Woman in Tonga for Weekend Ends Up Trapped For 18 Months

She's not that upset about it
By Josh Gardner,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2021 9:30 AM CDT

A British woman is telling her story of a weekend trip to the South Pacific that has now stretched on for some 18 months. It'll come as no surprise that COVID is to blame for what Zoe Stephens dubs "the longest weekend of my life," but the 27-year-old avid traveler seems to be making the best of it after getting stuck in the tiny island nation of Tonga since the start of the global pandemic. She told CNN that news of COVID was actually what spurred her to head the the chain of around 170 islands in early 2020. She'd been traveling through Asia after spending a couple of years in China and wanted to escape the incessant news. Of all the places she could have chosen, Tonga may have been the smartest--as one of the only countries on earth that has managed to have zero COVID cases, Stephens jokes that she's one of the only people in the world who's never had to wear a mask.

She told the Liverpool Echo she's looked into leaving at times but has found herself blocked either by issues with flights out of the island or due to restrictions in her native UK. She told the outlet that, while sun-drenched and full of adventure, she's seen her share of problems over the last year and a half--including losing all her possessions in a cyclone. Stephens said she also lost her job but, on the bright side, was able to complete her master's degree remotely from Tonga. Another bright point she says stands out is when she had the opportunity to set up the first ever marathon on Tonga. While she says she's had some difficulty adapting to life in Tonga, Stephens has made the best of it by documenting her adventures on both YouTube and Instagram, the next of which may be her first experience of the world as the rest of us now know it: she's due to head home at the end of August. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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