There is a Rumi quote that has been repeating itself over and over in my mind since last evening. That is when, after 3 attempts, The Department of Home Affairs in Australia finally gave me permission to return to their country and my beloved Mick. (thank you Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison - hope all my tweeting didn't annoy you too much). After months of anguish and unknowing when we would ever re-unite on the same continent, we now have a glowing bright light at the end of what, until now, was a grim and hopeless dark tunnel. We were both feeling sad and defeated. With step one of this journey home to love behind us, now we face the next challenge. Getting there.
The reality is, few airlines are flying to Australia right now. With limited options and routes that would take me through countries that offer no guarantee for my connecting flights, I am going to be relying quite heavily on that wise old sage Rumi when he said,
"Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being. If not, leave this gathering. Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty."
There can be no half-hearted attempt at this. It will involve risk and endurance to be sure. In all my excitement to be able to actually enter Australia, I have given little thought to the biggest risk - contracting Covid 19. When I left for Canada in March, the spread was minimal in Queensland. Precautions were in the early stages. I wore a mask on the plane and avoided using the loo (once in 15 hours was surely some sort of record-call me a camel.) I wiped every inch of my surrounds of the seat at the window (one less person breathing near me I reckoned) with disinfectant wipes, never touched my face, did not utter more than a few words to my seat mates, smothered a sneeze (likely caused by dust) as best I could but even still it was clear that the young man beside me felt threatened and generally did all I could to avoid those evil virus droplets that were possibly floating in that petri dish called a plane.
When I finally arrived at my destination in Ottawa, my friends had driven my car to the airport, tossed me the keys and I drove myself home and quarantined for 14 days. Each of those 14 days I was on hyper alert for the slightest symptom. I was justifiably tired and my nasal passages were bone dry from flying, causing a couple of days of nose bleeding but it passed once moist air restored my airways to normal function. My friends and neighbours delivered groceries to my door and I was able to wander around our 2 acres here alone outside which was a comfort and a blessing. Having lived through this, I have a bit of experience with quarantine.
The next one won't be as cushy. In fact, a little more like solitary confinement with a better bed (I hope). I also isolated prior to leaving last time and will likely do that here again this time. The one thing I don't want is to have to spend any more than 14 days in quarantine once I get to Sydney. Which brings up a whole other issue. Sydney. There is only one airline flying direct into Brisbane (where I want to land) that is available to me but it transits through Taipei. The Taipei layover is over 18 hours and by law, the government there will only allow a layover of 8 hours or less in the airport. That would mean a possible quarantine situation there and that is out of the question - a deal breaker I'm afraid.
Both Delta and United are flying sporadically to Sydney. That means I have to fly from Toronto to either L.A. or San Francisco (unavoidable) before getting on a flight to Sydney where I will spend two weeks monitoring every sneeze or sniffle due to allergies for the slightest sign of worsening. As it stands, the layovers are reasonable - 2-3 hours, but again, that is never written in stone either. What happens if I am stuck in either place for hours or days? It has happened to me before in days long before Covid 19, so it is not an unsubstantiated paranoia. Positive thinking aside, sometimes all the sunny thoughts of smooth sailing don't do a damn thing in reality.
So, let's say I do make it to Sydney in one piece, no fever or cough and the usual jet lag, then what? I finish my quarantine, get tested (I think) and I am ready to head home. But wait - in the weeks leading up to this momentous day, the Melbourne and Sydney virus numbers have escalated and the Queensland state border has remained closed. A likely scenario. I do hope I will be able to apply my Sydney quarantine to re-entry into Queensland, but that is something I have yet to investigate although a "friend of a friend" did it during the last state border closure and they let her go home. I don't mind isolating at home for another 14 days, but I hope I don't have to do the hotel quarantine thing again just because I was in a quarantine hotel in Sydney.
So, there you have it my friends. This first hurdle was indeed just a baby step and if every journey does indeed begin with one step, well, that has happened. In the next couple of weeks, my life will be a blur of details. Closing up the house here, final appointments for this and that, tearful goodbyes and lists, lists and more lists. I could avoid it all and just lay low and wait it out for another six months or a year or longer, but where I ask you ...
...is the "majesty" in that?