The last time I boarded a flight with my whole family in tow was December 2017. My youngest son Leo was a nine-month-old baby and my eldest son Toby aged just seven.
We flew to the UK in one long and tiring trip, with a few hours' rest at Hong Kong’s international airport.
As a family, we felt it was the perfect time to tackle that nightmarishly long journey, as then baby Leo still fitted into the airline’s bassinet and was not yet crawling. His infant ticket was much cheaper as he was less than 12 months old and as we were still vaguely sleep deprived, jet lag wasn't an enormous concern.
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It all worked out well and while the plane trip was hardly enjoyable, we had a brilliant time and planned to return in 2020. We reasoned that by then, 'baby Leo' would be age three (and a bit!), out of nappies, and hopefully over the very worst of the toddler tantrums.
We did not factor in a global pandemic and Australia’s closed borders from keeping us away.
Fast forward two more years and our 'baby' will start kindergarten in early 2022, while Toby is heading into his last year at primary school. When news broke that Australia's international borders would soon open up and flight tickets become available, I jumped online and booked four return tickets to the UK in July 2022.
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On the one hand, this is a hugely exciting prospect, on the other, a very daunting one. COVID numbers remain high in the UK, international travel has changed, and our children are still unvaccinated.
There are also a lot of unknowns to factor in. What will the world look like in nine months? How will we deal with the stress of the long flight while wearing masks? How will we manage seven days of home quarantine on our return? And finally, what if we get sick while we are away?
All these questions and late night anxious thought loops are likely happening all over Australia by people who have not seen their loved ones for months or even years.
I wanted borders to open so I could go back to travelling overseas and life as it was before, but life is not as it was before and I felt strangely conflicted about making my longed-for travel plans.