It’s a strange world we live in. After the relative normalcy of Hawaii, where, despite the stay-at-home order, we still regularly chatted with our neighbors outside, and many stores and restaurants were still open if modified, it was eye-opening to go travelling around the world and to see how the pandemic is playing out in other cities.
As you’ll recall from my last post, our goal was to move from Honolulu to England. My visa allowed me to enter the UK only between April 24 and May 24, so we had a limited window in which we could travel. Rory’s US visa also expired at the end of June, as did our American health insurance (important to have when one is pregnant!), so we felt compelled to proceed with our moving plans despite the plethora of uncertainties facing us.
In late March, as Hawaii started to implement stay-at-home orders and Rory and I began working from home, we were ecstatic to have found decent flights for all three of us for a measly $1500. That’s about a third as much as they usually cost. Maybe this pandemic won’t be so bad after all, I thought. Maybe we’ll be able to stay under our budget for moving costs. By mid-April, however, Rory, checking the status of our flights, reported that certain legs of the three-flight journey had disappeared from our itinerary. I started feeling nervous. They’ll find other flights for us, right? We’ve paid for the tickets, so we’ll get there somehow, he kept assuring me. But towards the end of April, the whole itinerary was gone. The flights just weren’t running anymore.
I often project a calm demeanor in the face of difficulties, but this stressed the heck out of me. All of our moving plans revolved around actually leaving Hawaii on May 7. What if we couldn’t get to the UK? What if we bought more plane tickets, only to have them disappear too? Rory called United Airlines multiple times, but the best they could do was get us on terrible flights that would end at London’s Heathrow Airport. We considered various ways of getting north from London to Dumfries (where Rory’s parents live), or Edinburgh (the airport closest to them). Neither a seven-hour train ride nor a six-hour drive sounded appealing after two days of flying. We thought about buying a plane ticket with a different airline just from London to Edinburgh, but we didn’t want the hassle of gathering and re-checking our many suitcases and paying for them a second time either. What to do?
We bought new plane tickets, that’s what. The options were limited by this point, and a four-flight, 35-hour journey with American Airlines was the best we could get. Instead of $1500, (which was not refunded) it now cost closer to $4000. There was no guarantee that these flights would run either, so we just crossed our fingers and kept packing.
|Our house in it's mostly-emptied state.|
With our luggage on the airport curb, I looked around at the familiar surroundings one last time. Half-completed parking garage up ahead, confusing green road signs indicating the way to Honolulu and Waikiki, and palm trees lazily swaying in the distance. It looked as I remembered. Except that everything else was different. No cars weaving in and out of lanes, no people hurrying to the check-in counters, no garish aloha shirts worn by tourists with lei (flower necklaces) around their necks. It was desolate. Rory pulled out a camera to capture the complete lack of activity. Instead of the usual excitement tinged with sadness that I often felt at this curbside at the start of a journey, I felt hollow, afraid. We were alone.
In Part 2 of this post, we’ll share about our journey through the Honolulu, Los Angeles, Dallas, and London Heathrow airports.