Isolated in Indonesia: Waimea woman returns home after months-long delay in Bali

  • Laura Reid’s friends and family gather for a surprise, drive-by welcome home greeting. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

  • Laura Reid with her son, Riley, having their first hug after completing her 14-day home quarantine. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, people around the globe have been socially distancing. Unintentionally, one Waimea woman’s distancing was taken to an extreme.

On March 3, Laura Reid, a motivational speaker and public speaking coach, left Kona to speak at the 11th annual Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Conference in Bali, Indonesia. When the outbreak boiled over midway through the conference, the threat of a permanent stay more than 6,000 miles away from her home and family loomed over Reid’s trip, originally meant to last only a few weeks.

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Reid hoped she’d be able to catch an early flight out of Denpasar’s airport in the second week of March, but she and many other travelers were greeted with canceled flight after canceled flight.

“You could go online and book any flight you wanted — and it looked like there were all these fantastic flights to get out — but they weren’t really available,” said Reid. “They would end up being canceled the day before or when you got there.”

After constant attempts to return to the Big Island failed, Reid eventually turned her attention back to the passion that led her to Bali in the first place: storytelling. While she and two directors of the conference, Vladimir Mladjenovic and Vladimir Ilic, were forced to rent a place in Ubud until they could arrange trips home, they worked together to launch www.quarantinestories.world. The site serves as a gathering place of sorts for people who were dealing with their own struggles in quarantine from all corners of the planet.

“We realized everybody was going through this transformation no matter where you were quarantined,” said Reid. “Whether it was spending more time with your family, appreciating things you used to not appreciate, everyone had these interesting stories to tell about their experience. We decided it would be really wonderful to collect those from around the world.”

With the virtual help of some fellow members of Waimea Toastmasters, Reid also competed in and earned a spot in the semifinals of the Toastmaster’s International Speech Contest in addition to speaking virtually at conferences and taking in the local scenes and culture to pass the time.

After months stuck in Bali, Reid’s fortunes finally turned on a routine trip in town to pick up rent money wired to her from her husband.

“I happened to notice a little travel agency; most of them were all boarded up in downtown Ubud, but someone was walking out,” said Reid. “It was a Balinese travel agent who had opened up a little tourism office.”

With a lot of trust in the travel agent and even more patience, Reid was finally able to piece together a five-flight itinerary to return home. When the calendar rolled over to July, she boarded a plane to leave Denpasar; over the course of more than two days, Reid flew from Denpasar to Jakarta, then Japan, San Francisco and Honolulu before ultimately landing in Kona on July 4.

“It was a crazy way to get home,” said Reid. “I made the very last flight out of Oahu to Kona by the skin of my teeth. It had been over two days, and I was so exhausted.”

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Upon returning home — 123 days after her departure — Reid endured 14 more days of quarantine away from her family before her extended version of social distancing ultimately came to a close with hugs from her husband, Blake, and son, Riley: a moment she says was one of the best of her life.

“We need only to have those things withheld from us for even a single day,” said Reid, “or 123 days, to remind us of how much they matter.”

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