When the news of the Coronavirus illness broke, I was in Greece. I didn’t take it seriously; it was only in China. I was naive and brushed it off. Fast forward to two months later and it has changed the world and life as we know it. The first thing to write off about this virus was that it wasn’t necessarily life threatening, only to a small group of people. This is probably what fed into people not taking it so seriously. It is the fact that there is no vaccine for it yet and it is extremely contagious.
So, I went on with my travels. I didn’t think much of it. For a while, I was staying in Split, Croatia, where the virus hadn’t hit yet. There were a few cases in the northern capital city of Zagreb, but other than that, it hadn’t touched the coast. As of now, it still hasn’t. I thought that I was safe there. My mentality was that it’s safer to just stay in Split than to travel and come home on a plane with other travelers carrying God knows what.
Here we are now. It’s March 21st, ten days after coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Things are changing rapidly in the world now. Just a few days ago, President Trump announced that flights to and from the European Union would be restricted and that only US citizens and residents would be allowed to enter the country. Now, there are rumors that the US borders will close to everyone. Nobody goes in. Nobody goes out. No matter what type of passport you’re holding.
As of three days ago, I had every intention to stay in Croatia and ride this out as long as I could. Then that news came out and I got scared. It was time to come home. Not only was I all alone in a foreign country with absolutely no friends, but there was also the fear of getting sick over here. For so long I tried to stay brave and wave off the seriousness of it. “It’s nothing I can’t handle,” I would say to people who asked me how I was doing.
I feel like I have failed. I tried so hard to stay brave and positive that I would be able to get through this hard time. I’ve given in to my fear, though. I’m trying to get home to be with my family and somewhere I’m familiar with.
It isn’t easy to get home right now. My plan was to take a bus from Split to Zagreb, then fly out of Zagreb to Brussels and then New York the next day. It was a 10 am bus. I was waiting at the station along with other people. The bus was sitting there for a good 20 minutes, but they weren’t letting anybody on. Maybe they were just delayed. I sat and waited. Then when 10 am rolls around, the bus leaves without anybody on it.
I went to the information desk and was informed that the government had canceled all buses going to different cities in Croatia. My heart sank. How the hell was I going to get to Zagreb? My body panicked while my mind tried to stay logical and figure out how to get out of this situation. I was going to do everything in my power to get home.
Now, Zagreb is about a 4-hour drive away from Split. I looked at an Uber, but it would have cost more than the ticket to get home would. I looked at flights from Split to the US, but they had two or more layovers and I didn’t want to risk having one of those flights get canceled. So, I found the last flight from Split to Zagreb that left in just 3 hours. With all of my belongings with me, I called an Uber and arrived at the airport just half an hour later.
There were no cars in the parking lot. The road going up in front of the airport was closed. It was desolate. I asked my driver if it was open, but he didn’t understand. So, I got out and walked up to the dark building. The large glass doors opened for me and revealed a large atrium, empty, save for two employees working behind the check-in counter. I was the only traveler there. Even the escalators were paused.
I walked up to the desk, flustered. The attendant stayed calm as I told her my situation and asked if the flight was still scheduled. She said that it was. I tried to ask about my flight for tomorrow from Zagreb, but she couldn’t tell me for sure. She did reassure me that there would be daily flights between Zagreb and Split. Worse comes to worst, I would fly back to Split and stay here as long as possible.
I was the only one at security except for the one security officer to check my bags. Walking through the doors to the gate, the seats were completely empty. As I stood in front of the rows of empty black chairs I felt myself start to cry. Now that I was in this situation, I could see just how serious it all was. Just how much this pandemic has affected our world.
I sat down and took a breath, praying that this flight wouldn’t be canceled. As I sit here, a few more people show up, but we are separated row by row, waiting to board the plane that still is not here. Now, I pray that my flight to Brussels is not canceled. It isn’t operated by United, who is flying me to New York. With new protective measurements in place, I’m not sure if this flight will still be able to leave Croatia starting tomorrow morning.
Right now, I’m putting all of my trust and faith in the Universe to put me exactly where I am supposed to be. If I’m meant to stay in Croatia for a little longer, then so be it. Clearly, my work here is not done. If I’m meant to go home and be with my family, then everything will work out as planned.
Traveling is always an adventure. There will always be hiccups. This one is just a little bigger than most. I can confidently say that this experience has not turned me off from traveling whatsoever. In fact, it’s made me a more capable and confident traveler itching to get back out in the world once this is all over.