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The Delights of Traveling: My Experience of Traveling During a Pandemic

We never thought it would be this bad did we?

It is like something out of one of those apocalyptic movies. It has affected so many people all over the world. When the news first broke, we did not think that it would become this crazy. But now, we are all understanding the reality of the actual situation and we are all just trying to figure out how to deal with the scenario we have been given.

For children that need to go to school, they aren't able to go. For parents, they need to figure out a way to keep not only themselves safe, but their children as well. For people who work the usual 9-5, they aren't able to go into the office. For the other few that work online, with the increase of people trying to find work remotely they aren't even to get paid on time. Finally, for the remainder, their main priority to just be stay safe.

Another group of people that have been affected are the ones that are traveling. Because while those groups that I have mentioned before are also affected by the situation. People that are traveling or backpacking have been trying to figure out ways to deal with Covid-19 as well.

Most backpackers are away from their families, on a limited budget, and for the first time in a long time, alone. While most do have a plan to return home at some point, they did not think that they would have to go back this early in their trip. For those who are waiting it out, they are slowly starting to realize that things are getting worse rather than better. They are starting to frantically figure out flights home and places that have closed their borders. They are willing to pay however much money just so that they can get a flight home before every border shuts.

I had just flown in from Thailand to Malaysia and had only planned to stay for a week and I would check the news to get updates, but I still went about my normal life. I was still traveling, still going out on dates, still going to the places that I knew and was used to. I have to admit, I did not take it seriously as first. But when the news about the virus started becoming more frequent, people started paying more attention and governments started emerging with statements about the virus and implemented lockdowns and social distancing throughout the world, people did the first thing they do when things like this happen. They panicked.

I had honestly never seen anything like it, to be honest I don't think anyone has. A bustling city with traffic at all times of day turned into a ghost town. Cop cars driving around the streets telling people to stay inside and fining them for being outside. It was like something out of an apocalypse movie.

I was staying at a hostel at the time and people were starting to try and figure out what to do. The managers at that point had allowed us to continue staying there because literally every other type of accommodation had closed and weren't allowing new people to check in. At first, we were still allowed to go out and get basic things like groceries and essentials to tide us over, but as news kept getting worse and worse, the managers only allowed us out a few times a day and we couldn't be out for very long. It got to a point where they were so paranoid that they actually didn't allow us to go out at all, padlocked the main door and only sent one person to go and do the grocery shop and if people missed that day, they weren't getting groceries. After a few days of full lock in we got told that the owners had decided that they were going to close down the hostel for the duration of the lockdown (however long that would be) and we needed to find a new place to stay. So, all the people that had remained frantically got onto their phones to Google places that were open and still bringing in new guests. Some decided to get Airbnbs for privacy and some decided to move to a different hostel, so the next day the ones moving to another hostel packed our bags bright and early because they wanted us out before 8AM. At that point, Ubers and Grabs were only allowing 1 person per car so the people with the most luggage took cars and the others walked.

Once we got to the new hostel, we felt an immediate dynamic shift. It was breakfast time, so all the guests that had been staying there before we all downstairs staring at us when we walked in the door. We were the newbies, we were invading their space that they had been staying in for months/weeks. It was definitely very interesting to watch because it almost felt like a turf battle. The new crew vs The old crew. Were we going to get along? Which side was going to approach the other first? Everyone was very hesitant to talk to each other, so we all checked in and did our own thing. The cool thing about this hostel was that they had a really nice chill-out spot with beanbags, Netflix, a pool table, etc. So, I grabbed my laptop and headed down there to sit and do some work. There were already some people sitting down there but I took no mind and grabbed a beanbag and had a sit. I ended up talking to a few people that were already staying there and seemed to have broken the ice. Slowly but surely, the two teams seemed to be on friendly terms with each other but good things don't always last long and human nature is bound to be exposed when kept "locked up" with each other for a long period of time.

The good thing was that we were able to go out and buy things we needed, but a lot of places were still closed so we did have a lot of restrictions. That meant that we would be spending a lot of time together and seeing each other constantly. I am pretty sure all you readers out there have watched the fascinating genre of reality television where people that do not really know each other are locked in a house and have to deal with each other 24/7 and they pretty much almost want to kill each other. Well, that was rather accurate.

I generally kept to myself because I work online and focused on that, but every so often I would be involved or get involved with the drama and the bullshit that was happening and I will tell you right now, there was plenty. But I think that is human character, looking back at it now I think that because we were put in a situation that was foreign to us, we needed to find ways to keep things interesting. Find ways to keep us distracted from the life that we were living at that moment. However, it got to a point where it was way too much and the moment that the government told the country that we could actually leave the places we were stuck in, I booked the first bus out of there and came to a place that was familiar and a place that I had called home not too long before, Penang.

Coming to Penang was like a breathe of fresh air. I felt like all the negativity that had happened over the past few months went away and my productivity increased and unhappiness decreased. Within 24 hours, I had run into people that I had known from before and it truly felt like I was coming home. I have been here since June 18th and I honestly have to say that it is pretty great. Things are slowly going back to normal with a few changes like having to wear a face mask when out in public and temperature screening everywhere you go, but that seems like that is the new normal and what it will be like for quite some time. Borders have not opened up yet and I don't think they will anytime soon, but people are slowly returning back to their lives of working and being able to be out in public and I think that those small steps are what are keeping people sane.

As mentioned before, I know that there are so many countries that are still in lockdown and there are far more problems then being able to travel, but the important thing that we need to learn about this situation is that we need to stick together. We need to support each other in some shape or form. There is no need for pettiness or animosity because at the end of the day, we are all going through the same thing. It is not natural for people to be isolated and "stuck" in a place for long periods of time and in a hostel situation, we are stuck together with people that we don't really know and people with different personalities.

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