Sara Rose Travels

I hopped in an uber on an abnormally warm day in January from my friend’s apartment in Southie to make my way to Logan International Airport.

I hopped in an uber on an abnormally warm day in January from my friend’s apartment in Southie to make my way to Logan International Airport. I’ve made that ride to the airport more times than I can count, but this time I stared out the window with a sense of nostalgia. As I looked at the buildings I thought of all the friendships and incredible moments Boston has given me over the past 5.5 years. I moved to the city right after college with a car packed to the brim with clothes, furniture, and miscellaneous knick-knacks ready to dive into adulthood. Now, a month away from turning 28, I was on my way to start a whole new adventure. I looked at the two bags that now contained my life, double checked I had my passport, and smiled at the one-way ticket to the other side of the world I held in my hand.

There’s A Virus in China

The first time I heard of this mysterious virus I was on the back of a Vietnamese man’s motorbike riding the stunning Ha Giang Loop, Northern Vietnam’s famous motorbike loop. Typically the trip takes you to the border with China, but our guide had gotten word of a virus breakout in the country so we took a different route that day. No one thought much of it at the time and we continued to enjoy an unforgettable 3 days filled with unparalleled views, local hospitality, and rice wine.

Over the next several weeks I traveled from Vietnam’s Capital Hanoi to Ho Chi Mihn in the south with a group of other solo-backpackers taking in the unique landscapes of Nihn Bihn, staying up all night at a karaoke bar in Phang Na, and riding down the Mekong delta to celebrate my birthday.

Decisions Decisions

My next stop was Cambodia for a few days to explore Siem Reap before heading to Chiang Mai to work at a hostel for a month. My plans were still on track but crowds slowly started to dwindle, not a day went by without a conversation about how COVID was impacting travel plans, and temperatures started being taken when going into bars. From Chiang Mai I headed to a chain of islands in the south to meet with my friends from Vietnam. Within a day of getting to the island Koh Phangan borders were closing all around the world and the US Embassy issued a statement that travelers abroad should come home immediately or be prepared to stay indefinitely.

I was standing on the beach and gave my mom a ring to try and sort out the best next move. Staying in a tropical paradise forever sounds amazing but as someone with two chronic illnesses and considered higher-risk for COVID, the options were stressful. Do I travel home where I have no job or apartment and risk being exposed, or stay put. At the time, I didn’t know if Thailand would allow visitors to extend visas and restaurants and hostels were starting to close. Ultimately I decided the best option was to stay.

Traveling Turned to Living

Before I left I had roughly sketched out an itinerary for my trip around the world. I’d start off in South East Asia, meet my mom in Budapest in June, some friends in Croatia during the summer, then find myself in Peru in the fall before coming back for a friend’s wedding in October. Now, instead of exploring eastern Europe, I’m writing this on an island in Thailand, a country I’ve been in since February.

This has been an unreal experience, not at all the one I had imagined, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible people from all over the world as we try to navigate what traveling is with COVID.

Thailand gave visitors visa-free stays through July 30th, restaurants are opening, and curfew was just lifted so it’s been easy to forget that this virus is still out there. For now, I’m staying put, playing soccer, scootering around the island, doing work, and going out with friends. In the next couple weeks I’ll at least start traveling a bit more around Thailand and hope to be exploring around the world again this fall.

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