AS we all know, the current coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on people not only in Britain, but in countries across the globe.

The struggles of having to lockdown and self-isolate at home are well documented here in the UK, but imagine having to do it more than 11,000 miles from friends and family.

That is exactly what Moulton backpacker Jess Leigh faced after becoming stranded in New Zealand while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

And after finally returning home last week after 59 days down under, the 19-year-old gave her thoughts on what was one of the ‘most stressful periods’ of her life.

“When travelling, I way always taught to think ‘worst comes to worse, I will always be able to get home’. How very wrong I was,” she said.

“Being stranded in New Zealand definitely wasn’t on the bucket list, never mind being stranded in the middle of a global pandemic where countries are shutting their borders left, right and centre.

“As soon as you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot by finding and booking a flight back to the UK, that flight gets cancelled, and so does the next one and the next one.

“I was having the time of my life climbing glaciers and mountains, travelling New Zealand and laughing and smiling more than I have ever done before.

Winsford Guardian:

“I heard about Covid-19 on the news and always thought it would never affect me, but everything happened so quickly.

“Just as I was arriving in Christchurch, the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand was on ‘level two’ alert, meaning more precautions had to take place and the Kiwi Experience tour bus I was on was stopping.

“I was devastated, because it truly was the end of my travels around New Zealand, despite still having plenty of stuff I wanted to do.

“On the last day in Christchurch, the PM announced that New Zealand had moved to ‘level three’, and in 48 hours, would be going into a full ‘level four’ lockdown.

“I was about to be stuck in a country and have to self-isolate for at least four weeks, but thankfully, I have great family friends who took me in.”

Jess says that living out of a suitcase during the lockdown and finding something to fill the days was challenging.

“Lockdown in New Zealand was very strict, making a foreign country seem all the more foreign,” she continued.

Winsford Guardian:

“All I wanted to do was FaceTime my friends and family, before realising that it was 3am in the UK.

“I kept on an eye on the small availability of commercial flights, and although the prices were crazy high, I had no choice but to bite the bullet and buy the most reliable one through Los Angeles.

“The scariest part was the thought of travelling back home and risk catching the virus, but also not knowing how the airports were going to be dealing with people.”

On her journey home, Jess describes the airports she passed through as being ‘like ghost towns’, with everything closed except one or two places to get food and drinks.

“The most stressful part was the transfer at LAX, as we waited in the hot heat being socially distant from each other and working our way through queues,” she said.

“But as soon as we got on the plane, we were squished together like sardines, as it was full of people desperate to get home.

“Cabin crew only came round for essential food and no one dared to cough or sneeze.

“Around three quarters of people had masks on, some had full protective suits on, some wore gloves and there were even a few wearing face shields.

Winsford Guardian:

“When I eventually got to London, I didn’t recognise the place, as everything was closed and Euston station had a mere 12 people in.

“Weirdly, there was nothing regarding checks on the way back, but I think because we were coming from a low risk country, it was a little more relaxed.

“I may have only been away for a few months, but coming home was like entering a new world. It was deathly quiet, like I was in some kind of movie.

“Overall, it was probably one of the most stressful periods of my life trying to get home.

“If I knew that I would be able to get home, I would probably have stayed in New Zealand, but there would have been a great possibility of being stuck out there for months.

“If anything was to happen to my family back in the UK and I couldn’t get home, it would’ve broken my heart.”

To read more about Jess’ life and travel experiences, visit her blog at jessjleigh.wordpress.com.