Chapter 1: UN-plannedemic

 As I was trying to think of how to start off my blog, I decided that I should just start with my most recent adventure…..The one that we are currently in. 

The coronavirus as we know or COVID-19 has cancelled 2020. ALL my grand plans went out the window. In early November, I had just returned from my student teaching in Guangzhou, China. There had been no talk about a deadly virus going around, and everything was normal. It was so normal, I really considered moving back to Asia.

Anyways, I did more traveling here and there back to the mainland and in the span of three months I got two jobs, and saved some money. 

Me and my best friend decided take a trip to Europe. Flights were cheap and we were like.. “YOLO”. We have always planned to take international adventures, so this was our time!

 (All of these events will be future blogs…but right now we’re focusing on the pandemic).

Anyways, before we left on our trip we started seeing things on the news about the “virus” that is going around that started to shut some places down. It was reported in the news that mostly elderly and the immune compromised are at risk. We both went into this with the mentality: “well, at this point if we get it, we get it”.

After all the planning, budgeting, and wardrobe prepping- we set off on March 3, 2020 to Charles De Gaulle International Airport. I left Hawaii, and she left from Texas. We planned to meet at the airport and go according to our plans. 

Everything was fantastic! France was amazing. I spent my birthday in Belgium and we had a blast (again more for my future blogs).

We headed to Venice, Italy. At this point, the news is starting to get a little crazier. Italy and it is EMPTY, but we didn’t think much of it. We got to our hotel, walked around the town, went on a gondola, and went to sleep. 

The next morning, since we were pretty sure that we were the only guests in the hotel, our breakfast was delivered to our door. We turned on the news and it says that Italy is on “lockdown”. Me and my best friend looked at each other and were like “uhhh, okay” as we keep making our way south.

 Italy started to shut down everything at 6pm. Transportation was still working but there were police and security guards everywhere checking our passports and making sure that we were obeying the “lockdown”. No “non-essential” activities.  

At the train station, we find out our train to Pisa has been cancelled and they tried to reroute us. We decide to forget Pisa, and just go to Rome. (Because at least Rome had an international airport).

 Of course the train was empty but the ride was beautiful. It really is a shame that we weren’t able to explore as much as we wanted.

When we arrived in Rome, we found our way to our hotel. This time we are prepared for the lockdown and know to get food for after 6pm when we are in lockdown. When in Rome….we still went sightseeing. We saw the Trevi fountain, Spanish steps churches etc. But again, there is security everywhere. We go back to the hotel and watch a movie. 

When we wake up the next morning, I have this feeling that we should just get out of Italy, just in case things start to get weirder. We look at random flights out of Italy and find a $300 flight to Prague. It leaves at 3 so we feel like we have a little more time to go sightseeing. We go to see the Colosseum and find a train to take us to the airport. We are now starting to feel the severity of everything closing down. (TBH I was more scared of getting stuck there and paying for food and a place to stay every night than I was of this virus.)

On our way to the airport everything is empty, and there are guards everywhere. We finally get to the airport and look at the screen to see most flights cancelled. Spain has just closed their borders to Italy, and now other countries were starting to close their borders too. We had to get out of Italy like…. ASAP. 

Looking for our flight to Prague, WE DON’T SEE IT. It doesn’t say cancelled, it doesn’t say on time. It literally does not exist. All we have is a confirmation email saying that we should be getting all our flight information soon. I even looked at my credit card statement and the money charged by the airlines. 

In a slight panic, we go back and forth between the counters of the airlines that sold us the ticket, and the partnership airline that is flying the plane. LONG STORY SHORT: after 4 hours, we miss our “prague flight”, get stuck in an airport full of distressed travelers, people coughing, everyone trying to leave I JUST WANTED TO GET OUT OF ITALY.

Panic mode started to set in, we looked into trains out of Italy, all of them went through Milan (which was the last place in Italy we wanted to go through because the virus was the worst there.) Other flights were selling out, and prices started going up to over $1000 per ticket. I remember just thinking “Hopefully one day I will be able to laugh about it”.

I said a little prayer in my heart, to help us get out of Italy by the night. Just then I looked again at google flights and we found a $300 flight to Brussels, Belgium leaving in 3 hours. We stood in line at the counter and I didn’t even care, I just wanted out! We booked the flights and made it back to Belgium. We stayed in the same hotel that we stayed in for my birthday. 

That night, we both were like let’s just go back to America. My best friend is a flight attendant and saw the flights open from Paris. So we agreed, and planned to catch the first train back to Paris, and the first flight back to America.

5 am I wake up to 14 messages from people saying “Trump is closing all borders from Europe”, “Get out”,”call me now”, “Come back to America!” Both waking up to our mothers phone calls saying to get back to America. All I can remember thinking was “Thank goodness we didn’t end up in Prague!”

We look at the flights and everything is starting to fill up. The cheapest flight out of Europe that I found was $3000. 

So what did I do?Yup, I booked a one way $3000 flight to Detroit, Michigan. (Mind you I know NO ONE in Detroit, but it was the only flight that I saw). After that gut punch of me realizing I just spent $3000 on a one way flight to a random state, my mom said that she got through to Delta and that they can change my original return flight for 10am to LAX. 

I was so grateful because I couldn’t make any phone calls due to International charges and long wait times. I was able to get the refund and my sister didn’t have to call her friends in Detroit to pick up a stranded stranger.

We packed up and get to the train station as soon as it opens. The line is long, and it doesn’t open until 6:15. Our train is scheduled to leave at 6:35. When we get to the counter, we find out we are at the domestic train ticket line, we need to go to the international train ticket booth down the hall. We sprint!

 By the grace of God we buy our tickets and make it on the train to CDG with less than 5 minutes to spare. At Charles De Gaulle we go our separate ways and get on our flights back to the United States! 

I have never been more happy to be back in my country than I was on that day. 

My sister booked me a hotel and I quarantined myself for two days. I caught up on my sleep, ordered Room service, Uber Eats and did my laundry. It was exactly what I needed.

Originally I wanted to gypsy around the mainland and go back to live in Seattle until summer, but everything in America started to close down too. I Found a cheap flight and booked a one way back to Hawaii. I even saw one of my friends on my flight back home.

 Definitely not planned…2020 is cancelled.

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