In January 2020, being the ever so organised travel junkie that I am, I took advantage of the sales and booked 5 different trips, planning my whole year of travel. I do love to plan! These trips included Finland in March, Morocco in May, Ireland (which is home) in June, climb Kilimanjaro in August, Sri Lanka in November, and Ireland again in December.
Living in the UAE has given me the opportunity to travel so many times a year, and apart from the above booked trips, I imagine I would have had one or two impromptu trips thrown in the mix too.
I flew to Finland on 11 March to join a group of other solo travellers in our search for the Northern Lights. There were people flying from all over the world: United States, Australia, the UK, the UAE, Switzerland, and Italy. At the last minute, Italy closed their borders and unfortunately that girl was unable to make it. The trip was incredible and, if nothing else, I’m so glad I got to take this specific trip because it would be the last this year before the world of travel came to an abrupt stop.
On the morning of 13 February, I woke up to see that Ireland, along with other European countries, was on ‘lockdown’, a word I had only heard used in China and Italy so far. Suddenly, I became scared. I contacted friends and was told that businesses had shut down, schools were closed, and all my theatre friends had to close the doors on their productions. I sobbed for them all from my chalet in Lapland.
I called my friends back in the UAE and was told that there was no news to report from there, everything was business as usual. As the rest of our group were receiving emails about cancelled or rearranged flights, I felt strange knowing nothing seemed to have changed in the UAE and I would get back safe and sound.
The flight back to Dubai was the strangest experience I’ve ever had whilst travelling. Some people were afraid to go near others, some were in full hazmat suits, and some seemed as though they thought it was all a bit of a faff. I sat at my seat and, at the pre-warning of my brother given my auto-immune disorders, wiped down the tray table, seat belt, window area and put on more hand sanitizer. The lady opposite me stared at me the entire time as if I was insane!
Lockdown in the UAE
I arrived back in Dubai on 18 March and the borders closed at midnight that night. Had I not made it back in time, I wouldn’t have been able to get back into the country until almost four months later!
Days later, the UAE introduced a 24-hour curfew which lasted for three weeks. What did this mean? It meant that we were not allowed to leave our houses/apartments unless you had a permit. You could apply for a permit to go to the shop but could only apply for a permit every three days and could only be out for a very short period of time. Essential workers had different permits of course.
After three weeks of 24-hour curfew, an evening curfew was brought in, so you could only go out during the day, but again just for necessities. It was eerie watching the ordinarily traffic ridden streets with just one or two delivery bikes passing by at night.
Remembering to be thankful
- Feeling Safe
All during lockdown and the various curfews, I felt safe knowing that the UAE government were doing their absolute best to contain the situation. Every night they were out sanitizing the streets, footpaths, cars, basically anything and everything in sight!
You can get everything delivered to your door in Dubai. And I mean everything! Every restaurant, supermarket and pharmacy deliver pretty much everything on their menu. Run out of petrol for your car and don’t have enough to get to the garage? You can get it delivered! So, while we weren’t allowed to leave our house for three weeks, we could get anything we needed delivered.
3. Masks were mandatory from the get-go
As soon as lockdown began, it was mandatory for everyone to wear masks as soon as you left your house. And it’s still the case today. No mask and you get a very hefty fine! Not many people complain about having to wear a mask, it’s just the way it is and you have to go with it here.
4. Working from home
I’m very lucky that I have a full-time job which I can continue to do from home with a very comfortable set up. And my company are not in a rush to have people going back to the office until they are ready to do so, which will likely be next year.
I have always travelled back home to Ireland from Dubai at least 3 times a year since I moved to the UAE almost 5 years ago. While I haven’t been able to travel home to see my friends and family in over 9 months now, I am so grateful that I can still speak to them every day through the wonders of technology.
6. My view
While stuck inside my apartment for three weeks, unable to leave, I took advantage of my balcony. Every evening after work, I would sit outside on my swing chair and watch the sunset. I know how lucky I am to have this view from my balcony, and I was incredibly grateful for it during that time (and still am).
7. I’ve been able to grow my blog
This year has been an opportunity for people to do things they have been putting off, no excuses! If you’ve been talking about painting the shed for years but haven’t done it, or if you’ve been talking about organising all your photos into an album but haven’t done it yet – no excuses this year!
I’ve put almost everything into my growing my blog this year, created a new site, completing courses, and really put it out there. And I’m grateful I had the time to put into it which I may not have had before. But what 2020 has taught me is to make the time for these things that are important to me going forward.
With all that’s happened in 2020, I think that we can all agree it’s pushed us out of our comfort zones, brought people together and opened our eyes to things that really matter. Obviously, it’s not all over yet and we don’t know what the future holds, but the whole situation has reminded me to be grateful for the things I do have and to find opportunity where I can.
And while I can’t travel right now, I have incredible memories of the trips I have been lucky enough to have taken in the past and I have hope in my heart for the days when I will be able to pack my bags and travel the world again.
Hi I’m Ellie-M, creator of Ticking The List. I’m an adventurer and traveller, ticking things off my epic Bucket List. My mission is to inspire people to realise their dreams and goals and tick things off their bucket lists too. Life is all about dreaming that dream, turning it into a reality and living life to the fullest. You can follow me on social media through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest for updates on my adventures!