We thought we were safe, but then it happened and just like that, it was over.
Just over a month ago, my wife and I were in Buenos Aires, on the trip of a lifetime. A few days after arriving from Patagonia, the government announced extra strict measures to prevent what was happening in Italy. There were already fewer people in the streets before but after that, businesses were closed, domestic travel disrupted and almost all flights to and from Europe and Asia were cancelled.
This effectively put an end to our trip, a trip that we’d wanted to do for over 10 years. In our hostel, other travellers became anxious as they tried to get updates from their embassies to know what was happening. It seemed unreal.
That night, the owner gathered everyone into the common room then explained slowly and solemnly what was happening in Argentina, what the hostel was doing and that guests wouldn’t be allowed to leave after the lockdown started unless to leave for the airport.
The gravity of the situation started to dawn on us. Wow, our South American trip has ended. We started looking at the remaining flights to leave as soon as possible. There was only a handful, and they were the most expensive non-direct economy flights I had ever seen in my life. There was even a flight from Buenos Aires to London via São Paulo in economy class for more than $7,000!
With nothing within our budget, we decided to extend our stay so that we could hopefully find a flight that we could afford. Not having any control of the situation made me feel helpless and anxious. But instead of letting that beat me, I started thinking about what I had gone through before when I was broke and starting again from the bottom.
You can be the most talented, the most good looking, the most intelligent person in the world. But without the right attitude, none of that will help you deal with the tough times. So I laughed, focused on what was in my control and was grateful that it wasn’t worse.
I couldn’t tell the coronavirus to stop or for the borders to reopen but I could keep looking for a way back home. So the next few days were spent doing just that. At one point, I even imagined becoming an Argentinian resident if I couldn’t return home, with the ability to expertly prepare yerba mate, tango and eat high-quality steaks for the rest of my life.
By this point, some of the other guests had had their flights cancelled 3 to 5 times which didn’t improve anyone’s confidence. The most difficult part was the uncertainty. Could we even leave? Will we have enough money to continue staying if we couldn’t leave within the next few days? What if we got kicked out like how some travellers were in Peru?
After several days, we finally managed to get flights back. But it wasn’t until several cancellations, changes to the flight route and almost getting stranded in Chile were we able to return.
Even though our trip ended early and we had to go through that experience, I’m grateful. We met kind souls that helped us, established new friendships, are safely back with a roof over our heads, and not starving in the streets.
Right now, we’re in lockdown but I’m focusing on what I can do. I can still go out for exercise or buy groceries. I can read all the books that I always wanted to but didn’t have time to before. I can focus on developing my skills and giving the best I can to my clients. I can stay home, watch TV and save lives that way.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Viktor E. Frankl
When times are tough, we tend to look at what’s difficult or impossible. But there’s always something you can do and sometimes, that’s all you need.