I never pictured myself living in India, much less living in India during a lockdown situation. Let’s face it, 18 months ago the term “lockdown” meant nothing to me except for inside a building, or a campus. In those places, the term was familiar for security situations. I had heard it used to describe what happens when there is an active shooter at a school. But never imagined it was something that could be enacted on a city, much less a state, or a country. But that is the reality as I write this.
Evacuating at the beginning of the pandemic
What is a “typical” experience for the past year and a half of “covid times”? I have no idea. But here is my story. In early 2018, I had a settled life in Myanmar with my partner. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was not even considering leaving. When ex-pats began jumping on planes to get home, I didn’t see the point. People wanted to get to countries where there are hospitals with ventilators and trained doctors. But my partner and I wanted to stay in Myanmar.
However, by the end of March, we were forced to leave. The company he was employed at informed us we had to evacuate or he would be breaching his contract. India was on lockdown and had closed its borders even to its own citizens.
So as much as we were both wanting to stay in the region, we took advantage of the situation. We got him a visa to the USA, and hopped on a plane to the USA. My partner met my family for the first time. We ended up staying in the US for nearly 6 months before we could get permission to go back to Myanmar.
A Short Return to Myanmar
When we arrived in Myanmar, we had mandatory hotel quarantine there, and then returned to our home. It seemed life would go on as usual. There was a bit of a different vibe since many ex-pats had left. Soon Myanmar also had lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in certain areas as cases of Covid 19 were detected. But it didn’t feel like such a big deal.
On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military took over the government in a coup d’tat. That was a big deal. We stayed as long as we could in Myanmar. But eventually, we were again required to leave by the company my partner works for. I had to leave first. In March, I flew to India by myself. I met my partner’s family in person for the first time, alone!
Moving to India
I became a guest in the home of my partner’s sister, and her husband. I was lucky that just a month before, they had moved right to the center of Delhi. At this time, things were seemingly good in India. Free movement was allowed, and wearing masks was the most inconvenience I felt from the pandemic. After two weeks in Delhi, and meeting my partner’s parents, I flew to Goa for some alone time and an opportunity to see India!
Traveling Alone in India
It was the very end of beach season, as it was getting way too hot to enjoy the outdoors much or to stay in the sun. There were parts of Goa that were as crowded as I expected. One Sunday night on a beach with many nightclubs, I found this overwhelming energy around me. As I looked down the beach, I realized it was full of people for as far as I could see. It had been so long since I had stood in a crowded space. I could feel my body vibrating, like all of their auras were bumping up against mine.
I felt a lot of eyes on me. I realized that I stood out not only for being so pale and white, but also because I was completely alone. Everyone I saw traveling and enjoying the beach had at least a partner with them. Many traveled in groups of six or more, sharing their holidays with extended family. Many people asked me about how I got there, if tourism was open again, and why I was traveling alone.
As much as I was warned about watching my things, protecting myself, and being wary of strangers as a person traveling alone in India, I felt safe and secure on my own. There was only one incident where I felt I let things get a little out of hand, and it was over rather quickly as others saw my situation and helped me.
Having Covid in India
I left Goa for Delhi when I heard my partner was getting evacuated. We had been apart for a month, which felt like forever after a year of basically being locked in together. As soon as my partner arrived from Myanmar in April, we got Covid. We were staying with his sister and her husband so we have no idea who started it but thousands of people were testing positive daily in Delhi, and India was making headline news around the world for the new more contagious strain of the virus that was showing up there.
Luckily for me, I wasn’t very sick. Just a fever and some extra fatigue for a day or so. But everyone else in the house had more than a few days of suffering. Luckily everyone was well enough to stay home and avoid medical care. It was certainly a perk that in India it’s common to have a driver that will run to the pharmacy or the market, pick up whatever you need, and drop it outside your door. This was how we functioned for nearly 3 weeks, as we all had 17 days of quarantine after our individual symptom onset.
Life after Covid
After I had recovered from Covid-19, I was able to resume my travels. Unfortunately, the first place I had to go was to the US to say goodbye to my grandma before she passed away. I was grateful I had just recovered from Covid and had no fears of passing the virus when I visited my family and said goodbye.
Once I was back in India, We moved in with my partner’s parents in a smaller city than Delhi. Life went on as normal, with masks. After things settled down, I was able to visit the Himalayas, Jammu and Kashmir, and well as Rishikesh. There were covid regulations in various states at different times and we were always careful to carry the required tests. I can’t even count how many times I have been tested for covid to travel.
Nothing could have prepared me for the past year and a half of the pandemic. I am grateful for the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned. I have certainly experienced a lot of personal growth in all of this turmoil. For that, I am very grateful.