5 Wild COVID Travel Stories We Can LOL About Now That Global Restrictions Are Easing
What better way to help you through your own trauma than by allowing you to laugh at ours?
This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Aside from the inherent dangers created by the pandemic by just leaving your home, travelling internationally during COVID has to rank a close second. There should be a medal of courage placed on the vests of every brave soul that risked it all to go abroad during ever-shifting, often-confusing global travel restrictions and protocols.
It is said that the ability to laugh at yourself, usually at a safer time in the future, is a virtue. Fast forward to 2022 and we’ve got vaccines, boosters for the vaccines, and even antiviral pills for people who catch COVID-19. The good news is that all of these new discoveries — including the fact you can hold Ottawa hostage for nearly three weeks with tractor-trailers and pickup trucks — have led world governments to confidently ease up on some of the travel restrictions previously in place. Unless you’re unvaccinated of course.
The bad news is that COVID gives zero f*#ks about your travel itinerary, government regulations around travel, your wedding plans, your Eat, Pray, Love moments Under the Tuscan Sun or our general inability to keep up with the threat of more new variants than the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel.
Many of you likely have your own experiences of travelling through a pandemic that has traumatized you in ways you aren't quite ready to laugh at yet. Missed a plane because you screwed up your PCR test timing? Caught COVID in a foreign country and had a civil servant show up at your Airbnb in a hazmat suit to nail your doors shut for quarantine? Stranded on a Disney cruise in the middle of the ocean living out your own personal version of The Hunger Games?
At Narcity, we care about our readers. While commiserating over our own travel mishaps we thought: What better way to help you through your own traumas than by allowing you to laugh at ours? If there’s one thing Jim Carrey has taught the world, the only time falling down a flight of stairs is funny, is when you’re watching someone else fall down a flight of stairs and they don’t die.
Valerie Durocher at a table with many plates of Middle Eastern food in Jordan.Valerie Durocher | Narcity
Escape from Amman
"In March of 2020, before COVID-19 had really hit Canada yet, my best friend and I were on our way to a dream vacation to Jordan and Israel (round trip flights from Montreal to Amman, for $700 was also a dream). On the day we were leaving Montreal, Israel announced that it was closing its borders to tourists. So then and there, we knew we had to cancel our plans for the Israel portion of our trip, and we had to try to find an alternative destination. Turkey became a valid option, as we could buy our visas online and the flights from Jordan were affordable.
"We spent a week in Jordan, and you couldn’t really feel the stress of COVID in the country. My friend and I would spend our evenings just laughing at the memes from back home based on things like the lack of toilet paper in stores, etc. We were heading out to dinner on a Saturday evening when the restaurant hostess asked us, 'When are you leaving Jordan since the borders are closing on Monday?' Even if we thought of going to Turkey, our return flight home was still from Amman. Within five minutes of sitting at the restaurant, we received an email from the airline saying our flight home was cancelled and they were not rebooking us.
"Right after dinner, we dashed to the airport to get to the guest services counter, as the phone line for Jordanian Airlines kept crashing. When we got to the airport, there were thousands of people scrambling to find tickets to get back home. People were walking in the airport with hazmat suits, snorkelling goggles, plastic bags over their clothes, dish gloves — anything they could think of to 'keep safe.' After over an hour in line at the counter, we were told there were no more tickets for any flights leaving from Amman, to anywhere in Europe or North America. We then had to find tickets on our own, through our phones.
"The only option we could find was a 28-hour flight, for $1,500, that left from Amman with several stops along the way to our final destination, Montreal. Antalya, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Munich, Germany; Toronto, ON; Montreal, QC. As we got to each airport, we noticed fewer and fewer people, and when we got to Montreal, the city was a ghost town. The only people at the airport greeted us in hazmat suits and told us to quarantine at home. Even the streets were completely deserted!"
-Valerie Durocher, Brand Communications Specialist
An exhausted Mira Nabulsi wearing a surgical face mask.Mira Nabulsi | Narcity
A no-show at your own wedding
"I had to cancel my flight four hours before take-off because my 'soon-to-be' fiancé and I got our COVID tests back and they were positive. Here's the punchline — it was a week before our engagement party where we were hosting over 120 guests in Dubai, and to make things worse, our guests were already there. We had to cancel the whole thing! Oh, and my dad, stepmom and brother also tested positive at the same time — but in Dubai."
-Mira Nabulsi, Associate Editor, Toronto
Ali Millington post COVID quarantine, finally enjoying Italy.Ali Millington | Narcity
Eat, pray, love, quarantine
"Last fall I took an extended trip to London and Florence and unfortunately caught COVID somewhere along the way. I only realized this once I had a positive result on an at-home test during the second day at my Italian Airbnb. I spent hours trying to do online research. I was on the phone trying to understand what I was supposed to do — was I supposed to alert someone? How long did I have to quarantine for? But there was very little easily translatable information available in English.
"I had to alert my Airbnb host who lived next door, as she had been in the apartment after I arrived. She took it upon herself to call an ambulance for me (I only had mild cold symptoms) and a man in a full-on yellow hazmat suit and PPE knocked on my door. He didn’t speak great English and my Italian was very limited, so ultimately he left after neither of us could figure out why he was there in the first place.
"I then spent a week and a half alone in quarantine in Italy, longing to be able to taste pasta — or go beyond my small patio."
-Ali Millington, Editor-in-Chief
Maïlys Kerhoas wearing a face mask on a flight to France.Maïlys Kerhoas | Narcity
The "no family" family reunion
"I went back to France to see family that I hadn’t seen for two years since immigrating to Canada in 2020 — just one month before the pandemic exploded. I got COVID-19 within just one hour of arriving in Paris. As a result, I had to be isolated for 14 days and couldn’t see my family at all, even after travelling all the way to France to do just that. It was like destiny pulled a prank on me."
-Maïlys Kerhoas, Assistant Editor
Aerial shot of Nassau, Bahamas.Byron Armstrong | Narcity
Singing the blues in The Bahamas
"I was in The Bahamas for two weeks — one week in Nassau with plans to spend another in Freeport, Grand Bahamas — and made sure to get a rapid antigen test done within 72 hours of boarding a plane to the latter. It’s one thing to just get on a plane to one place paying attention to the rules of your country of departure. It’s another thing to have to navigate the rules of the destination country, particularly when they change within the same week.
"You can probably guess where this is going. The only early flight out was at 6:45 and would arrive in Freeport around 7:15. As I was trying to work around my remote schedule — because I hadn’t taken the time off — we woke up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport for 5 a.m. Waking up that early to catch a flight that will only take you 30 minutes to reach your destination is not fun. Making it on time, sitting in the airport for an hour before the boarding desk opens and then being told the COVID test rules had changed to “within 24 hours of your flight,” well, that sucked hard.
"Of course, no testing could be done at the airport and the nearest testing clinic wouldn’t open until 8 am. So, we missed our flight, had to buy new tickets to our destination, and had to book a hotel for one night so we could get tested and get on a flight the same time the next day."
-Byron Armstrong, Opinion & Essays Editor