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One year ago, I quit my job teaching English in Thailand to teach with VIPKID full-time. I planned to live in Thailand for the rest of 2019 while also doing some traveling in Asia. Then I would go back to the US for Christmas and New Year before spending all of 2020 traveling around Europe.
My plans changed back a bit back in August when I traveled to Singapore for a few days, tried to reenter Thailand, and Thailand customs told me that I had spent too much time in the country. I had 30 days to leave Thailand (If you want to know more about this story, you can watch this YouTube video).
I was heartbroken over this situation and the sudden change of plans. I returned home to the US in September of 2019. I stayed there until the beginning of January 2020, when I decided to start my travels through Europe.
I decided to start my travels in Italy. I would spend one month in each city: the first month in Rome, the second month in Florence, and the third month in Sicily.
This trip wasn’t a full-on vacation because I would also be working. I felt that one month in a city would give me enough time to enjoy the city while also working.
Back in January, while I was in Rome was the first time that I began to hear of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Because my job with VIPKID is teaching English to students in China, I became aware of this virus very quickly. Even though I knew everything that China was going through with COVID-19, I wasn’t worried about it at all and thought that the media was hyping it up way too much.
I remember sitting on the metro in Rome in January when I read a news headline that the first two cases of coronavirus were in Italy from Chinese tourists. I brushed this off and wasn’t worried in the slightest.
Over the next two months, I continued to hear about more and more about coronavirus spreading in Italy, but never gave it too much thought. That all changed on March 8th when Italy decided to close every historical site and museum in the entire country.
I was in Florence at the time but would be leaving for Palermo, Sicily on March 10th. The night before I left Florence for Sicily, my Airbnb host told me that he wanted to check to make sure that my train wasn’t canceled because the Italian government had canceled 70% of trains in Italy that day.
I was taking two trains to get to Palermo: one from Florence to Naples and another from Naples to Palermo. My Airbnb host checked both of them and said that they were still running the next day.
My train to Naples was set to leave at 6 am the next morning. I woke up a little later than I had wanted to, threw all of my stuff together, and headed to the train station only to realize once I got there that my train to Naples had been canceled in the middle of the night.
I was able to get another train to Naples an hour later. Luckily, my train from Naples to Sicily was delayed by an hour, so I was able to make that train as well.
While I was on my train from Naples to Sicily, I received a message from my Airbnb host in Sicily saying that the Italian government had decided to quarantine the entire country. He asked if I wanted to cancel my booking.
I was already on the train to Sicily and wouldn’t make it there until 9 pm that evening. I also already had a flight and Airbnb booked for the next month when I would be traveling to Croatia. I told my host that I wouldn’t be canceling.
My first full day in Palermo was on March 11th. I was able to walk around for a bit, get some food at a restaurant, and go to the grocery store. I was told from my hosts that the whole country was being quarantined, but there were a lot of people walking around, and a decent amount of restaurants and shops were open.
That all changed the next day when the Italian government shut down every business instead of grocery stores and pharmacies. At the grocery stores and pharmacies, there is a limit to how many people are allowed inside, and everyone must stand in a line one meter apart outside of the store or pharmacy until it is their turn. It is so sad to see how everyone in this country, and the world, is being affected by this virus. This is an interesting article about what life is like during the quarantine.
The virus itself does not cause me any anxiety or a sense of panic. I do have fear about how the world is changing because of the virus, though. I planned to go to Croatia next where I would stay there for three months. Instead, I decided to return home to the United States until I able to freely travel again.
I’m not too fond of the word privilege because I think its too overused, but this situation has made me realize that I am in a very privileged position. This virus will most likely not affect me financially because of my job with VIPKID. I am young, and I don’t have a compromised immune system, so this virus most likely won’t affect me healthwise. The unknown in this situation and how long it will last is what scares me.
I am trying to stay as positive as I can during this time, though. My dad always says, “Life happens for you, not to you.” That is something that I remind myself often when I am going through something difficult.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about how I am having a difficult time balancing everything while I have been traveling. I work full-time, and I have been trying to get out in each new city to explore, eat, and see everything there is to see in the town where I am staying. I am also an introvert and value the time that I spend alone. I enjoy reading, studying languages, and working on this blog. Those things have fallen to the wayside since I started this trip in Europe. I am going to use the rest of this time in quarantine to catch up on those things, and hope that things get back to normal as quickly as they can.