That was how I had planned a trip to go see the Queen and also to visit Bob Marley’s hometown, but it did not happen (well maybe not just yet!) One thing this pandemic has taught me is that we don’t actually know jack! I know, I know there are loads of smart people out there, I am not referring to head knowledge or book smartness, but the ability to know what will happen tomorrow, is way beyond our pay grade, and I have been humbled by this reality.
Image courtesy of @hyattzivajm
Jumping off the cliff at Rick’s cafe, shopping on the streets of London, sightseeing at Luminous Lagoon, I mean there was a lot to look forward to. So here’s what happened....
My very good friend’s husband was about to turn 40, and his wife decided that she wanted to turn all the way up (if you know her, you will understand). So we started planning this getaway since last year, 2019! Initially, she had chosen South Africa as the destination, but I was quite skeptical about the location (you know now). I suggested that we do Dubai instead, because I actually have never been there, and the attendees from the United States said—abeg Dubai too far. Then they came up with the grand idea of Jamaica. Can you imagine? Me who was going to travel all the way from Lagos, and the others coming from Europe, that was going to be quite a distance for us.
Most flights out of Nigeria had a layover in the United States, and because of the issues I have with America, I am not allowed on their soil until 2022 (read about that here). So I knew it was going to be a task getting to Jamaica, but my friend was not going to take no for an answer! As I mentioned earlier we are close friends and I refer to her as bestie. I have known her since 2006, we went to college together, when she got married and moved to New York in 2011, that created the opportunity for me to visit NYC a couple of times. Her husband is also a very nice man, who has meshed well with all her friends; I just had to be there; it was a no-brainer.
Seeing that the United States wasn’t going to be an option for me to transit through, I decided to try Canada, and I found a ticket from London to Quebec then to Montego Bay, I know, I had to cross seven seas just to get to my destination. Now the annoying part in all of this was that I needed a transit visa to pass through Canada. Seeing that my options were slim to none, except I wanted to pay $2500 to travel from Lagos to Amsterdam, to Panama City and then to Montego Bay without any visas, the Canadian route was my best option and most affordable for me. So I booked my ticket, as early as June of 2019.
You guys have to understand that since I returned in 2017, I have not left the shores of Nigeria (not that it is a bad thing) and I had not also seen the majority of my friends, although bestie made it back every year since I relocated.
Towards the end of 2019, we had booked our hotel rooms in one of the prestigious Hyatt resorts. We were about 40 people who were going on this trip and I quickly chose my roommate (Hi roomie!) So yea, by December 2019, hotel rooms were reserved; I had already gotten my leave approval from work to start processing my visas. I needed to apply for a UK visa, Jamaican Visa and Canadian visa, hence I began the process early.
Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall Montego Bay, Image courtesy of @hyattzivajm
As soon as we rang in the New Year in 2020, people! I was already on the seashores of Montego Bay! I could envision myself doing all the water sports, exploring the culture of Jamaica with the locals, having their famous jerk chicken and singing One Love on their exquisite white sand beaches. Bestie came visiting that January and we were excited that just in about two months, we would be reunited in Montego Bay. Mid-January I got approved for my Jamaican visa and was ready to get the party started!
Then I got nervous about the UK visa, because of the wahala with America, I didn’t want them to think I was trying to abscond to their country. Although I have been there a few times, while my brother lived there, I was still scared. Only if they knew what was on my heart! They would hand me the visa on a platter. While I was worried about that, it hit me that the Canadian embassy took forever to process their visas! I was screwed; I had less than two months to get approved for a UK visa and then apply for the Canadian transit visa. When I made enquires about how long the process would take, I was seeing 74 days!! What? Seventy what? When my trip was in less than 60 days! I started praying…
All this for a birthday celebration? It is not your husband turning 40 oh! My cousin said to me one day. But I’m like— I can’t miss it. All my friends would be there! Meanwhile, I did not know what was ahead.
Because of the fear of probably not getting my Canadian visa in time to travel, I paid for the expedited service to get a decision from the UK embassy in a few days. My visa was out three days after I turned in my application. That same day I put in my application for the Canadian visa. Then I began to wait. My flight out of Lagos to London was for March 14th.
I had already shopped for some clothes and arranged them according to the days/event; arrival outfit, chilling outfit, party outfit, beachwear, shorts, tees, swimsuits, shades, hats, the whole nine... I also purchased a winter jacket as it was still quite chilly in London. My mind was already on vacation mode. We had created a Whatsapp group for the trip and were chatting away. We booked our taxi service and paid for some activities.
My friends and I talked about how we were going to shut off work for a couple of days and have the time of our lives! But my Canadian visa approval was not yet given. So I began to freak out. One day while internet surfing, I found a direct flight from London to Montego Bay! In your face Canada! I quickly called bestie to purchase the ticket for me in the meantime while I waited to get a refund from Canada Air. In fact at that point if I had asked her to fly me on a private jet, she would have, that is how badly she wanted me there. I got the refund from Priceline a few days later.
Me and Bestie
Everything was set; we were about to take Montego Bay by storm and break the internet with our Instagram photos! (haha, only if we knew!) By this time we had started hearing about COVID-19 small small, but by then the US wasn’t taking it seriously, not even the UK. In fact, I knew a couple of people who were still globetrotting in the month of February. In my mind, it was a Chinese problem, just as Ebola was an African problem. Little did I know…
As soon as we entered the month of March, I started doing my final shopping. My cousin who lives in London asked me to get groundnut and chin-chin for her, my roomie asked me to get her some turbans, while those coming from Houston were requesting plantain chips. I was happy to get everything for them; after all, I was traveling and going to breathe ‘fresh air’ and take a break from the hustle and bustle of Lagos, ready for my skin to glow again.
I braided my hair; island-style and was ready for my vacation. Then I got a message from my dad—‘Evi are you sure you wouldn’t rethink your trip? How about postponing it?
Oh gosh! What is all this? I thought to myself. Then I responded back to him—‘daddy it is not as bad as the media is making it seem, if anything changes, I will let you know.’
Me, one week before my trip
Then my brother bought me gloves and asked me to get some hand sanitizers for the road. Ladies and gentlemen, two days before I was supposed to leave, I woke up to a Whatsapp message from bestie saying she had postponed the trip. I was just weak! Like where was I supposed to begin? Jamaica had just recorded its first case, and the person had traveled from London, (my route!) I was already nervous.
As a group, many worried that there was a possibility of being stuck in Jamaica, and they had jobs and kids to go back to. It was only wise for the trip to be put on hold. Snap! After all the planning and day-dreaming! Then I was left with the option of either still going to the UK or also postponing that leg of the trip because I planned to spend a little over a week in London altogether.
I still wanted to go, my ticket was booked, but at the same time I was torn I kept asking those who were in London what the environment looked like; some advised that I should postpone the trip, while others felt it wasn’t a big deal. So on Friday, a day before I was supposed to leave, I prayed to God to help me make a decision because I was so sad. You know how you have been looking forward to something for a while, and it was yanked from underneath you, even if I have experienced a lot of disappointing moments in my life, this feeling was too awful and I did not want to make that decision for myself. After I prayed that morning, while in the shower, my phone rang and it was my brother. When I saw the missed call, I already knew that it was the answer I was looking for.
He simply told me that my dad had called, telling him to talk to me about not going on my trip. In my dad’s mind, I had gone quiet on him (I really did). I went ahead and called the airline to leave my tickets open. In fact, the Jamaican leg of the trip was already canceled by the airline. It was a good call my father made because if I had still gone to the UK, I would have been stuck there. Probably giving you guys this gist from the streets of London.
So ladies and gentlemen that is how COVID-19, wrecked my travel plans. If I say I wasn’t heart-broken, I would be lying. More heart-broken than me was bestie. All the plans she had made over the months went down the drain, some of the things she already paid for, she couldn’t get a refund on them. We called each other every day, offering our heartfelt sympathy to ourselves saying—don’t worry, we still go. Are you sure? Yes, we will.
For now, the trip has been pushed to later on in the year, (bestie sent me a message the other day asking if I am getting my summer body ready, haha) but the logistics of getting everyone back on track ain’t easy, and really we still don’t know jack…..
Proverbs 16:33 says—“we may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.”
Sometimes we spend months planning and planning for what we think or hope may happen tomorrow, but it is only God who knows how tomorrow would pan out.
I know I am not the only one who’s life got altered by this pandemic, others have even gone through more traumatic experiences (thank God mine was just travel). I look forward to the day when everything would go back to a new normal. I hope this experience teaches us to be more God-minded and to focus on things that truly matter. We are still unsure how 2020 would unravel, for now, I just take it one day at a time (sweet Jesus).
Want something fun to read in the meantime? Checkout my Puerto Rican travel experience…
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About The Author: Evi Idoghor is a Christian, writer, and content creator on Letstalknationblog.com. She is a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Consumed by her love for writing and desire to effect change, she launched her online platform––Let’s Talk Nation––to tap into her creativity and start meaningful conversations that would make a difference around the world.
Most of her writing has been influenced by her time spent in America, where she lived for about 11 years. Also, she lived in Nigeria and South Korea and currently loves traveling the world while learning about other fascinating cultures. You can find her on all social media platforms with @eviidoghor.