Stranded overseas

The journey that Aaron Oakes took to get from Osaka to Staffordshire during the pandemic.

Aaron Oakes was stranded in Japan during the initial outbreak of the virus and needed to get back to Staffordshire in the UK.

In early 2019, I was in Osaka, Japan, travelling the country and going to my classes as usual. It’s not that I didn’t know what was happening, it was impossible not to, but Japan handled the pandemic so differently at the beginning; you wouldn’t know anything was really wrong.

My university, the University of Leeds, was trying to get us back home as quick as possible, but with planes being cancelled and panic rising across the globe it didn’t seem possible.

When the lockdown hit England, I was so scared. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to join my family, to check in with people I hadn’t seen in months. Throughout March I was looking for any flight that could take me home, but every time I managed to book a flight it was cancelled.

I remember finding another flight; from Tokyo to Heathrow, and it left in 2 days, on April 1st. I was terrified that it would be cancelled, or that I’d land in Tokyo and then be stranded there instead.

When I got to Tokyo it was a mad rush to get to my flight, and I only felt relaxed when I was in my seat. The flight was 12 hours, and for the whole journey I couldn’t wait to see my parents and sister; I cried the moment we hugged.

I’ve been back in England for a while now and my university trip to Spain has been cancelled. I’m happy now though, I’m safe at home and I’ll never take that for granted again.