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The Story of a Journey

Anyone who writes or crafts speeches or otherwise wrestles with words knows that all synonyms are not created equal. Dip into almost any thesaurus and you will find numerous entries for words that mean the same, or nearly the same, as the one you are researching, plus the etymology of the word and every part-of-speech variation of it —noun, verb, adjective, adverb— along with tips for usage and modifiers. For language lovers, a thesaurus presents one of those down-the-rabbit-hole opportunities guaranteed to cause you to miss your article deadline or to make your term paper late!

     As any native speaker and reader knows, however, vocabulary words in every language have nuances of meaning all their own. Take, for instance, the word journey. A decent thesaurus on line lists the following as synonyms: trip, tour, passage, expedition, trek, cruise, voyage, flight, roam, wander, meander, odyssey, pilgrimage, excursion, and here’s a good one — peregrination. With further research and contemplation, you find that journey implies a process of travel over distance and time, generally 2,000 miles or more and weeks, months or even years in duration. A journey is not a quick trip, nor is it generally without setbacks along the way. Hence, the common use of “journey” as a metaphor, such as in a life journey, a spiritual journey, a creative journey, or as one TV commercial puts it, even a “hair journey.” Puleeze!

     We finally made our long-planned journey to New Zealand and Australia last month. As you might recall from earlier posts, this was the trip that was cancelled three days away from our departure in 2020 when Covid hit. It was a big trip then. We were going with friends and were full of excitement and anticipation; Australia was the last continent on our “bucket list.” Needless to say, the cancellation of all our plans at the last minute and the six months of haggling it took to get all our refunds back, not to mention the three solid years of Covid isolation that followed at home without any travel whatsoever, all sort of diminished our enthusiasm — mine anyway.

     2020 — 2021 — 2022  Every year that Covid lingered and international travel seemed unwise, my Dear Husband moaned that by the time we were able to go abroad again, we’d be too old to go. And every year that I settled into a quieter, slower lifestyle and concentrated on my creative pursuits, the more the mere thought of all the planning and preparation and energy a really “big trip” demanded just exhausted me. Heck, I was still getting worn out by a trek to the local grocery store!

     But the conversation about the when and where of our next “big trip” continued as travel brochures began appearing in the mail again, and thoughts of Australia lingered (even though both New Zealand and Australia were completely shut down for a very long time).  In a moment of weakness and under the spell of a “by invitation only” video of a brand new cruise ship being launched in 2023, we put a deposit on an 8 day maiden voyage in the North Atlantic for this fall.  It promised to be fabulous, if expensive.

     As we got closer to various deposit deadlines late last year, the mounting costs became clear. About that time we also got notice of availability and discounts from another line for a 15 day cruise to New Zealand and Australia with lots of inclusions, exceptional cabin accommodations, and air fare upgrades all at about the same total cost as the 8 day excursion in the North Atlantic. And this trip would be sooner — in February.  Dear Husband was happy and I was wary, though I did see the choice of the longer, “bigger trip” as more reasonable. So we booked it, paid for it, and were on our way in early February with a 14+ hour flight from Dallas to Auckland, from whence the cruise would embark.

     It was at that point, I think, that this became not a trip, but a journey — long (about 7500 miles each way over a period of 20-30 hours), arduous, and full of setbacks large and small. The flight, on a domestic US airline (I should know better than to EVER take a domestic US airline for a long-haul flight) was awful. I commented before the flight even took off, while everyone around us was talking, laughing, coughing and not wearing any masks at all, that if we didn’t get Covid from this, we never would. Prescient. 

     We arrived in Auckland in early morning to find, as we hauled our luggage over sandbags in the elegant entrance to our hotel, that it was closed due to damage from the recent floods in Auckland, but no one had notified us. After some hassles, they relocated us; okay, only one night. We boarded the ship the next day and did enjoy a couple days in Auckland before sailing on to the next port. At least we got to a Maori community and cultural center before my husband started coughing and complaining of not feeling well. He thought he might have Covid. Sure enough, we tested (on tests I had brought along), and he was positive. Though I had not yet shown any symptoms, I knew I would test positive as well. And I did.

     We went to the doctor on board, tested again, and yes, we had Covid. I feared we might be put ashore, but no, it seemed there was a whole Covid protocol in place on. (Obviously this wasn’t their first rodeo, as they say.) We were quarantined in our elegant, comfortable (thank goodness) stateroom for five days, meals served through room service, laundry done, bar/refrigerator fully stocked, doctor checking in every day, guest services calling, and men in hazmat suits totally cleaning and disinfecting the room while we sat out on our balcony watching the world go by and sipping our wine. The staff was great, the accommodations were beyond great, and if you have to have Covid anywhere, this was the place to be. But it did eat up roughly ⅓ of the total cruise and my husband, who had wanted so badly to make this trip, was disappointed that he didn’t get to photograph those botanical gardens and historic homes in the five New Zealand ports we missed.

     We were released from quarantine just in time for a couple days at sea, during which we encountered extremely rough waters in the Tasmanian Sea, due perhaps to the cyclone that hit Auckland the day after we left, and the 6.2 earthquake that hit off shore two days after that. Everyone the the ship was seasick, but not us. We were up and ready to go when we hit Tasmania and enjoyed the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where we could freely roam among the animals, pet kangaroos and see little Tasmania devils up close. (They are not as mean as their reputations.) Then it was another day at sea before docking in Melbourne, truly a beautiful city, and then another day at sea before Sydney. Altogether, out of a 15 day cruise, five days were at sea and five were in quarantine. Bottom line, a cruise is probably not the best way to see Australia and New Zealand, even without a quarantine, unless you just want to say that you’ve been there. So now that’s what we can say.

     Though we probably wouldn’t do this again, we have no regrets. We both needed the rest and relaxation that the cruise and the quarantine afforded and, ironically, we have both felt considerably better physically ever since recovery. The curative powers of Covid? There’s a topic for research. Certainly we have rediscovered the curative powers of travel, in that when you choose to venture far from the familiar, you have to let go and be ready for anything. Finding that we could still do that and laugh about all the mishaps was invigorating.  

     So yes, this Australia voyage became not just a trip, but a journey, a reawakening of a broader perspective and a confirmation of our own resilience. And, in the odd way that random events in life often form “cosmic bookends,” you could even say this entire episode became our Covid journey: the cancellation of Australia in February, 2020, marked the beginning of our experience, and actually having Covid almost three years later to the day on a cruise to Australia marked the ending.

     What a story!

1 Comment so far

  1. Diane Thiel

    Wow! Yes, what a story! I hope you were able to see the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. Crossing the Tasmanian sea at any time seems to be fraught with tumultuous sailing. In 2017, we were told not to get out of our beds for fear of falling!
    Glad you were able to salvage a good part of your trip and that you received such good care on board ship. Stay well!


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