Exactly one day after our last blog post, in which we spoke about our difficulties getting to the trail head and our worries about Coronavirus, America closed its borders to everyone who has been in Europe within a 14 day window. On Thursday morning, as had become the norm for me since January, I woke up and immediately opened the news app on my phone to check for the latest updates. I had to read the headline multiple times, and the article at least twice, before the reality set in. Our journey was about to get very difficult.
I woke up Jules and told work I wasn’t coming in. We had some serious decisions to make. Could we make it to America before the ban took effect? Was there another way we could get there? We had a few options: we could have dropped everything and got the next flight out, allowing us to arrive before the borders closed. But, last minute flights were in excess of €2,000 each, and the reality was we simply weren’t ready. Not only were we leaving for the PCT, we were also leaving our home permanently (our plan was to move to New Zealand after the hike). Both Jules and I felt it was too much to do on a day’s notice, particularly in terms of saying goodbye to everyone.
The other option was to fly to a third country (the UK was exempt from the travel ban), self-isolate ourselves for 14 days, then fly to the US. But, that also required a swift exit, and also came with considerable uncertainty. It was entirely possible that whilst we were self-isolating, America would extend its travel ban to include the UK as well. We decided this was too risky, and this decision was justified on Sunday when the UK was subsequently included.
And just like that, we had to let go of our dream. For now. It’s fair to say that there were plenty of emotions going through our heads. But at the same time, we had other decisions to make. It was pretty clear that other countries would make similar decisions with regards to their borders very soon. We had completely stopped our lives here – we had quit our jobs, sold the car, sent clothes to New Zealand and packed up most of our stuff. We faced the real possibility of being stuck here, with our lives on hold.
So, we turned our attention to New Zealand. Looking at flight options, checking the latest developments from the New Zealand Government, and racing around the streets here picking up various documents we had already sent away for Jules’ New Zealand visa application. By now, things were changing by the hour. Rumours were flying around of Austria closing its borders completely, and every few minutes another update come through confirming other countries were doing the same. On Thursday night, we said goodbye to Jules’ immediate family, thinking we could leave as early as the next day.
What got us in the end was insurance. On Friday morning, Austria changed its travel advisory to warn against travelling basically anywhere in the world. This meant that insurance companies began refusing Coronavirus-related insurance. If we bought flights and travel restrictions tightened, we could find ourselves stuck without insurance. Even if we made it to New Zealand, if Jules has subsequently caught the virus, she wouldn’t be covered. Plus, after seeing just how quickly this virus can spread, we didn’t want to be part of the problem and potentially moving this around. We decided to put our adventure on hold, hunker down here in Austria, and wait for things to improve.
Jules and I are of course gutted that we cannot do the PCT. Words can’t describe what it’s like to have 3 years of planning taken away from us. But we’ll survive. As we post this we are at home in an almost-quarantine. We don’t know for how long, and our ability to get out and do things is limited. There are a lot of unknowns right now. Where this blog goes us anyone’s guess – but the good thing about having so much time at home is that we have plenty of time to plan something new. This journey there is on hold, for now. When we are ready to pick it back up, we’ll be sure to let you know!