Traveling during the Pandemic

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We are living through uncharted territory. The world is changing and so are we. 

I could write for hours about how I feel about this and how stressful and sad it has been, however, I am just going to focus on one side of this tragedy: travel!!! After all, I write mostly about travel.

So, Covid19 has changed my life in many ways, but the first situation that I felt losing control and have been affected was having my holiday canceled.

I don’t want to sound insensitive, or anything, but the truth is, I haven’t properly traveled in a long time. The last trip I had was to Japan (well, not really counting UK, Portugal, or Ireland because it just feels like home and not a real exploration).

After all, I had a baby!!! And life got seriously busy. So busy that I didn’t even take maternity leave, and after one week of giving birth, I was back working nonstop. 

Not only have I been working on so many different projects, improving my own company, I was also studying, including an intensive course with Barca Universitas and all this while looking after a baby 24/7 and by myself with no help, so traveling had to stay on the side for a little.

However, I have decided that March will be it. I so needed a break and wanted to spend some quality time with my baby. 

So organized myself and took a couple of weeks off. Now I only need to choose a destination, I thought.

All I cared for was that I would go somewhere hot, direct flight as no way will be doing any stopovers with a baby, a good airline, a destination that wasn’t tooooo exciting as I genuinely needed mostly to rest not going around checking everything during 18h of the day and a damn sexy hotel with private beach. Those were my requirements! 

And I found it: I chose Qatar, traveling with Qatar Airlines, which is one of my fav, and staying at an absolutely stunning palace hotel at Pearl Island. 

I cannot even explain how excited I was. 

Not only because I was finally getting back to my biggest passion, but because this trip was extra special: I was taking my 6-month baby to his 4th country and first-ever intercontinental trip. 

I went a bit over the top and bought him a bunch of summer clothes and all sorts of summer stuff you need for a holiday. 

3 weeks before the trip, we were ready. And mostly packed. 

I had a huge countdown sign on top of our bed so every day when I went to sleep I could see how many days we had left for our adventure. 20 days I remember. We only need another 19 sleeps and we will be boarding the plane to take us to the sunshine. 

Guess you got the picture of how big of a deal this was to me. 

Anyway, as the big day came closer, so did the concern. And slowly the panic … 

One of my sisters also booked a trip for the same dates as we did, and we would spend hours everyday checking with each other the possibility of having the trip canceled. Because just like me, my sister desperately needed a break too. 

And the week finally arrived. I was scheduled to travel on Friday, and it was Monday. 

My sister got the terrible news, all flights have been canceled to Morocco. She could no longer go on her trip. 

Then Tuesday came, and it was my turn:

Flights to Qatar have been canceled for foreigners, only Qatari will be allowed in. 

We were heartbroken. I never really had a trip canceled before. And surely not a trip I so needed. 

But because of other issues that were happening in my personal life, I really felt I needed to go somewhere and not be at my place. So Tuesday night I booked a trip to Cape Verde for that same Friday. I couldn’t sleep. The anxiety and the problems piling up… 

Some friends started to warn me, “Be careful Emma, you might get stranded there” and I was like… “I don’t mind. Anywhere but here!”

 But next morning I realized that trip wasn’t going to happen either. Flights were canceled to Cape Verde and they closed their borders too. 

However I wasn’t ready to give up. It’s Wednesday night and I do my last try. UAE is still open and seems fine. I booked another flight, Dubai this time, “Emirates here I come”, I shyly told myself over and over again, almost like a mantra, as I needed to believe it would happen. And if we get stranded or need to be in quarantine?? No worries, I am taking my laptop and we can always work from there. I don’t care. I just need to go. The flight was supposed to happen Friday morning, so 2 more sleeps I thought. 

And so I woke up Thursday morning and was presented with the bad news. 

Dubai wasn’t going to happen either. All canceled and borders closed. 

And that was the moment I gave up.

To make it even worse, at the same time my flights to Portugal, that I have booked previously as I was supposed to fly to Portugal after the trip to the Middle East, were also canceled. 

You might laugh at me if you find out how many more flights I booked to Portugal after this and how many of them were canceled. 

And here I was. Stranded in the UK, in a house I had to vacate pretty soon and with the bad news that the new development I was supposed to move in, wasn’t going to get ready on time.

 My own country had closed its borders and suddenly I was stuck. No holidays. No home. No chance to flee to my home country. And worried about getting sick with a little baby that depends on me. 

Eventually, I managed to get a flight that seemed safe, as Portugal was accepting Portugueses stranded around the world, so I got all my belongings in storage and left the house I’ve lived in for the past 4 years. This flight can’t be canceled, I thought,  because if it is, I am now homeless as I don’t have a house to go to. Very stressful moments.

After 2 days of no sleep, and packing all my belongings, I was lucky to have a good friend of mine offering to help me by driving me to Heathrow at 3am. And on top of that, miraculously BA let me pass with A LOT of my belongings, yall, I was carrying 7 bags. No jokes, 7 pieces of luggage AND a baby, by myself.

 Being at the airport was surreal. 

No queues, no people, everything closed down. And me, trying to get my ass on a plane with my wonderful kid that was just curious and wouldn’t sleep – I am pretty sure he loves airports already. 

Waiting to check-in

Eventually we managed to board and was pleased to see that not only the plane wasn’t full, which I was worried about, they clearly made sure that there would be space between the passengers. Also, most people were using masks and trying to stay apart.

Bebe behaved super well and enjoyed our flight, and once again there was no crying, so proud of him. Less than 2h later, we arrived in Lisbon, as it was the only destination I could fly to Portugal and then the real difficulties began. I was now “wearing” my baby, had to go through immigration, collect all my luggage and find the baby’s pram … which eventually I did. 

And then I saw the weirdest thing ever. I left the security checkpoint, and walked out to the arrivals area, and was greeted with something I’ve never experienced once leaving the airport: utter silence.

I cannot count every single time I have done this, leaving through the arrivals at the airport… it should be in the 1000s by now. It didn’t matter if it was in Europe, Oceania or in Asia, Americas or Africa, if it was morning, evening or middle of the night, but every time I pass the arrivals, there would always be hundreds of people, families waiting for their loved ones, drivers holding big cardboards with names on it as they try to collect their passengers, sometimes even someone trying to “help you” carrying your luggage or some unsavory looking people offering to drive you out of there claiming to be taxi drivers… Well, all sorts really. And here I was. In the terminal area. And it was empty. There was no one, and I mean no one there. So surreal. 

I now wish I took a picture, but I was so shocked and rushed to get into the train station to get the train to Porto that didn’t even save the moment digitally speaking because, in my memory, it will be there: the time I was in a ghost airport and it felt like something out of a sci-fi movie 

Gladly outside was a different story. There were more taxis outside than people inside the airport. I had to get a van taxi because of the amount of luggage I had and spent the 10 min drive to the train station chatting with the cab driver and he confessed that business was terrible because there were literally no flights. Lisbon airport went from having hundreds of flights per day to have 7 flights a week. Yes, PER WEEK. So he was glad that he could drive me to Orient Station.

Waiting for our train

And then I was ready to get into the next stage of my trip: the fast train that connects Lisbon and Porto, the Alfa-Pendular, only a 3h trip but longer than our flight. 

It was a bit of an adventure, as the train only stops for a couple of minutes, and we had to find our carriage and get all the luggage in. I was lucky to have a couple of gentlemen helping and even like that, I almost left the luggage behind. 

I was impressed how CP (“Comboios de Portugal” which means Portuguese trains) were organized and empty (a lot of people wanted to get in but they were very strict and only 30% of passengers could use the transport as it was required to have a line of seats empty between passengers and only family could seat together. 

Once again the trip went well and Bebe behaved and didn’t cry once. He loved it actually.

Bebe loving the train ride

And then, after hours on the go, we finally arrived to Sao Bento station in Porto, where my mum and dad were waiting for us, and what a relief. To have help. To not carry all that luggage by myself. And being able to hug my family again. Romeo was in cloud 9. So very happy. And off we went home. 

It’s so good to be in Portugal and I will definitely stay around until it is safe to return to the UK. So expect the next few posts to have a Portuguese feeling =)

Stay safe everyone. 


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