On the day Qantas re-opened International flights after 2 years of Covid, I faced a major dilemma. My shower kept blocking up. I could fix it with one of those rubber suction squashy things, but I knew that I should probably call the plumber. Then there’s the dodgy drain-pipe that probably should be replaced at some stage. I looked at the $1800 lounging in a bank account named “Emergencies.” Then I looked at the Qantas site. Return to London via Darwin $1750. Done! Booked… the plumbing can wait.
That was 6 months before I was actually due to make the trip. That gave me 6 months to drive myself nuts imagining every single disaster that would befall this crazy woman heading on a 6 week trip to a Covid infested country like the UK, where even Boris was having parties at Downing street while Britain was under lock-down!! When I told family and friends of my plans to travel in England and Scotland, there were a number of reactions. The knowing look of ” Ok this confirms it. She’s totally mad.” or the ” She’ll come to her senses and cancel.” or a sweet murmur of ” Oh that’s great. I hope all goes well.”
Remember. this was still the time when International Vax Certificates were an idea but nobody could find them online. You also couldn’t travel unless you had a negative PCR test result 72 hours before boarding, And so, with 6 months to spare, my anxiety went into overdrive and I would be sleepless in Seattle- make that Melbourne, for most of the next 6 months. I worried about EVERYTHING… every tiny detail. I checked and rechecked every booking. If there’s a tracking system on the Government’s Smart Traveller website they would have seen a person somewhere in country Victoria (me) checking the site for updates every day, sometimes 4 times a day and regularly at 3am.. the witching hour!
But I knew I had to go overseas. This was so much more than a holiday. It was a way of reconnecting with that part of myself that wants to be in control of my life..to have agency and feel capable of living fully after 2 years of being isolated, lonely, frightened and responding to government directives of how I needed to live these very precious years of my 70’s. I needed to feel agile, capable and happy again.. and all I had was a Qantas ticket and a suitcase full of fear and anxiety when I stood at Melbourne airport, 6 months later.
So what were these fears that I had to make friends with?
- You’ll Get Covid. It’s everywhere. You’ll get sick and have to isolate in a dingy hotel room somewhere in the UK, away from family and friends. You may even need hospitalisation. You may die! All possible but none of this happened. I’ve had 4 Covid shots. The last booster was a week before I left for the UK. I never once got sick; in fact, walking 10-15kms a day made me fit and well and solved the high BP I was having before I left. I was also careful and wore a mask on the tube, public transport and in lifts . I didn’t go to concerts or stage shows or places where people were tightly packed. I had great health insurance cover if I did get Covid and I stayed in most hotels/ cottages for at least a week to minimize my exposure. In the UK there is very little mention of Covid. People are travelling abroad and London was packed with international tourists. Its summer and Covid is not mentioned in the media. It was not on my radar except in public transport where I was usually the only person wearing a mask!
- You’ll run out of money. Prices have gone up 20% in the UK. Everything is super expensive. True. Things are expensive. When you see a GBP sign .. double it for Oz dollars and if you still want the dress, up market hotel, lunch at Fortnum and Mason’s etc then do it. Some days I bought delicious salads and chicken from Marks and Spencer and had a picnic in the park for my main meal. At other times I ate pricey but wonderful food in posh restaurants. In Scotland seafood is wonderful and not expensive. Hotel rooms cost between $A150 – $350 a night. B and B’s are much cheaper. A week in a lovely Yorkshire cottage cost around $700 for the week and I cooked my own food. London and Edinburgh are expensive. Country pubs are mostly fabulous and we ate some wonderful fish in Scottish pubs..and not just fish n chips. Generally, food is much better quality and cheaper in the UK than in Australia..there’s also more variety on the shelves too.
- The cat will be in a cattery for 6 weeks. She’ll die of heartache and loneliness She was absolutely fine and looked the picture pf health after 6 weeks of cattery care. However. I nearly had an aneurism when I collected the bill for her 5 star cat resort! ($860) I think I’ll get a house sitter next time.
- If you leave your car in Long term parking at Melbourne airport for 6 weeks it will be a)stolen or b) scratched and damaged or c) the battery will be dead and it won’t start or d) you’ll be declared bankrupt because of the parking fees. None of the above happened, Parking for 6 weeks was $300 and the car started first time.
- You’ll have to spend ages being tested, having vaxx certificates checked and it will be a hassle not a holiday There was no testing requirement in the UK. I did hear from some travellers who did a cruise along the Danube that they were required to have a PCR test EVERY DAY! So check out the fine detail. Nobody, anywhere checked my vaxx certificate. There were no delays except a 5 hour delay getting the flight out of Melbourne. I took public transport everywhere in the UK.. if trains / subway is late by 15 minutes you can apply for a compensation payment for inconvenience with the transport authority!! Do you want to know the biggest pain in the whole trip? The Australian government requires that you complete an online Digital Passenger Declaration before you get a flight home. It’s dreadful. The detail required, scanning documents etc. You need to be tech savvy. They do employ 3 people in smart suits and stony faces to help less tech savvy Qantas customers at Heathrow fill out the dreaded Digital Passenger Declaration. As a general rule allow extra time at the airport..just in case… but I never had a problem with trains, flights, tour buses, Heathrow Express, cabs, or the underground.
It’s so easy to talk yourself out of an adventure. You might try to fight your fears with logic and reasoning. But fears operate on an emotional level. Sometimes all you can do is stuff the whole darned lot of fears, anxieties and what-if’s into the suitcase along with a few covid test kits (unused), a few masks and some good walking shoes…. book that ticket and get out there….!