An Expat’s Response: Deciding to Return Home During The Covid-19 Virus Pandemic

I’m going home. As we all know, there is a horrendous virus plaguing the globe that is disrupting the global economy, stealing thousands of lives, and quite frankly, it’s petrifying me. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam is where I am currently based. It has been such a pleasure and an immeasurable gift to have had this experience. But, I’m worried. I think it’s safe to say we all are. Shrouded in such uncertainty, even the day to day happenings of the world are a mystery. I want to talk about my reasons for leaving Vietnam and returning back home to Seattle. Perhaps my thoughts will provide clarity or guidance to other expats living abroad. This was a hard decision. I realized that – to stay or to leave – neither was an optimal option. I just listened to my heart, took a leap of faith, and I’m currently praying that I land on my feet at the end of all this. Follow along with me as I delve into my thoughts: 

My Employment Situation

I have been working for a really kind and helpful language center teaching my students the English language. When this virus first began taking hold of the world, my classes were canceled and we as a company switched to teaching our students online. This resulted in my hours being cut, my classes getting merged, and a lot of confusion. I was still getting paid a salary – an amount that I could still live pretty well with. I was hopeful and I was calm. Finances secured, I was at peace with my decision at that time to remain in Vietnam. 

Then, as the pandemic persisted, I was notified by my manager that my pay would be cut and any amount I was paid over the hours that I worked would need to be repaid at a to-be-determined later date. I grew anxious after receiving this news because I realized that I was essentially being given loans. Personally, I’ve never taken out a loan in my life and the calm that I had been feeling evaporated into rapid kinetic anxiety. Further still, the virus crept on with a hastily expanding, stronger growing grip on the global community. I realized that to remain with my current company would only land me into a pit of potential debt. I saw a bleak financial future ahead of me and, lest I concede to digging the financial pit I was already standing in even deeper, I felt there was no other choice. I resigned from my  teaching position, paid back what I could of the debt I had accrued, and I used what remained of my funds to purchase a ticket home. To anyone who currently has solid financial stability, I am beyond ecstatic for you. To those who, like me, do not have that luxury, let’s stand tall and keep our eyes stuck to the horizon. Relief will come. 

To Be With My Family

We all bear much concern for those we love in this abominably trying time. With a near globally unanimous cry for social distancing and self-quarantining, there is much fear regarding whether we expats should return home to our families or not. Each person will need to weigh the risks and the comforts diligently to arrive at their own best conclusion. For myself, the answer was immensely clear. I wanted to return home. It can already be such a difficult situation to live abroad away from your family. Even more so when in the midst of a pandemic. 

My sister and I both currently still reside in HCMC (flight anticipated to depart on the 5th of April). She was already set on returning home even before the transpiring events of this current situation. With her mind already decided, and my mind weary of enduring this terror alone, I made the decision to leave with her. Not to mention, I have been away from my partner for nearly a year and that has taken its own emotional toll. I want to be home. I want to be there to support those whom I love. Ravaging through articles and absorbing the news, my sister and I recognize and acknowledge the need to adhere to the guidelines to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arriving back in Seattle. She and I have booked a private, self check-in room (to ensure minimal interaction with others) which we will use to self-quarantine for two weeks before formally returning home to be with our family. 

Today is frightening. Tomorrow will be, too. In the end, all we can do is keep up-to-date and educated about the most current guidelines to remain healthy and to contain the spread of this virus as best we can. Traveling back home is risky. I implore everyone to think deeply and thoroughly about what is best for yourself and for those you love. I honestly would have chosen to stay in HCMC if my financial situation hadn’t rotted away. But, as matters currently stand, to stay is not financially feasible for me, and the longing to be reunited with my loved ones, after taking all the necessary precautions that I can, is a calling too great to ignore. Remember to breathe. Act with compassion. Take care of yourself mentally. There are so many emotions flurrying about in all of this chaos. It’s okay to let them out. 

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