When it comes to having plans thwarted by COVID-19, I know this was a reality faced by countless individuals and families across the globe. For Jesse and I, it wasn’t just short terms plans that were upended by the cursed virus (like the mid-April Toronto wedding we had planned), but long-term ones too.
Gone almost six years, we had been living overseas longer than we ever imagined we would be when we left New Zealand back in 2014. Although gone much longer than planned, it still felt like our overseas adventure was being cut short when we came home in April, just one week after our tiny lock down wedding. The days preceding our flight saw more borders close and more flight routes disappear every day, and we felt compelled to come home while we still could. It’s not how we imagined returning, but when the three main appeals of Toronto – spending time with friends, enjoying the events the city had to offer, and exploring surrounding Canada – were suddenly taken off the table for the foreseeable future, it just didn’t make sense to be there anymore. Life constricted to a small boxy condo, devoid of any nature and social interaction didn’t feel worth it anymore. So we made the call to come home.
I absolutely stand by the decision and think we made the right one, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel gutted to be missing out on certain things we’d always planned to do before leaving. One of them, and to be honest another draw card for basing ourselves in Canada for a time, was to do an American road trip on the way home. Of course the dream was to take the full three months possible without getting a visa and drive coast to coast, hitting all the bucket-list stops along the way. Across the border into the leafy Washington state, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, drive Route 66, go through the Deep South in late summer, up along the east coast, Chesapeake Bay, the Big Apple, ending in the famous fall colours of New England.
As time went on and I failed to land a well-paid job in Toronto like I had hoped to, we revised the plan somewhat, trimming it down, cutting out some of the stops, but keeping in all the ones we deemed truly crucial. The Grand Canyon, for example.
Places like that which are true bucket list destinations for both of us, I struggled to fully think about giving up. I kind of just pushed the fact that this trip wouldn’t be happening to the back of mind, to come back and properly grieve at a later date, when my mind got a chance to play catch up to all that had been forced upon us in so short a time.
Not long after taking off from Toronto to return home, it hit me that our stopover in L.A. would be the last taste of the States we got for who knows how long. I had a moment of sadness before falling asleep in exhaustion. Call it lucky timing, call it a gift from the Universe, call it what you may, but when I woke up and looked out my window, I was greeted by the breath-taking sight of my number one American bucket list spot out my window.
The Grand Canyon was sprawled 30,000 feet beneath me, an endless jagged gash on the Earth’s surface. 446 kilometres of eroded rock plunging down towards the winding Colorado River which crawled like a red snake along its length. There’s not much I can say to convey the beauty of the moment, of realising what I was seeing, of my fortune at seeing it, of not sleeping a little longer. A small consolation prize for the trip no longer possible. Only it wasn’t small at all, it was huge. Huger than I could have pictured, and huge to a point I can’t imagine people seeing it closer up can appreciate. I still want to hike it, to see it up close and personal, but there is something about seeing it from the air as I was lucky to that can’t be paralleled. I was nose to window the whole time.
The photos of course can’t come close to capturing the visual spectacle, nor the emotion I felt flying over the Grand Canyon. But for me, they’re invaluable. They remind me how sometimes life compensates for losses in ways you can’t imagine until they’re right in front of you. I think in this time of reeling from the whirlwind that is COVID-19, we’re all feeling at a loss, and not without reason. But something I can’t help but think is, imagine all the things that will come out of this that will be brilliant and beautiful. It’s the single thought that made me move from Plan B to Plan C and beyond with our wedding and our Canadian life with more ease than would have otherwise been possible. Yes, we have had to give up things, but like anything big or small, COVID-19 has changed the course of lives and events, and we are yet to reap the rewards of these changes, so let’s keep an eye open.