travelling to canada

This is what it's like travelling from Canada right now

It’s not everyday that you see the person sitting next to you on the airplane in a full hazmat suit, mask and gloves, but it seems to be something of a common occurrence if you find yourself travelling these days.

This pandemic has brought countless flight cancellations, route suspensions and travel advisories. Though all non-essential travel outside of Canada has been banned in order to curb further spread of the virus, some still find themselves having to make the journey home.

Josh Geelen, an Australian citizen and 29-year-old freelance photographer, moved to Toronto eight months ago on a two-year work visa. He recently found himself in this dilemma.

With a place to stay, some savings and healthcare coverage in Canada, Geelen initially made the decision to stay in Toronto rather than return to his home in Adelaide, South Australia.

“I felt like it would be unwise to travel because I didn’t feel like it was a necessity for me. That’s what they’ve been drilling into everyone, if you don’t need to do it, don’t do it,” he said. “It wasn’t until I realized that I potentially wouldn’t be able to get home for six or more months, that I felt I needed to go.”

Geelen says this decision was made in three or four days.

“The decision had to be made really quickly. I booked the flight and had to do everything you need to do to essentially pack up your life in a short amount of time.”

Geelen caught one of the last flights to Sydney, with a connection in Vancouver on Saturday, April 4.

“I’ve been in and out of Pearson quite a few times and have witnessed what it’s like in its norm. When I got there it was the epitome of a ghost town,” Geelen said. “There was next to no one there.”

This surreal sense followed Geelen as he boarded the nearly empty Air Canada flight to Vancouver.

“Everyone had masks on, but the most noticeable thing was a lot of people wearing suits, like the disposable hazmat suits. Seeing that is really strange,” he said. “A lot of people were fully covered, had gloves and ski goggles on – I probably saw like 10 pairs of ski goggles.”

“You also saw a lot of people wiping down their chairs and all the surfaces around them with lysol wipes. Everyone was being really careful about that, including myself.”

Geelen says the flight from Vancouver to Sydney was full of Australians who seemed to be in a similar boat to himself, leaving their newly-established lives in Whistler or Banff.

Once he got to the airport in Sydney, there was a strong police and military presence. Geelen says each person's temperature was being taken before being sent to a hotel for a mandatory two-week quarantine.

Geelen is now nearly halfway through his quarantine and hasn’t left his hotel room for six days. Brown paper bagged meals are dropped at his door for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Even now, at my door, there’s security and police who patrol,” he said. “They call up and are really good at checking in on you and your mental welfare.”

Though this self-isolation could prove challenging for some, Geelen says he’s keeping himself busy with lots of calls with family and friends and creative projects.

“I have these DJ decks that I brought so I’m learning how to DJ. That’s keeping me busy,” he said. “Also, just drinking lots of coffee and tea, and chatting to people – My Facetime levels are unprecedented.”

Once Geelen is released from quarantine, he'll be continuing on to his hometown of Adelaide where he'll enter into another two weeks of isolation. 

Lead photo by

Josh Geelen

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