A Race Against Time: Travel in the Midst of the Pandemic
In the beginning stages of the Covid 19 pandemic, I had gone on a month-long trip abroad. There was a great deal of hysteria with news of a recently discovered virus rapidly spreading worldwide. However, I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let this hinder me from enjoying another once-in-a-lifetime trip.
While Filipinos started wearing face masks in February 2020, life was normal in Turkey. People were aware of the Wuhan virus but didn’t believe that it had reached the country yet. However, there were raised suspicions with the many Chinese tourists entering and exiting the country.
Towards the end of February, I got on a ferry from Athens to Santorini. Since my mother is diabetic, she needs ice to store her insulin. I approached the server at one of the bars and asked if he could fill the thermos with ice, but he refused, citing the circumstances regarding the virus. I tried asking again, and he reluctantly complied by passing me a plastic cup full of ice.
The hysteria back then was understandable with what little information was available. However, I don’t think it was helpful. Panicking was useless since the virus was well beyond anyone’s control, and doing so wasn’t going to achieve anything good.
Once I was done touring Turkey & Greece in February, I visited my sister in Dubai later in March. The plan was to stay there for a short while before departing for France.
While in Dubai, I revisited a certain attraction. Global Village is a multi-national theme park on a scale similar to, if not larger than Disneyland itself. With every region of the globe represented, there was something for everybody.
Being an open-air attraction, Global Village only opens in winter when the weather is much more relaxed, with operating hours from 4 PM to 12 midnight. Despite the massive space, it was a claustrophobic place with all the visitors.
During this time, there was barely anyone with the Wuhan virus, and off-season was approaching. Maximizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I leisurely strolled around the park from end to end.
After resting a bit in Dubai, my family flew to France for the dance competition of my niece at Disneyland. With the park lying on the outskirts of Paris, I stayed in Val d’Europe, a shopping village nearby. The first part of the trip to France was all about the dance competition with a city tour of Paris after.
However, with the rising cases of Coronavirus worldwide, my family decided to cut the trip short. There was some free time to explore the city when my niece wasn’t competing, but we chose to stay in the outskirts to avoid the crowds of Paris. As a result, the only nearby places were the outlet and Disneyland.
The day right after I visited the park, Disneyland announced the closure of all parks worldwide. With flights rebooked, my family returned to Dubai. As countries began imposing lockdowns one after another, I soon found myself stuck in my sister’s house, waiting to go home.
Emirati society had also gone to a halt. My brother-in-law began working from home as classes for the three kids were suspended. Meanwhile, my sister made it a habit of ordering groceries online. Back then, I was confident that Dubai was the safer place amidst the pandemic, and I was proven right not long after that. With rumors of a lockdown in the Philippines, going home felt like a race against time. With the return flight to Manila approaching, I found myself on one last journey at the end of a month-long trip.
The day before the flight, the rumors were proven true. Abruptly announced, the government tried downplaying the situation by labeling the lockdown as a community quarantine. Upon arriving at DBX, I found that I had the entire airport to myself.
With the lockdown only a few days away, everyone was in a rush, whether they were OFW’s working in the UAE or affluent Filipinos vacationing in Europe.
Staring at the Dubai cityscape one last time, I was relieved to be going home but unaware of what was to come. I thought this was going to pass in 14 days, but I was utterly wrong.
After basic health protocols were established and mass testing was done, the rest of the world began opening up. The very people I met began traveling leisurely again. My sister’s family even went camping in the desert and hiking in the mountains. Looking back, being able to go on that trip was a great blessing as it was my final glimpse of the outside world, for the time being, at least.