Traveling at the Beginning of the Pandemic


Elisa Peregrina, Staff Writer

At the beginning of the life-altering occurrence we now know as COVID-19, my boyfriend, Brookdale student Ryan Narine, and I were preparing for a 34-hour trip across the world.

For spring break in March, we were days away from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bali, Indonesia. Some word began to spread about a flu-like virus, but it was all whispers and nothing serious at that point. So, on March 11 we proceeded with our trip as planned. In the airports, a few people were wearing masks and other protective gear, but they were doing this by their own accord.

As for our own judgment, we packed hand sanitizers and Lysol wipes to just stay on top of areas we had to come into contact with. Hand sanitizer was a big must in the few weeks leading up to the trip, as stores began to sell out of them so quickly. We thought that just sanitizing was good enough protection from whatever it was.

Arriving at our layover in the Philippines is when we started to worry a little.

“We were at a Wi-Fi stand when someone passing through started a conversation with us. She said that they were looking to shut down Manila, Philippines where the airport is directly located. It was hearsay, but not knowing how serious it was going to get, I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind,” Narine said.

The Manila airport was one of the only airports that had connecting flights back to the United States.

Finally arriving to the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia on March 13, is when we realized we might run into some hiccups. Talking to our tour guide on our two-hour car ride from the airport, he explained to us how badly the tourism has dropped in the last few weeks. Bali had little to no cases.

Throughout our trip we were keeping up with the news back in the U.S. and on travel. Although it was progressing in severity, it was still nothing too urgent. We were just embracing the paradise of our getaway, as we were pretty isolated from people as well.

The impacts of the pandemic were present as tourism was at an all-time low. Tour guides were desperate for jobs, and that’s all people were mentioning. The last three days of our trip began to alter as tourist attractions such as the zoo and boat rides to Nusa Penida Island closed due to the rising pandemic.

“Being that at the airport, we were told that the airports may be shutting down, I was checking every day for updates on our flight. Thankfully, because on the fifth or sixth day of our trip, I saw that all flights to and from Manila airport were canceled,” Narine said.

We were not even notified by the airlines, so I was in shock. At that point, we were stranded across the world, as we could not get any other connecting flights. The rest of the plans we had for the trip changed, so we just wanted to get on a plane as soon as possible.

I sat up all night on the phone, and we couldn’t switch our flights even with the insurance we paid for on the tickets. We booked a whole new flight home where we left early the next morning, stopped in Tokyo, and last destination – home.

Going through the airports we were both sunburnt and constantly worried that a high temperature would prevent us from entering the US.

We enjoyed our trip and I do not regret it for one second, but the fact that it got cut short, plans changed, and some money got lost, which was unfortunate. Making it home the day the borders shut down for international travel was probably the most relieving. The airport was a ghost town and curfews were in place—our new reality was settling in.