It’s been a strange seven days. So strange I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the world we live in as I sat here at Manchester Airport. Yes, you read right… Manchester. It’s not my final destination as part of this 36-hour journey and is only part of the contributions to the oddities of the last week.
I’m currently three-quarters of the way through a four-leg journey across the world from Adelaide to the small island of Madeira in Portugal. The trip has taken me via Brisbane, Dubai, and Manchester before the last flight to the island they call, ‘The Hawaii of Europe’.
Okay so rewind a little. Australia has a ban on international travel and even on lots of domestic travel so it may seem a bit strange that I am en route to Portugal. I applied for a travel exemption based on the fact that I am usually a non-resident of Australia and have been for in the last two years. I also have a German passport, which means I have EU citizenship. Basically, I legally had the right to leave Australia but as the border security kindly let me know as I left Brisbane, coming back won’t be straightforward. She told me they are letting 30 people return per day (sounded underwhelming) and a mandatory hotel quarantine at my expense (several thousand dollars) would be a likely outcome should I return to Australia given the current situation. I smiled midway through her spiel said, ‘So I’ve heard’. And off I went.
I actually thought long and hard about this trip. Normally, there isn’t much to consider. Want to visit Switzerland? ‘Off you go, enjoy yourself! See you in a few months’. But in 2020 you need to play life like a game of chess. For the last four years, I’ve lived one month at a time. Now I find myself trying to calculate my moves for a year down the track. What will be the impact of this move on my life in one year? That is the kind of forward planning, not as necessary this time last year. You start to wonder if you are consensually banishing yourself from Australia. You wonder if you are heading into a more precarious COVID zone compared to down under (currently).
On the other hand, I watched the strict rules implemented in Australia and New Zealand and wondered if I would be able to live my life with the choices and freedoms I had become accustomed too. Was I going to be stuck in Adelaide until 2023? It wasn’t something I was complaining about, I was enjoying Adelaide. But my instincts told me to take this opportunity while it was available. In 2020 I take nothing for granted and my motto has become, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’.
So that’s how I ended up on a bunch of planes, a mask covering my face, being served plane food by a flight attendant who was dressed like an astronaut. I’m headed to the island of Madeira, where I’ll stay for the next few months. I picked this island based on a few hikes and its reputation as being known as the ‘Hawaii of Europe’. It isn’t the first time I’ve blindly committed to a location for an extended period of time and I haven’t regretted it in the past. Time will tell.
The second odd part of this week was an injury. For the past five months, I’ve enjoyed a rigorous training block. Basically, I’ve been training like a very amateur cyclist and runner enjoying 150km+ of riding a week and 30km+ of running. My body held up and I put a lot of time into the recovery, gym, and maintenance that is involved with that type of schedule. It was fun, but I never let myself take it for granted or go too hard. I’ve dealt with far too many depressing long-term injuries throughout my life to knowingly overload my body. So I trained consistently, meticulously planning any increase in distance, incline, or intensity.
Almost knowing I was about to head off to a trail running Mecca and hiking heaven, my body produced Achilles tendonitis five days before I left. I was surprised my body had given my five months in a row. So instead of enjoying a few days off as I traveled, I now endure an aching pain in my Achilles as I carry my luggage through the airports wondering if it’s a two-week, two-month, or year-long recovery. I’ll deal with it either way. I’m well-rehearsed at quickly dropping the emotional ties to any fitness goals, grand plans, or a list of trail runs I had in mind. It’s painful but also amusing at how quickly your goal can go from running a marathon in the mountains to being able to do a 2-kilometer walk along the beach. Life changes quickly, sink or swim. With two decades of surgeries and long-term injuries, I’ve become a good swimmer.
Best case scenario, I’m back by the end of the month enjoying the trails. Worst case scenario, I will be enjoying swimming (literally) in the waters of Madeira.
The final part of this weird week was just navigating the seemingly endless paperwork, rules, restrictions, and tests that are required for travel. Each airline I flew with and each country I transited in required a sign-up form, downloading an app, printing out paperwork. I left with a folder full of papers and approached each border security and check-in desk with a degree of nervousness.
I was required to have a COVID test within 72 hours of my departure. So two days in advance I went and got my test. Of course, on the day I am meant to depart, my results aren’t back to me, even after 55 hours of waiting. I actually typed out the huge debacle but decided not to waste your time. Just imagine an absolute shambles of doctors’ meetings, kicked out of the doctor, let back into the doctor, forms being faxed, rules being broken. All of this while trying to enjoy a latte and a vegan wrap across the road at Argo Cafe. Life is chaos. That’s the shortest version possible of that story. 5 days later and I still haven’t received my COVID results from the official source…
That was the tip of the iceberg in terms of dealing with all of the insane rules and restrictions. Some make sense, some do not. I just try and navigate them and live my life. As I step onto my first flight. I take a deep breath, I’m off and away.
By the end of my third flight, a strange feeling comes over me. It’s strange but familiar. I remember the old me, I can sense the adventure and it feels right. I wasn’t expecting a wave of emotion, this travel almost felt a bit numb compared to trips in the past. However, three flights in there it was.
So that’s what is going on right here right now as I type this on my final layover at Manchester Airport. However, earlier in the week, Josh and I had one last Adelaide adventure with three days of hiking in Deep Creek Conservation Park. Never a bad moment with Josh and the scenery was not bad either. Here’s my favorite spread of the photos we shot down there and if you can’t tell, we had a side focus shooting some boots and a backpack for Kathmandu while we enjoyed the expiration of the coastal Heysen Trail.
Next week I’ll be coming to you live from Portugal so let’s see how it all unfolds. But whatever the conditions may be or whatever life throws my way, all I’ll ever ask from myself is to swim and swim hard.