In the last few months, many countries have begun reopening their borders to travellers and tourists, and friends and families from across the world have been getting together for the first time in years. They share some of their experiences with High Life
“I feel my family and Harry know each other now”
In February, I flew to Melbourne from London so that my baby son could meet my parents, brother, sister, nieces and nephews for the very first time.
The trip was postponed for a year because of the Australian border closure. As the pandemic went on, I genuinely feared my family might never meet Harry as a ‘baby’. We originally planned to go when he was six months old and perfectly sized for the bulkhead row bassinet. Instead, he was a lively 18-month-old who appeared absurdly large strapped to me in an Ergobaby as I paced the aisles begging him to sleep.
Harry greeted my parents at the airport with the biggest smile. It was worth every back-aching minute at 35,000 feet to see my son bond with his Australian grandparents. It helped erase the palpable sadness I felt during lockdown when I couldn’t share my newborn with the world. I also feel that my family and Harry know each other now and our regular FaceTime sessions are just that little bit more special.
“My mum kept saying she was scared I wasn’t real”
Standing in Heathrow Airport in January 2020, hugging my mum and sister goodbye, was emotional. I was heading off for a five-month internship in Indonesia, and it’d been a tough decision – I speak to my family almost every day – but I knew it would be worth it. We all clung to the knowledge that we’d see each other just a few months later, in April, when they would fly out to visit me. Then Covid hit, and it became clear I wasn’t going to see them anytime soon. The uncertainty was tough. However, 18 months later, on 15 November 2021, we finally reunited in Athens for a very special five-day trip. I hadn’t realised how much I had been affected by being stuck on the other side of the world away from my mum and sister for so long. When they met me at the airport it was almost overwhelming. My mum, with balloons in hand, kept saying she was scared I wasn’t real. We stood hugging for ages, not particularly caring that we were blocking the exit. It was only when we arrived back in England we finally cried with happiness.
“The first hugs at the hotel were indescribable”
For my parents’ ruby anniversary in August 2021, we wanted to do something special. For their pearl (30 years), my siblings and I had taken them to the ‘Pearl of Peru’ – Machu Picchu.
My brother Stephen now lives on the other side of the world in New Zealand with his family, so we decided upon Thailand for the occasion. But, like so many others, our plans were disrupted by the pandemic. New Zealand’s borders were tightly closed. It was two years before we’d be able to see them. Finally, in February 2022, my boyfriend Rob and I, along with my parents, Mary and John, booked flights from Heathrow to meet Stephen, his wife Kelly and my nieces, Indie and Izzie (aged five and four) in Koh Samui, Thailand. We were beside ourselves with excitement.
“I’m seeing my granddaughters!” Mum told everyone en route. The first hugs at the hotel – the family-friendly ibis Samui Bophut – were indescribable. We laughed, cried and hugged for about ten minutes straight. Thailand was the perfect destination to host such a momentous occasion. We felt as if we had it to ourselves and the staff were so friendly.
At the Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort, we had the most amazing belated ruby celebration – an afternoon tea with Champagne in its treetop restaurant. Time melted away and three weeks were spent in utter bliss – we even managed to swim with a turtle! The happiest trip, with memories to last a lifetime.
What does it mean to escape?
Explorer, traveller and wanderlust wonder woman Christina Dodwell shares her experiences of life in lockdown
How I travel as a Black woman
Award-winning writer and photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström describes the highs and lows of skin-deep encounters across the world
How to get a greater sense of escape on your next trip
Here comes the science: clinical psychologist Dr Sophie Mort reveals how to maximise that holiday high