My Travel Experience During Coronavirus Pandemic

What is wrong with you? Did you travel? Why are you travelling? Are you not worried you may get sick? These and many more questions I got asked whenever anyone found out I wasn’t in Nigeria. I planned my trip before coronavirus became a global pandemic and the only reason I was travelling this early in the year was to use my two visas that were expiring.

We Nigerians don’t take chances with our visas. It’s difficult to get so to waste it and limit our chances of renewal is not an option. I was excited about getting time off work and spending time with my little sister and my friends. However, as the day to the start of my trip got closer, I became worried. We only had one case of covid-19 in Nigeria but the cases around the world kept increasing every day. The media wasn’t helping matters and there was always an update every day that meant things were getting worse. I prepared for my trip nonetheless and I stocked up on hand sanitizers and masks.

Day 1 – March 11 2020

The first leg of my flight was from Lagos, Nigeria to London Heathrow. It was a night flight and surprisingly, it was full and there was no vacant seat in sight. I wondered if everyone was trying to use their visas too or if they just weren’t bothered about the virus.

Day 2 – March 12 2020

We landed safely at London Heathrow and everything seemed normal at the airport. I found Boots, bought disinfectant wipes and kept my distance from everyone during my three hours layover. My flight to New York wasn’t full though there was someone sat beside me. I was able to relax and I even ate. I landed safely in New York and took an Uber to my hotel in Times Square. My holiday had started and I had to make the most of my less than twenty-four hours in NY. I checked in, showered and texted my loved ones to let them know I was okay. The first agenda on my to-do list was to buy a winter jacket capable of keeping me warm in Canada. It was nice walking the streets of Manhattan again from the 34th to the 46th Street though it was a bit chilly and my denim jacket wasn’t helping much. I eventually found a good jacket which was on sale at Macy’s after trying different options at different stores. My friend, Yemi met up with me at Macy’s, we had dinner at Maestros and I went back to the hotel to sleep.

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Day 3 – March 13 2020

I woke up late; I hadn’t slept for thirty-six hours so it was understandable. I showered and went downstairs for my complimentary breakfast which was really good by the way and went back to my room for a nap. I checked out at 1:00pm and took an Uber to the airport to catch my flight to Toronto, Canada. My flight to Toronto was full though everyone was being extra careful. Some passengers had masks on and personal space was respected. I arrived in Toronto, Ontario in the evening and took an Uber to our Airbnb apartment for the next few days. My sister in law, her younger sister and my younger sister, Lateefah were already there waiting for me. Our reunion was grand and the view from the apartment was the best I had ever seen. I washed my hands, had dinner and looked forward to our activities for the weekend.

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Day 4 – March 14 2020

I woke up to the most amazing view. I thought it looked good at night but it looked even better during the day. 

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We started our day with brunch at Eviva restaurant. We had to wait for about fifty minutes before we were seated. The restaurant was full and I understood why when we got served. It wasn’t just a fancy place, the food was good too. We went to the mall briefly afterwards and then we took a walk to Phillips Square to see the Toronto sign. On this day, the covid-19 cases in Ontario had risen to 79, the CN Tower was closed and all schools in Canada got closed. Our hands had gone pale from all the washing and sanitizing and it became obvious that things were only going to get worse. We ended the night with dinner at Red Lobster. It was a really good meal.

Day 5 – March 15 2020

I woke up to news that all tourist activities had been closed until April 14th in Toronto. I was sad. It was my first time in Toronto and I was looking forward to seeing the city. We had planned to go to Niagara Falls so we called to find out if they were open. Luckily for us, they were still open so we got ready for our road trip. We drove to Niagara Falls and it was such a beautiful sight. I will tell you all about it in a separate blog post soon. The main building for souvenirs and falls activities was closed but we were still allowed to walk along the path and see the waterfalls. There were quite a number of people there and as usual, we were careful not to touch railings unnecessarily and we never stopped sanitizing our hands. After a gazillion photos later, we left and stopped by Applebee’s for an early dinner. On this day there were 103 confirmed covid-19 cases in Toronto and overall 250 confirmed cases in Canada.

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The crew at Niagara Falls

Day 6 – March 16 2020

We woke up early to more bad news about new covid-19 cases in Canada, the UK and US. I became worried about my return trip to the US which was scheduled for the next day. All airports had begun strict screenings for covid-19 and saying I was coming to tour the city of Chicago at the U.S. Border didn’t sound like a good idea. Nonetheless, we went to The Museum of Illusions, another tourist place that was still open and we had a good experience while being careful the entire time. We went to the mall afterwards and I decided to do some shopping because it became evident that this was the last shopping I was going to do on this trip. Some of the shops were closed and the mall wasn’t full like the last time. My younger sister went back to Winnipeg, Manitoba and it was sad to see her go.

Day 7 – March 17 2020

The day of my return to the US had arrived. I woke up with major anxiety about my trip so I spent most of the morning in bed until I had to get ready for the airport. I felt like I was going to explode at any moment but if you saw me, you wouldn’t have guessed. I arrived at the airport rather early and went to the check-in counter. The check-in staff was a bit sceptical about letting me drop my bag and he placed a call to his supervisor to confirm if I could leave Toronto. I hadn’t even reached anywhere and this had already happened. I was eventually let through and I dropped my bag and went through security. The next point after security was the US border. I thought this was strange because I was still in Toronto. I scanned my passport and went to the border officer when it was my turn. After being asked a few questions about my recent travels, I was asked to accompany him through a closed door. My heart started beating as fast as it could. I was scared out of my mind. I had seen this play out on TV when passengers were asked to step aside to be interrogated and I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

Stay safe and stay tuned for the second part of this post to read how the rest of my trip went and how I found my way back home to Nigeria.

Wherever you are reading this from, please stay at home. Coronavirus is not a joke. We’ve been exposed to how fragile the world really is. The virus spreads like wildfire and most infected people are asymptomatic.

This post was typed in self-isolation.

Mariam Shittu