The moment of excitement when I looked down from the aircraft to the Lego-sized Hong Kong was hard to forget. Up in the wisps of clouds and pivoting above familiar landscapes, I was buzzing with anticipation. 10 months – it had been 10 months since I’d stepped foot in Hong Kong. I’d made it back home.
With Covid-19 restrictions in place, the journey was not easy. A list of necessary documents was required to get away, including a negative Covid-19 test qualification and a hotel confirmation for my quarantine in Hong Kong. When I landed, I was tested again and had to wait for my results. It was an exhausting wait, especially after a 12-hour flight, but I knew all this hassle would be worth it – I would reunite with my family and friends soon. I couldn’t wait to eat out, taste Asian cuisines, and go to theme parks. However, these rendezvouses would need to linger in my dreams for a while. After the wait, a group of blue men in protective gear transported me to Four Points by Sheraton where I stayed for the next 21 days.
The hotel assigned me a twin bedroom with a sea view. Beyond the giant glass wall separating me from the outside, the sea was limitless. Broad waves rolled out, dancing freely on the surface of the sea, and refracting glimpses of light and joy. I felt confined, though the view suggested otherwise. I didn’t have a twin to share the room with, either, so one bed always remained empty, calling out my loneliness. That loneliness was further exacerbated by being cut off from the world, only able to reach anyone through a MacBook screen. Although today’s technology has made communication possible for those in isolation, I felt undeniably distant. I was alone.
Despite this, I refused to let negativity cloud me. I spent most of my time keeping myself busy, resisting the urge to count down the days, and swore not to be miserable. From dancing, to writing, to gaming, hours went by and, slowly, weeks went by too. Now, looking back, my time in quarantine was a blur. I couldn’t pinpoint the difference between days and nights – it was as if time didn’t exist for those three weeks and I was living by my own rules.
In that little room, the vastness of my universe replaced its interiors. I invented new boundaries and reimagined time. Unfortunately, the fantasising had to stop, and I had to make it back to earth.
The day of freedom arrived sooner than expected. I was so used to being desolated that it’d numbed my senses. I’d forgotten what true freedom was. I’d been so lost in my own imagination that I’d set myself free in it. When I stepped out of the room, I was scared to experience what this foreign freedom was. That step marked my transversal journey from the fantasised to the real world, where I was finally given autonomy. There were no police alerts or eyes watching my every move, no blue men forcefully sticking cotton bulbs up my nose or down my throat. I no longer needed to imagine possibilities, because now, I could make them happen.
At the entrance of the hotel, my father greeted me with a mask on. I couldn’t see his smile, but from his eyes, I could tell he was relieved I’d safely returned. We went to Dragon Inn Seafood Restaurant, where traditional Chinese food was served, because he knew I was yearning to have dim sum again. We ordered my favourite steamed vermicelli roll, dressed deliciously in soy sauce, stuffed with spring onion and Chinese barbeque pork. Then he poured two cups of tea and said, “A toast for you being back safe and sound.” The edges of our china cups clanged together with a crisp clink. Cheers to this perfect abroad getaway – two months at home.
I’d like to preface this with the fact that going on an abroad holiday is one of my number one joys in life. I personally don’t think there will ever be a better feeling than waking up in a country you’ve never been to, having breakfast in the sun, lathering on the SPF 50 and heading down to the beach to explore what the country has to offer.
That being said, I’m a student, which means I am working with very limited funds. Not only
that, but I also have a part-time job, which means taking time off for the potential isolation period after going abroad is an absolute no-go. So, this year I’m opting for a city getaway in sunny London.
Being from the East Midlands, I can count the number of times I’ve been to London on less than one hand. My family staycations growing up were primarily places like Whitby or Cleethorpes, but a Premier Inn in central London is surprisingly a lot cheaper than our usual beloved beach cottages. So, my partner and I are going to take full advantage of our minimal budget and soak in all the things Midlands’ tourists do best in the country’s capital.
Due to our lack of London experience, this trip has the potential to be just as exciting and explorative as a holiday abroad. The city has so much to offer – many attractions such as the National History Museum are free of charge, which is perfect for students like us. Clear, sunny skies are also forecast, so we can walk around the many parks in London and sunbathe on Primrose Hill, just like I would be if I were abroad. We can still get the same sense of exploring a new culture and place by going somewhere we have never been before, even if it is in the UK.
Although I won’t be discovering the beautiful, varied tastes of the foods of someone’s homeland, you will definitely find me visiting the many vegan fast food restaurants apparently rife in the city centre (and dragging my partner to them, too).
Though this trip coincides with what many have coined “freedom week”, I’m hoping this trip will allow for minimal travel concerns. I don’t have to book time off work in case of isolation, even though the normal risk of isolation still applies, and we are within a comfortable distance from home that we feel safe from those potential restrictions. So, hopefully, the only travel restriction to be concerned with is how two non-Londoners get along with the tubes.
While I very much doubt staycations will be my primary way of travelling in the future, I do think this trip will open my eyes to the beauty of the country I am fortunate to live in. This trip will hopefully also slightly satisfy that travelling urge after being stuck inside throughout lockdown. But, as soon as restrictions ease more, and I’m comfortable with travelling, I can assure you – you’ll see me on the next flight out of here.