Traveling home during a pandemic

Exactly a week ago we began our journey from Esperance, Western Australia to Perth Airport. It was an 8-hour drive ahead of us and a lot of unknowns. Like, would ANA still be flying that night? Would we actually make it home or would we be stuck indefinitely in a foreign country? What if we caught COVID-19 enroute and worse, what really was left to come back home to? In total it was a 36 hour journey and one we weren't really mentally prepared for.

As we arrived at the airport, we saw people being turned away. Not just turned away but told, "there is nothing we can do for you, we may be closing the airport tomorrow." Instant tears filled my eyes as I watched these words land on each individual differently. However the theme was the same - fear, sadness, rejection. Not knowing how and when you can come home is a scary thing. Not just financially but mentally. It's something you never think will happen to you. But it's a very real thing for many people.

We were next in line and as we approached the ticket agent, our breaths were tight. One bag loaded, with the second following it. Tickets were handed over with a gloved hand and a smile seen by the eyes only. We were enroute to Tokyo, Japan. That part was for sure. The connecting flight to Houston still was not guaranteed, but we had faith. In the lounge, I quickly checked my email and my heart sank. My last client I had hoped would keep their contract was pushing for the FM clause. I really was counting on that guaranteed income to keep things afloat for the next few months. But what could I do? So I wrote the most heart warming email I could at the time, as we're all in this together. Not only my industry crumbled overnight but so did my client's.

You know what doesn't cost anything? Humility and empathy.

Quickly I closed my computer and focused on what I could control. Putting all the positive vibes out there to get home. Luckily our flight was called and within 30 minutes we were in the air on our way to Houston. What a bittersweet feeling. To have saved for a whole year and restructured my business to only turn around and come home almost 7 weeks later. And not just come home, but come home to what feels like nothing. In our household, it felt hopeless to even continue pursuing our careers (hospitality development and floral design for hotels) as they're currently, well dead. However it also felt like a blessing. That we could come home - that we actually have a beautiful and safe place we can call home and to spend more time together. These are truly blessings that many of us, myself included, sometimes take for granted.

We were the second and third person that stepped off the plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. There was not another person insight. Tokyo was empty but to see your own home airport completely dead after multiple international flights this year alone, well that hit home. I fought back tears because it was instantly clear to me. This wasn't media hype, or clients trying to save money or worried friends telling you to come home. This was real and the new normal wasn't anything like the old normal I had left last month.

"Welcome home" the immigration officer smiled as he handed my passport back with a gloved hand. I smiled with my eyes as my smile was covered with a commercial grade mask.

Only one carousel spun with bags. It was from our flight. We rolled out to an empty loading zone and waited for our Uber. "This hand sanitizer cost me $18" our driver shouted as she pointed at it so we could sanitize our hands. For 28 minutes the three of us sat in silence, occasionally making eye contact and adjusting our masks.

On March 24, 2020, as I walked into my home, it felt as if I was walking into a time capsule. Everything was exactly as we left it on February 5, 2020; when we were excited and nervous about walking away and trying a new lifestyle for 6 months, starting with an African safari. Was I making a mistake or being frivolous to just "walk away from it all?" I thought at the time. You know what, as scary as it was to walk away then, it was scarier to come back. Your first thought is, "come back to what?". However that's actually the exciting part.

The struggle is real and my story of disappointment and challenge isn't unique. We all have a story at this point. Every single person on this earth. I had a chuckle this morning as I was whatsapping a Maasai Warrior (you can read more about that here) who lives in the Maasai Mara and is currently in quarantine. COVID-19 has not skipped a single country and there are 193 official members/countries of the United Nations. Let that sink in. COVID-19 has even reached the furthest and remote countries. No one has been exempt.

What this tells us is that we're all connected. And now more than ever, we need to reunite and focus on how we want our future to look like. It will be a new normal and we can build for that just like we did in the old normal. So while anxiety is high, know you aren't alone. Give yourself grace to process and spend your time productively, however that looks for you. Whether that's focusing on your health, self-care, connecting with loved ones virtually or focusing on your career, business and/or cash flow. Do what works for you. Don't feel pressured to be productive and perform. Focus on what it is that you need. For me, I need a lot of self-care and time to strategize for the future. To be honest, I've contemplated retiring from the floral business at some point in the near future as I'm not sure how my industry will recover. Sometimes we have to have those hard conversations with ourselves.

Know this my friend, you are not alone. What's meant for you will find you. After this significant time of uncertainty, quarantine, personal and/or financial struggle, you will come out even better and stronger than before. Life has a funny way of working like that. So don't beat yourself up or agonize over what was or what will be. Rather focus on what you can do now to keep the internal peace. The rest will fall in place. Leave me a comment below if this resonated with you.

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