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11:00am 29/05/2022
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[Isshōkenmei] Tomorrow and the unexpected: which will arrive first? (43)
By:Lee San

Travelling has made up a significant part of many people’s lives, and this will remain very much the same after the coronavirus pandemic. As a matter of fact, the pandemic has driven people to become even more eager to travel, as they try their best to make up for the lost years of not travelling.

Indeed, no one has ever expected that travelling overseas could be so difficult. And it is even harder for us to understand that in our highly sophisticated 21st century world today, human beings appear to be so vulnerable in the face of a minuscule virus!

That said, the past two years of pandemic seem to have taught us how to treasure certain things in life, such as the freedom to travel, and the fun of travelling together with other people.

After the 17 of us touched down in Melbourne, Australia, at 10.00 a.m. on April 1, 2022, the driver who came to pick us up said tearfully: It’s been a long time since I last picked up passengers and helped carry their luggage. I’ll cherish this moment and the feeling which has not come by easily!

As for us, after being confined within our country for 744 days, that kind of déjà vu feeling of seeing in a foreign land a driver we had not before met was both intriguing and inexplicably exciting. Tourism Australia said delightfully that we were the first tour group to have arrived in Australia post-pandemic. That to us was something so meaningful and spirit-lifting.

In Melbourne, I also got to meet my good friend Captain Yao whom I had not seen for so long. He told me he was forced to stay home over the past two years, and although he had since picked up the fun of doing house chores and the ability to take each day in stride, he still felt saddened and uneasy watching the developments here in Australia and abroad over TV news.

Indeed, we not only wish that we ourselves are fine, we also pray that everyone else in this world can safely sail past a crisis of such unprecedented proportion. We can truly understand the cheers and tears Captain Yao or any other people has gone through these past two years!

April 2020 vs July 2022: our first domestic versus oversea tours after the pandemic.

My friend, whatever that we have gone through, and no matter how bad it could get, it will surely come to an end someday, and we can start all over again, right?

Still remember the utter misery on the first day of MCO 1.0, when for the very first time in the country’s history everything had to be put to a complete halt? Just imagine how we managed it, and how we later overcame one after another hurdle that came our way!

85 days later at the start of RMCO 1.0, on the morning of July 2, 2020, a total of 42 travel buddies fearlessly boarded the Firefly flight for Langkawi. As a matter of fact, we had no intention to bag the credit of being the first domestic tour group after the pandemic, but in reality we were indeed the first group to have arrived in Langkawi after the MCO. Not only were we the first domestic tour group, we were also the first group for our local GA agency, driver-guide, restaurants, duty-free shops and even Firefly.

What’s the significance of being the “First”? Nothing much, but it simply means the worst was finally over (for the time being) and we managed to put up a tour group thanks to the support of our loyal customers. But more importantly, it also gave the Malaysian travel industry a ray of hope that “retaliatory travel” could have just arrived!

September 24, some 15 of us rushed out of Sipadan to catch the last night flight from Tawau back to KL because of the return of the virus, in fact a more powerful variant, after the Sabah state election. And soon, the entire nation was put on CMCO 2.0 beginning October 14, followed by 12 whole months of zero domestic travel, another heavy blow to the local travel industry.

Because of the new lockdowns, many in the industry opted to quit, and we could feel their helplessness!

To be honest, bad news kept streaming in for all industries and trades, many shuttering their businesses for good, or experiencing rapid decline. There were nevertheless some that managed to pull through due to their persistence.

But then who can tell which between tomorrow and the unexpected tragedy will arrive first?

Finally, on February 24, 2022, the war between Russia and Ukraine officially broke out!

More in the Isshōkenmei series

(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has travelled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)

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Lee San
Apple Vacations
Isshōkenmei

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