When preparing to move to a new country, most people make sure they are prepared in the event that something displeasing happens. If you are away for an extended period of time, it is wise to have travel insurance (which CIEE conveniently provides). Maybe your luggage gets lost, or maybe you fall ill with some food poisoning and end up in a hospital. In these situations, it is good to be covered. These are basic “worst-case-scenarios” that run through your mind when preparing to move or travel abroad. However, how many people think to themselves, “What if a worldwide pandemic breaks out while I’m away?” I surely did not have that thought, because what are the odds? Well it’s clearly very possible, because it’s currently happening. With Coronavirus upon us, the world is in full-blown panic mode.
Ironically enough, I actually traveled through Wuhan in October (3 months before the outbreak) to get to Thailand. Although, I did not actually leave the airport because I had a short layover, and also because of China’s visa restrictions. Anyways, when the Coronavirus first broke out, I did not think too much of it. In the beginning, I told myself the media was exaggerating.
I had full intention of staying in Thailand until the day I planned and finishing out my trip. My plan was to visit Cambodia for a week after my contract had ended, then come back to Phuket for 3 days and finally fly home out of there. I did not want the Coronavirus to affect these plans, but unfortunately it has. Although the situation in Thailand does not seem too bad, it is becoming slightly worse in the United States and in my home state of New York. According to the Thai government, there are now 70 confirmed cases. Thailand has a population of over 69,000,000 people. New York has over 200 confirmed cases, with a population of just under 20,000,000 people.
At the beginning, my parents weren’t too worried about me. They wanted me to finish out my trip, while feeling reassured that I would get home safely. However, once the situation began escalating at home, the phone calls started coming in. “When are you coming home? Why aren’t you coming back early?” I told them being away for 2 or 3 more weeks won’t make much of a difference. At first, I thought it was silly to hurry home because it was “getting bad” in New York, while everything seemed to be okay in Thailand. Then, Donald Trump banned all flights to the United States from Europe. For now, this is only for 30 days and I believe American citizens are exempt from these restrictions. I started to feel paranoid and began thinking, “What if travel bans are put in place for Asia next?” On top of this, we received a travel advisory from the Department of State advising all U.S. citizens to reconsider traveling abroad, since a Global Level 3 Health Advisory was established. All of this happening in one day led me to pull the plug on all of my future travel plans.
Like I mentioned, I flew in through Wuhan, so my return flight back home was also originally scheduled to transfer through Wuhan. This changed pretty fast once the virus became a thing. I booked a new flight from Phuket to New York, with a transfer in Qatar. Recently, Qatar banned all flights from Thailand, as well as various other countries. Though there is an exception for layovers right now, so my flight is still okay.
Although I am not particularly scared of contracting the virus myself, this is a time to be more mindful of our behaviors for the sake of others. Of course I wanted to stay in Thailand for as long as I had planned, but my vacation to Cambodia can wait. Now, I am focusing on finishing my time here at my school. I have finished lessons and speaking finals and this week, I am saying goodbye to students and my fellow teachers. I gave in to my parents and moved my flight up to a sooner date. There are 4 OEG teachers at my school, including myself, and we have all unanimously reconsidered our travel plans to return home sooner. I am returning home two weeks early to give my mom and dad peace of mind. They’re not so much scared of me catching the virus either, but they think I’m going to get stuck here because of travel bans and cancelations. I know things can change overnight, so I myself did not want to potentially deal with having to book a third flight and lose even more money. Although my trip is being cut slightly short, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend the last few months exploring and working in this beautiful country.
Wash your hands and stay safe out there!