Usually, this is my specialty. I am the queen of finding the best deals and the cheapest flights (unfortunately with the longest layovers sometimes). But I always get where I need to go.
As Covid-19 came, I got totally thrown off-balance!
I arrived to Australia from Berlin with a one-way ticket costing me USD 500. Now, I faced leaving Australia on a one-way flight to Israel for over USD 2000! I did not want to accept this, which is why I waited so long to book my flights.
Eventually, I found some reasonable flights and booked them. I made the decision to go back to Israel. After booking these flights, I felt at ease. I had an end date to this adventure, and a start date to my next one.
Then, I got an email.
My connecting flight from London to Tel Aviv had been cancelled. It was in this moment I realized that trying to find a flight with a European airline during a global crisis, going to a country where Europeans aren’t allowed to enter, wasn’t the best judgement. So I did a little research and saw that El Al, the national Israeli airline, was doing a rescue flight.
SPOILER ALERT, the rescue flight was in 3 days!
El Al was sending rescue flights to get Israelis home just twice a month. And this happened to be the last flight for May. The schedule wasn’t yet posted for June, and my bedroom would soon be gone. I had to think fast. I made a few calls, changed my flight from the end of the month to the next day. Then, I planned a 24-hour layover in London, and booked the rescue flight to Israel for 3 days later. This was the most spontaneous flying I think I’ve ever done.
Time to pack up
Was I ready to leave Australia the next day? Of course not!
In my mind, I still had two more weeks before I was supposed to leave. But due to the circumstances, I saw no other options. I packed up all my stuff and spent some quality time with my roommates before heading off into the sky. All within 24 hours.
This decision took a lot out of me mentally. As I spent a few hours on facetime with my family, panicking, questioning if I was doing the right thing.
I think the most difficult part of this whole thing was to just accept that my dreams of backpacking through Asia had just slipped right out of my finger tips. Instead, here I was preparing to head back home instead.
Australia to London
Now, to start the story of the transition and my travels.
As you can imagine, the airports were quiet. In Melbourne, there was only one flight, from one airline, leaving daily. And that was my flight. I usually make sure to arrive at international flights at least three hours early. But this time, I could have easily gotten away with an hour. There were no lines for security, other than the passengers to my same flight. In Melbourne, Doha, and London, the airport security was very minimal, almost non-existent. The airports were very quiet, meaning a lot of people weren’t working. So passport control was a breeze. I even managed to exit the airport in London to go stay at a hotel. Although I am a backpacker, after traveling 24 hours straight in an airplane, the last place I wanted to sleep on was the airport floor.
There was no real enforcement to wear a mask or gloves in any of these airports or airlines. That is, until I reached the Israelis.
London to Israel
When I got to board my El Al flight, we were told we needed to wear our masks during the entire flight. They repeated this announcement multiple times throughout the flight. When we arrived in Tel Aviv, we were again told to make sure not to take the masks off. Israel was very strict about this pandemic, but I am really proud of how it’s all turned out. There were some checkpoints in the Israeli airport I had to get through. And I am now doing my 14-day isolation in a 5-star hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem.
As I’m sure we all do, I hope international travel becomes more accessible and affordable in the near future. But we have to be patient.
This pandemic is teaching all of us many things. What I’ve taken away from this whole journey in Australia and this far through the pandemic is to stop planning so much.
As travelers, we always want to make sure we get the most out of our trips. We want to go every where, see everything, and subconsciously plan everything out in our minds. But this doesn’t work. Plans change on a daily basis, and as we can all see from the Covid-19 crisis, my brain’s vision board of travel for the rest of my year has gone completely out of the window.
Let’s start a new trend, by being present in each and every moment. Plan minimally, and focus on truly enjoying every chance you get.
We only have one life to live, and we should enjoy it, no matter what the universe throws our way.