It's crazy how quickly the world around us changed and how much Coronavirus affected the lives of everyone around the globe one way or another.
Windsurf Mag UK asked me and some of the other PWA riders to share our stories on how Covid19 affected our lives so far. You can find the detailed version of my story below. To view the full article on all the riders please visit Windsurf.co.uk
For me the news of it all were intensified as I was far away in the Australian outback for weeks on end with not much if any phone coverage. When I returned to Perth and civilisation to plan my photoshoot trip to Maui I had caught up on all the news and realised I will need to act fast, even though Australia was at the time still pretty relaxed about coronavirus, as if it’s just a foreign problem, not theirs.
I started reading all the news from around the world an updates from home in Poland. It was insane how quickly things were changing with new regulations coming out on an hour to hour basis. I’ve read all about the virus, everything that was known at the time and felt like this can be a real threat to my family, especially my parents.
I still remember reading that Poland locked down it’s boarders and feeling as my legs go into jelly and my heart sinks. I had visions of not being able to see my family for months on end and worse case not being able to go back in case someone gets sick, maybe not see them again.
Just a few days later NAISH released all team members who were not yet in Maui from the photoshoot travel given the COVID19 situation. Just days after US introduced European flight ban.
Anticipating that the lock down of other countries in Europe and Australia was to follow I had to make a decision about following months, if not years of my life, in a matter of hours.
What do I do? I lived and worked in Australia for years. I was just about to have my citizenship ceremony, I have life and medical insurance, all my work connections, I train there with world class windsurfing all along the WA coast. I could get in the van, head to Gnaraloo, stay there for weeks on end and just sail until the madness passes.
In Poland I’d be locked down in a block apartment, with no private health care, I would risk losing my citizenship in Australia, maybe not seeing my people there for a long time, not get any chance to windsurf for foreseeable future and pretty much say goodbye to my life as I know it.
Despite my parents desperately trying to convince me to stay and not risk going into the epicentre of the virus that Europe was at the time, I knew I could not live with that regret, and I didn’t want to wait and use the locking boarders as an excuse. I studied the safest way to go back.
With Poland’s lock down the best way was to fly directly to London, then Berlin and try to cross the border from there. If I could make it to Berlin in time I knew I could make it back home. Berlin to Warsaw is just 6 hrs drive. I bought the ticket. I started to plan come back from Berlin and quickly realised I will not be able to rent a car and take it to the locked down Poland. Cr*p! What do I do now? Thinking quickly, looking for options, no public transport allowed across the border either! Am I going to be stuck in Berlin alone for the outbreak? What else can I do? Hitchhike in the time of the pandemic?!
Horse! I decided I will buy a horse! Google maps predict 48hr trip on foot, so on a horse it will be quicker and I am a good rider. By that time the German-Polish boarder offered 50h waiting times to people in the cars. No food, no water, people driving back with kids, just stuck there. Horse would be an easy way to bypass it all. Once in Poland I could actually get on a public transport. Only inconvenience was 1*C but that would be bearable I thought.
As I was scanning prices of horses in Berlin (!!!), making my friends roll with laughter and planning the title of my first book, the news popped up about Polish Government organising flights to bring citizens back home!
Quick study and I realised there’s no flights available from Australia, but they do run them from London. I got one!
It was time to start operation supplies. This time I wasn’t packing windsurfing gear, I was packing glows, hand sanitisers, masks, paracetamol and other essential things that were running out in Poland. At the same time, I read reports from medical and military services produced after SARS epidemic on best protection options. With one week to go I studied every bit of medical reports and success stories in curing people with COVID19 trying to learn and do as much as possible and secure anything that might help before I go into the mandatory home quarantine in Warsaw.
I had 6 days left to my flight. I didn’t even think about windsurfing, despite Perth beaches remaining open. More Australian news hit one by one… Boarder closed to more and more countries first. Second - citizens not allowed to leave the country… Nerve-wracking times.
Finally I got the dreaded text message. YOUR FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Qantas stopped all outgoing flights.
“Nooooooo!!!! Quickly let’s try to rebook, if I can’t fly directly I will do through Dubai, Qatar, Singapore.” It’s higher risk, but also higher desperation now.
All phone lines to airlines busy, websites crashed so I couldn’t rebook this way. AAAarrghhh!! I was feeling sick in my stomach. Quick trip to the airport. As the flights could not be rebooked due to system issues after long time waiting in line of people desperate to get home, I got yet another flight for the NEXT day. It was another 2.5K AUD but also a last seat on the last Qantas flight out of Australia.
All in all I cancelled or changed 7 flights, locked up all my money in vouchers or lost it completely. So be it, I was moving fast trying to keep the focus on getting home and not on my growing fear of total isolation in the time of the pandemic if I get stuck in Heathrow where I had a 6 day stop over.
I also lost 4kg in a matter of 10 days of this unfolding, but now stress was to hit the highest level.
It was real, I had to leave my life behind and get on the plane across the world and into the unknown and into the epicentre of COVID19 the next day.
On the way to the airport I was still refreshing Polish airline website like crazy looking for better connection and boom! There it was! I found a ticket to Warsaw just 5 hours after I land in Heathrow. Finally, some good news but yet another extra cost. By that point I didn’t care. I needed to take a big breath before crossing the check-in I must say. Last hugs and a few tears of anxiety and fear, then mask on and off I went. If I ever felt I was doing the right thing instead of the easy thing, it was in that moment.
During the trip I had a respirator mask on at all times, glows and hand sanitiser handy. My goal was not to get sick, so that I am safe to help out with logistics after I get back and finish the mandatory quarantine. I didn’t eat, had some bottled water and remained with the mask on (that I changed once in Heathrow) for almost 48 hr. I had an excruciating head ache from the mask pressure on my nose, but after a short taxi ride I was HOME.
I am now in the lock down and not even allowed to step out to the stairway.
Police comes a few time a day to check on me and I of course obey the rules for everyone’s safety. Today is Day 5 of my home quarantine. In 10 days I will be able out for essential shopping etc.
It’s quite an adjustment as I have spent last 4 months completely free, done a 20K km road trip from spot to spot parking my van right on the beach and getting into the ocean daily.
I try to treat this involuntary lockdown time like injury.
Even if you don’t know when I know that it will get better. Now it’s time to focus on what’s in our control and come back out of it as strong as possible. I try to keep daily routine, exercise, keep the meal times scheduled, catching up on editing videos and all the online work that piled up during my time in the outback.
I hope everyone is staying safe, healthy and positive and I am sure we will meet on the water soon. Take care of yourselves and #stayhome