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TRIP OF A LIFETIME

Brodie visits New Zealand to see sisters amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Dan Brodie sits on a rock and looks out over the mountains at the Pinnacles in Coromandel Forest Park on his recent excursion to New Zealand. Brodie, a South Hamilton teacher and coach, spent a week in New Zealand visiting his two sisters, Kristin Brodie and Emily Paton, over spring break earlier this month. Submitted photo

Dan Brodie is currently in the midst of a 14-day self-quarantine inside his Ames residence. If he could head out into the public, he knows the first place he would visit — someplace where he could purchase a lottery ticket.

The South Hamilton coach and teacher is feeling pretty dang lucky right about now.

Let’s back up a few weeks or even a few months, back to a time when COVID-19 didn’t dominate everything we see and hear. Brodie had planned what many people would call a trip of a lifetime — a visit to New Zealand over spring break to see his two sisters, Kristin Brodie and Emily Paton, both of whom live on the other side of the world.

Who wouldn’t look forward to an adventure like that?

But then COVID-19 happened and, suddenly, Brodie’s trip was in doubt. Still, as the pandemic first started to leave an imprint on the United States, Brodie made the decision to maintain his travel plans and on Thursday, March 12, his excursion began — literally hours before a travel advisory was issued.

Dan Brodie (left) visited his sisters Kristin Brodie (center) and Emily Paton (right) in New Zealand. Submitted photo

Brodie flew from Des Moines to Dallas, and then Dallas to Los Angeles, and then Los Angeles to Aukland, New Zealand. He arrived in country on Saturday, March 14, just one day before New Zealand implemented a ban on all incoming travelers.

Now do you see why he feels lucky?

“I got so lucky because (New Zealand) started deporting people the day after I arrived,” Brodie, South Hamilton’s head wrestling and girls’ track and field coach, said. “I carried my passport and visa around at all times because I was worried they would stop me and ask me when I entered the country.”

For a week, Brodie was able to escape the daily news reports and enjoy his time in a foreign country. He saw the vast sights and he was able to reconnect with his sisters and their husbands, something he knows he won’t be able to do again for quite some time.

“We were all impacted by (COVID-19), but it’s something we were planning for a while,” Brodie said. “I won’t be able to see my sisters again for probably 12 to 18 months, so we just enjoyed being together. We packed our days with a lot of fun stuff like deep sea diving and scuba diving … but every time we were able to get a WIFI connection, we were always looking for updates on what was going on.”

Dan Brodie makes a climb (on left) during his visit to Coromandel Forest Park in New Zealand earlier this month. Submitted photo

But even during Brodie’s stay in New Zealand, one question left him a little uneasy: Was he going to be able find his way back home?

Brodie’s initial return flight was canceled, and so was a second. But, eventually, he was able to book himself on a flight Sunday morning.

“We were on pins and needles the whole time, but I got lucky on my return flight too,” Brodie said. “It was one of the last flights leaving for the United States and luckily it stayed the course.

“The day I left, New Zealand went to Stage 4, which means only essential businesses are open and they advise against all travel. They’ve shut down pretty much all beaches and parks and trails.”

Brodie went from Aukland to San Francisco, and then on to Denver before he finally touched down in Des Moines Sunday evening.

Inside a cavern at Cathedral Cover in New Zealand. Submitted photo

“I thought it was going to be a little more difficult going through customs (in the United States) because they were randomly pulling people aside for health screenings,” Brodie said. “But I made it through.”

Brodie was a little hesitant to travel through San Francisco, as California is one of the COVID-19 hot spots, but he simply didn’t have a choice. And he’s adhering to the policy of self-isolation for 14 days for anyone who has traveled outside of the country.

“I’m going to play it safe and keep doing the things they say, like keep a good distance from people and limit my outside exposure,” he said. “I talked to my parents when I got back and they were awesome, they went and picked up groceries for me and stocked my fridge. But I’m obviously going to stay away from my grandparents because all three could potentially have high risks.

“It was a great trip and it was blind luck on the days that I showed up.”

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