What a bittersweet and semi-horrible end to an amazing 3 weeks in Vietnam, and my year and a half adventure in Southeast Asia. I’m beyond thankful that I’ve been able to travel through Vietnam for the past three weeks; two of them with two amazing British blokes (that’s the British term right?)
It was nice having others to share this turmoil with in the end and the “adventures” we had since the day we met.
Like disembarking our Ha Long Bay cruise to find out that Cat Ba Island is closing and there’s only one bus off the island.
And the time we were half way on our bus journey to Ninh Binh when we found out our hostel we booked wason lockdown. QUARANTINED.
And those memories of how 2 / 3 of our stomachs just HATED us.
And of course, all the laughters, memories, and good times we had when we were in our travel bubbles!
On this somber Thursday the 19th of March, 2020, the effects of COVID-19 on this planet finally caught with me.
I knew Malaysia had issued a movement restriction order starting on the 19th, however, I was hopeful that I would still be able to transit through KLIA2, the AirAsia terminal, since I wasn’t actually leaving the terminal. However at 12:20 am, I got the dreaded email saying my AirAsia flight had been canceled. All of the sudden a huge flood of emotions hit and I couldn’t stop crying. After several long minutes, myself, Alex and James had to start figuring things out (for them, it was the third time in 48 hours).
Flight to Bangkok- fully booked.
Flights to anywhere- confusing.
- Which countries are closed?
- Which countries can I not enter?
- HOW MANY STOPS?
Insert massive headache, AGAIN. I don’t usually get headaches but I’ve had one pretty much everyday for the past 4 days because of stress and worry. This feeling is not normal for this traveler.
End In Sight
Finally, after two hours of problem solving, I see light at the end of this nightmare. My mom and I found a flight. $1000.
It pained me having to spend that kind of money to fly home. It was an expense I was truly trying to avoid, however in these times, it was simply unavoidable.
I’m eternally grateful to have parents, who, have helped me out of this bind and somehow, other binds I have found myself in (remember Irma and Maria. I can be done now with these emergency type situations.)
I am also so thankful for James and Alex, who after all said and done and the extreme amount of money spent between the three of us on flights getting us out of Vietnam and back to our home countries, we still managed to find laughter. I don’t think I could have done this whole ordeal without other people. I know my parents have their own fears and worries with me abroad during this crazy pandemic time, but it’s a different type of emotion when you’re the one abroad. I am thankful I had these two Brits to go through this rollercoaster of emotions period.
By 2:30 am, we have things figured out. My flight home is a little less worrisome then theirs, but for now, we all have flights out of Vietnam and back to our homelands.
Three and a half hours later, I was awake and getting ready to head off to the airport. I went to the airport at the 3-hour check in period, strictly out of fear. I knew it would be more than enough time, but I could shake the fear. Fear of showing up and the flight not actually be real. Fear of a last minute cancelation, due to a last minute border closure. You name it, I probably felt it.
Thankfully, at the nearly deserted airport, I was greeted with friendly smiles, a quick process of checking in, a no-wait immigration and security check point, and enough VND to buy a last minute gift for the family.
I’m currently sitting on the tarmac in my Cathay Dragon flight to Hong Kong with a whole row to myself and my emotions sitting somewhere between utter exhaustion and opening of the flood gates.
It’s such a bittersweet moment going home. I’m not ready and to be honest I don’t want to go home yet. I don’t want this travel bubble / life abroad feeling to end. Asia has been home and in less than 6 hours my whole world turned upside down.
Listen, I understand you might think “be lucky you get / got to travel” and believe me when I say, I’m beyond lucky to have had the last three weeks in Vietnam and parents who would do and have done more than everything to get me home. But for me, I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m hurt, and in all fairness, I’m not ready. I went into this 3-week Vietnam experience with no job and no major responsibilities (I don’t have kids). I had the “Life on the road. Just me and my backpack” mentality and I was happy; truly, deeply, unexplainably happy.
The world was at the palm of my hands, until COVID-19 escalated rapidly, and things were slowly changing.
Leaving my travel bubble and Southeast Asia is triggering the start of these worries. Worries I haven’t felt or had in in a very long time and I don’t think my emotion and mental health can handle them right now.
This world has changed in a fort night and more dramatically so in the last 48 hours. It’s no longer the world I once knew. It’s never going to be like it was when I left America back in September 2018. It can’t. We have all changed with it. We have had something attack us and we are in uncharted waters with no end in sight.
Jobs are disappearing. Finances are dwindling. Families are struggling more and more with each passing minute. Schools are closed. Stores are empty. Stock market…what stock market? Crashed. People are panicking.
Many generations haven’t been through this major of a crisis before, and even those who have, this is unlike any other crisis. This will go down in history.
I’m worried and I’m scared.
I’m about to re-enter a country I no longer know and into a situation of straight fear and intensive panic. I’m about to be kicked in every direction. It’s out of my control.
Only time will tell. But, if my past experiences have told me anything and the word on arm gives me any guidance, it’s this: I have the strength to come away from this stronger, better, wiser, more aware, and more thankful than I was when it all started.
I will make it. The worries will eventually fade, the world will heal with time, and the fears will soon be distant memories.
Thanks for the lessons you are teaching me, even though I not-so-secretly hate you for what your doing to this beautiful place I call home.