These last few months I’ve been slaloming through a pinball machine of highs and lows, past gratitude and frustration, hope and despair. I was meant to be moving to Ecuador in April, but then the borders shut. Now I have to move out of my apartment in Chile, although quarantine laws mean that a house move would be illegal. So now, I’m stuck. I’m safe, healthy and on the whole happy, albeit a little frustrated.
I’m not alone. I reached out to five fellow Expaters around the globe for a snapshot of what they’re going through right now. Here they share their highs and lows, their struggles and joys.
Here are the personal stories of five women under lockdown…
Karen on moving home and giving birth in a party capital
I’m a Brazilian living in New Orleans with my husband and our three year old son. In January we received a notice from our landlord that he wanted to sell our house. As the time I was six months pregnant and Mardi Gras season was just kicking off. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
I knew the pandemic was arriving in the US, but I had no idea it would hit so quickly or that New Orleans would become an epicenter. We had to move to a small, temporary apartment in the crowded downtown which wasn’t fun. We weren’t allowed to get anything delivered and I still needed to buy stuff for the baby.
After a couple of very anxious weeks we were able to move into our new home. I was glad to move, but I was utterly exhausted with all the cleaning, cooking, packing and of course the pregnancy. I had family who planned to come and help me, but they had to cancel their flights due to the lockdown. We couldn’t get any cleaning or household help.
When the stress started taking its toll on my health, I reached out for online counselling. It helped, but I still suffered from high blood pressure and my baby was born prematurely, at 35 weeks. The hospital wasn’t allowing visitors during the pandemic, so my husband couldn’t be there with me. My son couldn’t visit his new baby sister.
Then I had to leave the hospital without my daughter. I cried every night until she was discharged, five days after me.
I’m just focusing on making it through this crazy period of my life.
Since we’ve been home, as a family of four, I feel better. I feel more relaxed. It’s hard to not have other family and friends around, though. It’s hard not being able to plan for the future. Maybe one day we’ll move to Brazil, maybe we’ll move to the UK where my husband is from, or maybe we’ll settle permanently in the US. I just don’t know. For now, I’m just focusing on making it through this crazy period of my life.
Karen blogs at mamaeexpatriada.com
Cecilie on an unexpected lockdown with her boyfriend in Portugal
Like many other travelers, my world trip ended abruptly when Covid-19 escalated. All countries started closing their borders to foreigners, so my boyfriend Glenn and I were left with little choice.
Our choice was split up and go home, or stay together. We decided to stay together.
We’re an international couple: I’m from Denmark and he’s from Belgium. So our choice was split up and go home, or stay together. We decided to stay together in Lisbon.
Lockdown life isn’t too bad here. We stay in a ridiculously cheap Airbnb in the city center which has everything we need. Being full-time travelers, we haven’t had a proper kitchen for a year, so I take full advantage by making way too many pancakes and lasagnas, while drinking a bit too much Portuguese wine.
Compared to other countries in Europe, Portugal has handled the coronavirus quite well and the restrictions have never been too harsh. We’ve been able to go outside and exercise everyday, or grab a cup of take out coffee and walk by the coast.
I haven’t seen my family and friends for almost a year, and it’s ridiculous how much I miss them. However, I’d rather stay here than split up with Glenn. So, thank you Lisbon, for having us.
Cecilie blogs at Worldwide Walkers Travel
Becky on turning a holiday nightmare into a positive in Morocco
My husband and I sold our home and left the US in February 2020 to start an epic, year long worldwide journey. We were on stop number six, in Marrakesh, about to leave for Australia, when Morocco suddenly closed its borders.
The people are extremely kind and we’re grateful to be here.
We were initially planning to spend one week in Morocco, but now we’ve been here for more than two months. There have been a handful of (very expensive) repatriation flights, but we chose not to take them. We don’t have a “home” or jobs anymore. Going home right now doesn’t make sense for us.
We’ve been under a strict quarantine for two months, enforced by the police and military. We can only leave our apartment to shop for groceries, which is shame because the weather is beautiful and we are a few blocks from the ocean.
We spend most of our days reading, writing, taking training courses, and researching our next steps. Though we were initially scared of being “stuck” in Morocco, especially since we don’t speak French or Darija (Moroccan Arabic), the people are extremely kind and we’re grateful to be here.
Becky blogs at beckyandryantravel.com
Caleigh on teaching herself her the new norm in Egypt
Last August I moved from Canada to Cairo for my first teaching post. In university my instructors always warned me that the first year on the job was the hardest. Turns out they were right…
When the first COVID cases were reported in Egypt, we were told to prepare to teach online for a week. Then it became two, and then the rest of the year. It was chaos. Suddenly I had to figure out how to teach kids online. Some of them didn’t even have functioning internet. I had to teach them both the school subjects and how to emotionally manage this situation, without having experienced anything like it myself.
Then, more than a month early and without the closure that usually comes from the last days of school, I had to say goodbye to my kids.
I still don’t know how to process it. It makes me very sad.
A few days ago I went to the school to pack up my classroom for the year. The kids’ belongings were still there, exactly as they were when we left for spring break. Homework from March was still on the board, as if my kids were coming back to copy it down. It all felt so unfinished — I still don’t know how to process it. All I know is that it will be a long time before life goes back to anything approaching normal. It makes me very sad.
Maryam on finding strength after setbacks in Canada
I moved with my family from Belgium to Canada seven months ago. We’d been planning the move for over five years and I was so excited. But the move didn’t turn out as I’d envisaged.
We arrived in Quebec, but soon realised we couldn’t settle there. We were staying with family in a small apartment. My husband, my kids, aged seven and four, and myself all shared the same bedroom. Then our shipping company went bankrupt and we had to pay a small fortune to get our belongings sent over. I was just starting my business as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and it was really tough financially.
Thankfully my husband found work in Toronto so we moved there and no longer had to rely on savings. My eldest girl, Zeynah, started school, while I looked after Ziva at home. We were just getting into a routine, then the pandemic hit.
As an extrovert, I’m the kind of person who energises by being with others… I just want to be out exploring.
The hardest thing for me is that as an extrovert, I’m the kind of person who energises by being with others. I’m grateful to be in Canada and now I just want to be out exploring, meeting my neighbours, sussing out the local community…
But then my job as a coach is all about helping women, particularly mothers, to create a healthier and happier life. And in this sense the whole experience has been invaluable for me. I’ve started a podcast and it’s been great to connect with women going through similar challenges.
I’ve found my own coping strategies. I’m baking, practising yoga, meditating and trying to be outside as much as possible. While I wouldn’t have planned my life this way, I have no regrets. The snow has melted, the sun is shining and I’m ready for another day.
Maryam de Groef and Kym Nelson host The SlowDown, a podcast dedicated to wellbeing.