the sun, to be with people and enjoying life…!
A 24-HOUR DAY THAT NEVER ENDS
This five-hour Vancouver to Montreal flight was good, but I would be lying not to mention the fears and thoughts that we had during all this time.
With our two children touching everything. Stuck in this plane with 500 passengers FULL (!), all within a metre of each other, with only a water bottle and chewy bars as a meal (because the airline company decided it was too dangerous to serve us a meal…), we couldn’t wait to get here.
As our flight landed at 8h50 p.m., and the car rental companies now closing their doors at 9 p.m. (hours reduced because of the COVID and number of people using it require), it was a real race against the clock when we got off the plane to get a precious car that could get us out of Montreal.
Plot twist, our flight landed 20 minutes early.
Once we landed, I took the stroller and the kids and my husband left to look for our small chance of not staying one more night outside Quebec City, trying to get to the rental car kiosk before it closes.
We managed in extremist to have a rental car. But that’s not to mention that it almost slipped through our fingers, because the first car had a puncture. My husband went back to the kiosk, which was now closed, but by banging on the closed door, someone finally came to open the door and game him new car keys.
Then followed a long way of the cross to make the Montreal-Quebec route, to pick up stuff from family and friends (left for us on balconies and in garages) who had prepared us some winter/spring clothes and groceries. We picked up our car and left the rental one, all this after midnight. We had the impression that we were going to visit everyone, without really being able to see them: we haven’t seen anyone in nine months… It was torture.
Let me tell you that we finally arrived extremely exhausted at 1:30 a.m. at our home in Mont St-Anne. By the time we got everything inside, put the groceries in and were done with the showers/disinfection of everyone, we went to bed at 3:30 a.m., EX-HAUS-TED physically and above all, mentally.
IS IT GOING TO BE OK!?
I can never say what would have finally been the easiest (because we won’t live the other side) between staying in the country we were at that moment and waiting one, two or four months that “it passes” or return to Canada in emergency, from the other side of the world. But I can say our choice wasn’t the easiest. In this time of global pandemic, repatriating oneself hasn’t been easy for my family and me.
To juggle through all these personal constraints related to our situation of world travellers gone for a year (returning three months earlier) and navigating every day through all these changes in the law and rules “as they come and go” from countries to avoid contagion. Still, in which we travelled every hour and every day in this race against the clock, with young kids, to get back home: it was more than exhausting.
I’m not afraid to say I arrived in Quebec, at the end of the road, more stressed than when we began our adventure around the world (life can be funny sometimes).
I’ve been through a lot of anxiety through all of this, a feeling that I’ve experienced only a few times in my life.
But hey, that’s settled now, because, as I write these lines, we’ve been back in Quebec for two weeks.
Every day I get better. I manage to detach myself from what’s happening in the world (what I couldn’t do before #YouKnow, because I was IN it, and I had to follow what was happening ++ in the news) and making well-considered decisions…
We’re now safe, and we now mostly have everything we need to get through the next few months.
Finally, the optimist girl in me wishes very much that in 20 years, when we’ll ask me if I remember where I was during this global pandemic, that I can pull out this article and remind myself what an adventure that was – and see what good will have come out of this.
Because it seems that it’s going to be ok…!
This post was translated from French to English by:
Hello! I’m Cassandra, 23 years old and in my second year studying translation at Laval University in Quebec City. I’m learning to translate three languages: French, English and Chinese, which is both exhilarating and challenging! I love jogging, reading and travelling. I’ve just got back from a one-month-trip through Europe.