I’ve been contemplating whether I should write this post or not. While my blog is focused on more light hearted & humorous stories, I decided it was ultimately best to give a post that was more real & serious. You’ve been warned, this will not be a post that brings a giggle.
The world has been rocked by the virus &, although these are starting to be lifted in some places, most of the world’s population was subject to lockdowns & strict isolation restrictions. That meant going home & simply staying there. Seems simple enough, but what did that mean for the expat? What do you do when your home & your job are in different countries? This is the situation I found myself in.
I first heard about the virus in mid-January & it quickly became a great personal concern because of the very high number of people I came into contact with on a daily basis as well as relying on the travel industry for an income. Admittedly, I didn’t think things would get as serious as they did. By the first week of March, the travel industry was seeing major disruptions & travel restrictions started being put in place by some governments. This was when I knew I would have to make a decision on whether to stay in Qatar or to go home to South Africa. Qatar closed its borders on the 18th of March & South Africa on the 27th.
I decided to stay in Qatar. I made this decision because I didn’t know if I’d been exposed to the virus & going home would be putting my family at risk. The healthcare system in South Africa was struggling at best before all of this & that was a concern for me. If I did go back, I wouldn’t know when I’d be able to come back to Qatar & considering this is where my job is based, it would make the future uncertain for my career. It wasn’t an easy choice to make & it has had consequences, but that’s just how life goes.
It is a very unusual feeling to know a place you love & know so well is going through something major & you aren’t there to experience it firsthand. Your home is going through a historical event & you won’t see if for yourself. You will only get to read news articles or hear stories. You feel like you’re missing out which is pretty ridiculous because if I were home, I would be doing exactly what I’m doing all day now anyway. I guess it’s just a way my brain processes this.
The homesickness is far more extreme than I’ve ever felt before. When I think of it logically, it is ridiculous because this isn’t the longest I’ve been away for & because of all the free time I have, I’ve been contacting my friends & family far more frequently than I normally would. However, the homesickness is here & it is very real. I’ve recognized that having the option to jump on a direct flight home is a massive mental safety net. The option to go home is now simply just gone. Knowing it will be months before you even have the option to see your loved ones is very difficult for me to deal with.
I know these problems are nothing when compared with people who are struggling health wise or who are facing severe financial problems as a result of the virus. I’m also extremely grateful for the people who are working tirelessly in the healthcare, science & other essential fields to get us through this.
My next post will bring a smile (hopefully a chuckle too).
Keep traveling, keep safe.