As soon as Australia announced it was opening its borders for international travel, Peterborough's Ben Harkin knew that was his chance to get out and explore the world again.
But pulling off the overseas holiday to Europe and Asia in the middle of pandemic took a bit of planning and a little bit of luck for the motivational speaker who was born without arms.
After managing to find a place to get his pre-flight PCR test on Boxing Day, he was on a plane to Dubai the next day to catch up with a friend.
He then travelled on to Germany and Spain before now spending seven weeks in Thailand which required a week "quarantining" in what has been dubbed "the sandbox" in Phuket.
"I did that route because that's the way that quarantine and lockdowns were permitting," he said.
"There was a lot of planning involved.
"If I had landed in Thailand first I wouldn't have been able to land in those other countries."
But Mr Harkin said that quarantine in Thailand meant a COVID test on arrival and, after getting a negative test 24 hours later, he had to spend the next week "going anywhere" on Phuket Island.
A negative day five test allowed him to continue on into Thailand.
He jokingly described quarantine in Phuket as " horrible". "You are sitting there on the beach having cocktails," Mr Harkin said.
Despite all his travels, Mr Harkin hasn't caught COVID-19. "It's quiet. Really, really quiet. It's good being a tourist because if there is anything you want to see you just walk in and see it," he said.
"There's no lining up, there's no getting hassled by people trying to flog you stuff."
When he tried to visit the Sagrada Familia in Spain a few years ago he said there were too many tourists.
"I just couldn't get close enough. It was packed with people. I was there a couple of weeks ago and there was no one there. I was walking around by myself taking selfies. It was great," Mr Harkin said.
Even at the party street Khao San Road in Bangkok where there would usually be tens of thousands of people, he said he "could count how many people there were".
"I thought, I could either sit at home and get COVID or I could have a crack and make the most of this opportunity to get out and do something," he said.
"I know COVID is a very serious thing, but you've got to live. If you're sitting at home worrying about getting COVID, you'll get COVID at home. You may as well get out and have some fun.
"I'm not worried about getting sick or anything like that. I'm just concerned I'll get a positive test at some point and I'll have to go into quarantine or have to miss a flight."
Travelling overseas means knowing all the rules for different countries - like the mandated N95 masks in Bavaria - but he said there was no contact tracing or QR code check-ins.
Although a rapid antigen test was required to get into some high-traffic tourist places for unvaccinated people, and Thailand does have sensors to check temperatures, he said.
When he returns to Australia next month, he will go back to work at AquaZone where he works as a swim teacher. "That's what I did during COVID. I trained up to do that," he said.
He will also do some motivational speaking, and already has one lined up to do at Emmanuel College when he gets back.
"The whole world has now changed. I just felt lining up at the airport in Melbourne, usually people that are stressed and nobody is in a good mood when they are trying to get on the plane and check in," Mr Harkin said.
But that had changed. "Everyone was so happy. Everyone seemed to be so positive just getting on a plane and go somewhere," he said.
"I hope this is a shake-up that changes our perception of the world and what bad things really are."
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