This picture was taken at the 5,000-year- old Mohenjo-daro, one of the great cities of the Indus River Valley. When Pakistan no longer felt safe, I headed to Islamabad’s airport and boarded the next flight home (via Istanbul). I was lucky. Hours after my departure, Pakistan cancelled all flights and closed its borders. Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to be stranded there.
–Margo Bart, Berkeley, California
I’m stuck in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia! This selfie is at Makkah Al Mukarramah Road, one of the main thoroughfares in a city of seven million at 1:00 p.m. As you can see, there’s one lonely
car on it in the photo.
Riyadh, where I am, is under 24-hour curfew, and I can only leave my hotel for medical reasons or to purchase food.
When I walked to the grocery store this past weekend I could hear locusts singing in the palm trees. Apparently, with the cessation of traffic and reduced numbers of people on the streets, the locusts are moving into areas they’d normally avoid. Mother Nature fills a void!
Maybe, hopefully, I’ll get home in May…
–Arthur Smith, Vienna, Virginia
As soon as we boarded a Ponant cruise from the Seychelles to Madagascar on March 11, the captain announced the Seychelles had closed its borders 72 hours before and we would not be allowed to disembark anywhere. After floating around for a few days, we were taken back to Victoria where we joined a mass exodus back home.
–Sonja Gregorek and John Estrada, Newport Beach, California
Tristan da Cunha from Inaccessible Island. The Tristanians would not let us visit the Settlement due to Coronavirus fears. Four days later in Cape Town, after boarding my flight home we were stopped on the runway and informed that a passenger with Covid-19 had boarded. Health officials came on and removed her, but then the plane had technical issues, so we were put up for the evening in Cape Town. We successfully returned the following day departing only two hours before South Africa closed its airspace.
–Mike Kendall, Ascot, United Kingdom
In Djibouti. While traveling through Eastern Africa in February I managed to get sick twice. I wasn’t concerned about possibly having contracted COVID-19 but rather that those checking for it at every border post might think I had it, which could result in being quarantined. I tried to compensate by being particularly cheery and alert at checkpoints. (PS, I had not contracted the virus.)
Los Altos, California
I was super excited to go to Japan in March
2020 (my first time) and undertake a ferry journey to Chichijima island in the Ogasawara islands. I learned en route
that in 72 hours all visitors to Japan would be faced with a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Chichijima was magical, but when I arrived back in Tokyo after a week, I had 48 hours to get out!
–Wendy Arbeit, Memphis, Tennessee
Quarantined for 14 days on Guam and the Northern Marianas (my 200th country), on the little island of Managaha just off Saipan, I took this photo of two fairy terns performing the courtship display. And it was Valentine’s Day!
After a month-long cruise to Antarctica and the Ross Sea, we had to dock in Uruguay since Argentina had shut down. I bought a ticket home from Montevideo to Shanghai, via Santiago, Mexico City, and Hong Kong. In Mexico City I learned my flight to Shanghai was cancelled because the Hong Kong airport was now closed to non-residents.
Figuring I would be stuck in Mexico for a very long time and a smaller city would be safer, I took a taxi to Puebla, checked into a hotel, and stocked up on food. Three days later Japan announced it would allow certain passports to transit through their country. There was one seat left from Mexico City to Shanghai via Tokyo and a local travel agent snatched it up for me!
On the morning of April 5, I landed in Shanghai and was taken to a special isolation hotel where I remained for 14 days— sleeping—before finally arriving home to my wife and daughter. Helplessness is my most profound and memorable trip!
–Jinsheng Han, Shanghai, China
On what started to be a carefree day visiting Abu Simbel in Egypt, a massive sandstorm moved across Egypt, disrupting air travel and delaying my return to Cairo. Now there was a narrow window to get out of the country before all aviation was shut down. I flew from Cairo to Hong Kong where officials promptly wrist-tagged me and sent me into two weeks of self-quarantine.
–Rowland Burley, Hong Kong
This lemur in Madagascar was oblivious to world chaos—not that the country was shutting down in three days, not that Mauritius was shutting down in two days, not that Amex had put a fraud alert on my credit card. I made it home (just!) before the whole world shut down.
–Pamela Barrus, Aliso Viejo, California