I wasn’t “stuck” for too long, but here’s my story below
Where are you from and currently where are you stuck?
The UK – I was in Rishikesh just before the lockdown. I was backpacking around India for 2 months, then once I arrived in Rishikesh I decided to stop moving around. I was hearing lots of things about tourist destinations being closed or deserted, and some aggression towards foreigners. I was happy in Rishikesh, so I decided to stop travelling there and see what happened with my country and follow the news updates.
What were the problems you faced so far?
I managed to change my flight home to the 21st of March, then the lockdown was announced to start on the 22nd- so I was very lucky to have rebooked my flight just the day before. I just had to get from Rishikesh to Delhi first. I decided to give myself a couple of days to travel down to be safe, so left Rishikesh on the 19th March. I got a local bus from Rishikesh to Dehli. There were very few people on the bus, and once I boarded, I had to get off, as a man sprayed down the bus with disinfectant. I was also very concerned that I would pick up the virus on my way home and infect my friend -who had kindly offered me his annexe to quarantine in once I had returned to the UK. So I kept a face mask on for the 7-hour bus journey and disinfected my hands frequently. I also avoided drinking for the 9-hour bus journey, as I knew in India there would not be many sanitation options for women, and I did not want to touch any unnecessary surfaces anyway, so I arrived in Delhi very tired and dehydrated.
When getting off the bus in Delhi, I had to fight my way through a crowd of people getting on the bus. The crowd seemed panicked, as they knew this would be one of the last buses leaving the city. I managed to get a Uber to my hostel in Delhi quite easily, but once I arrived at the hostel I was asked if I had a health certificate from the hospital. I said I didn’t, but the man seemed to be more understanding when I told him I would just be spending one night, and that my flight home was the next day.
Once the receptionist knew I had a flight booked home, he just advised that I call my airline to check that I didn’t need a health certificate once I got to the airport. Emirates were very helpful when I rang them and just advised me to come to the airport 3.5 hours earlier in case of any complications.
The day of my flight, however, just before I was about to leave for the airport, the hostel manager seemed very panicked. There was a few of us hanging around the terrace when he kept asking us if our flights were definitely going, and to call and check with the airlines directly, as he did not trust the internet updates of the flights. He said that once we left the hostel, he would not be able to let us back in and that the locals were getting hostile towards tourists, so he didn’t want us to end up on the street.
So just to make sure, I rang the Delhi Emirates office- no answer. I then rang Mumbai- no answer. Feeling more and more anxious I rang my friend in the UK to call the English office. She couldn’t get through to anyone either, but she was put through to an automated service and entered my flight number. The service said the flight was still going ahead (as well as all the internet flight checkers) so I decided to get to the airport ASAP, as I thought there would be a better chance of being put on a flight home if I was already in the airport.
Good things that have happened?
I guess the fact I was able to rebook my flight before lockdown and that my flight wasn’t cancelled!
I was also feeling very scared and anxious (as a very blonde and pale solo female traveller in India haha) but I got a Uber easily to the airport. My driver spoke about 10 words of English, and I told him I didn’t speak Hindi, but he kept chatting to me about his family, his lovely wife, and that he wasn’t scared of the corona. He said that God would take away the bad people with this virus and that he was a good man, so he’d be fine. He was so cheerful and funny, and the fact that he wouldn’t stop talking to me kept my mind from racing with anxiety and dark thoughts, and I was focused on trying to understand him the whole time! The 30 min ride to the airport felt like 2min, and he got me there safe and on time.
Is there any specific person or group of people who have helped you out during this time?
Arpan at Live Free hostel in Rishikesh was incredible, and I was very lucky to be in his hostel when all the news stories of lockdown were kicking off. His attitude throughout was calm, rational, and logical throughout all the craziness. He called around his friends in Delhi when I was planning to go to make sure everything was safe and the buses were still running. He kept us sane through the period of uncertainty by arranging lots of activities that would take us away from the internet signal and would give us a welcome break from the news.
We went rafting down the Ganges, trekking to waterfalls, and he even arranged a ‘pre-quarantine’ birthday for me, as he knew I would be landing in the UK on the day of my birthday. He surprised me with a cake saying “happy birthday in advance Felicity” on it, and look us all out to a restaurant outside of Rishikesh (that served Mojitos!!!) to celebrate the pre-birthday. I was so thankful for this, as my actual birthday was spent in a cold annexe by myself in the dark English countryside haha.
Are you home yet?
If yes, how did it happen Yes I am, I got a flight back through Dubai to the UK, again wearing a mask for 19 hours and not sleeping for about 3 days haha. Once my flight landed there was an announcement on the tannoy for everyone to stay on the plane, as there was a medical emergency in first class. The story goes- everyone got off the plane.
I thought I would be stopped on my way out through customs, or at least temperature checked or told to self-quarantine when I left the airport, but I basically was out of the airport in 30 min, potentially carrying and spreading the virus into the country- well done England!
Once I got to the UK I managed to get an empty train to my to friend’s house (who happened to be my ex- boy friend but had kindly offered me his annexe to quarantine in once I had returned to the UK). I was scared regarding pick up the virus on my journey and infect my friend back home. I did not want to infect my parents so I waited it out there (in a small town just outside London). He had prepared his annexe with tea, a heater, and a bed for me to stay in for 5 days to see if I developed any symptoms of the coronavirus. He also gave me a Himalayan salt lamp to sleep by which I was extra grateful for as I was missing India and was really sad to leave!
After 2 weeks and not experiencing any symptoms, I decided it was safe to see my parents. My parents picked me up and took me back to my home town of Bristol where I am now 🙂
Your favourite memory from this quarantine
Elbow bumping an Argentinian guy I had met in Rishikesh, who I then saw in the airport and was on the same flight as me. We were both so happy our flight was going ahead. He was the last person I was in a cafe (pre-lockdown) with, as we drank tea and spoke English/Spanish (well, Spanglish) while we were waiting for our flights. Again, having this distraction of human communication and language was the perfect antidote to the panic of worry, doubt and anxiety that was going through my mind at the time, and switched off all my racing thoughts for a moment. We kept in touch and were both happy to learn neither of us had any symptoms after our journey home.
I was also weirdly happy to see the WHSmith in the airport lounge of Delhi Airport. At this time I was realising my flight was going ahead, and it was the first English shop I had seen in months!
So – that’s my story, hope it’s useful in some way. Feel extremely lucky, as I know there are many people out there who have been having much more of a nightmare getting home.
And before you ask- no, I’m not back with my ex-boyfriend, so I guess it was another Love Lost Adventure 🙂
Fliss O’Dwyer, 28, English. I left my job as an art director in London last Christmas and started travelling south Asia at the beginning of January. I didn’t even hear about Corona until I was in Sri Lanka. I was in India for 2.5 months before I had to go home at the end of March. I started in Sri Lanka, then went around India through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Hampi, Goa, Mumbai, Rajasthan and ending in Rishikesh. I had planned to keep going to Nepal through Varanasi, with a trip arranged with to see some friends in Abu Dhabi on my way home also. But cutting my trip a month short, I am now back in the UK, freelancing as a graphic designer and art director again.