I’ve just arrived back home to London from a very bizarre island holiday.
Why Did We Decide to Travel?
We’d been planning for a trip to Maui for more than twelve months. It was the highlight of our five-year work and holiday calendar. An annual convention, organised in five different, rotating locations was taking place there. It’s fair to say that Maui is the highlight of this rotation.
But a week ago, the coronavirus was already spreading through Europe. California (our layover was in San Francisco) was also affected. I had just returned from Finland, which had very few cases, but the authorities were already planning for a large-scale pandemic.
Even though it was difficult to decide whether to travel halfway around the world or not, neither of us wanted to miss the wonderful opportunity to see and experience Hawaii. And we kept receiving daily assurances from the organisers of the convention that it was going ahead. So, finally, just a few days before we were due to travel, we decided to make the trip.
Having made the trip, and after being detained by US Immigration in San Francisco, you can imagine how delighted we were to arrive in Maui after the long journey. However, on the morning after our arrival, the whole event was cancelled. Five days of seminars, events and talks, to be attended by nearly 3,000 people, would not go ahead. I’d miss the highlight of the event to me: a talk by the women’s empowerment activist, Gena Davis. (And the star of Thelma and Louise)
Jetlagged, confused and stunned, we tried to make sense of the message from the CEO of the organisation. Together with some 200 other convention-goers, we were already on site. We’d travelled for 24 hours to get there.
Two other colleagues from the Englishman’s organisation were there.
When we got in touch with some of our counterparts, we found that attendees from California, Canada, and Australia were also either en route or already in Maui. This was a bonus: a limited business meeting with those that were present went ahead. We were able to spend some quality time with these people – our friends – who we only get to see once per year. (There were some exotic cocktails involved as we drowned our sorrows).
What To Do Now?
We soon faced the difficult decision on what to do with the rest of the time in Maui. There was no guidance from any government, but it was soon apparent that the spread of the virus was much more rapid and serious than it was when we’d left the UK.
I began plotting a Pros and Cons spreadsheet (I’m like that).
In pros, life in Maui was idyllic. To some extent, we felt completely isolated from the events unfolding across the world. It felt the best place to weather the storm of COVID-19. We’d booked and paid for an Airbnb villa for the post-convention holiday anyway. So why not stay as planned?
In the Cons, there was one important consideration.
The Englishman felt he needed to return to the UK. He runs an organisation linked to the construction industry. With lockdowns happening all over the world, and building sites being closed, he was keen to get back so that he could support his fire-fighting staff and manage the many great health and financial challenges that this virus is presenting to the industry.
Soon it also became quite apparent that travel restrictions would be in place a lot more rapidly than anyone had anticipated.
The cost of cancelling the holiday part of our stay was another worry. So when Airbnb announced that they’d offer full refunds for holidays booked for 14 March to 14 April, I felt it was a sign. (I love Airbnb even more now!)
Maui Isn’t Easy To Leave Behind
Still, it wasn’t easy to make the decision to leave the holiday island behind. I loved Maui. It’s relaxed, people are incredibly friendly. It’s very warm and sunny. There are whales to spot at sea. We fell asleep with our windows open while listening to the waves crash into the beach and caught the same surf while swimming in the ocean. There were some stunning sunsets. We drank some amazing cocktails. To say life in Maui was idyllic is an understatement.
Many times we wondered if indeed Maui was the best place for us to see out the international emergency. The island still has very few cases compared to other places around the world, and their response to the COVID-19 outbreak seems more professional than elsewhere.
And many, many people staying at the hotel felt we were being alarmist. As we were preparing to leave, new holidaymakers were arriving. They were taking advantage of the reduced rates the hotel was offering.
Back in London
Today, however, I am very pleased we are back home in London. I woke to the news that California is ordering its population to stay at home and that Maui is closing restaurants and bars, with only essential travel allowed. There have even been demonstrations at the airport in Kahului, telling tourists to go home.
Now I’m not certain we would have been able to leave the island if we postponed our departure any further. As idyllic as it was in Maui, if you’re sick, or your nearest and dearest are in danger of falling ill, the last place you want to be is away. Thousands and thousands of miles away with a ten-hour time difference to boot.
Now we are back, we’ve been advised that in order to try to protect others from possible infection and to avoid the virus, we should self-isolate for 14 days. This is no problem for us. As a writer, I’m used to working from home, as is the Englishman. (Mind you, it’s only been less than 24 hours 🙂 ) I believe London will soon be on lockdown anyway. Schools across the UK will be closed from Monday and public transport is being limited.
Keep Safe and Well
I hope you have been entertained by my bizarre holiday to Maui. I do hope, however, that you are safe and keeping well. As a writer, I would like to point out that reading can offer incredible comfort: it reduces anxiety and makes us feel more accomplished and even happier. Many eBook retailers, such as Scribd are offering 30 days free subscriptions. Scribd includes millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazine articles, and more. You can get this offer through this link. (There’s no credit card or commitment required.)
Scribd’s Library includes all of my books, just go here to see the selection.