One of the best parts of our retired budget travel lifestyle is meeting new people with similar interests. Locals and expats alike have become our friends, with whom we keep in touch.
One of them is Sarah. She is beautiful inside and out, adventurous, kind, humble. And, she is one of many people who want to get to their home in a foreign country, but cannot — yet.
Sarah was forced to figure out where to live while she’s not allowed to enter Malaysia during its lockdown to foreigners.
Through grace, luck, fate — or whatever you want to call it — Sarah and her partner ended up in a great place.
This is Sarah’s story.
Visiting Vagabonds: Stories from around Earth
“Wherever you go, there you are” has shifted from a cheesy bumper sticker to my life mantra.
I’m a U.S. citizen living an expat life in Malaysia, a country that is currently on its second wave of a movement control order (MCO), preventing foreign passport holders from entering. During this Covid-19 global pandemic, even holding a ten-year social pass does not allow me to enter the country in which I have resided for the past ten months.
My partner and I (a Malaysian citizen who IS allowed to return home, however not able to leave again upon entering) left for a two-week trip to Thailand on March 16, two days before Malaysia closed its borders. We are currently waiting to hear word of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s decision about whether or not to extend the MCO beyond April 14.
Since arriving in Thailand we have encountered multiple flight, hotel and Airbnb cancellations, money loss as a result of some of these cancellations, plan changes and uncertain tomorrows. I feel lucky that this is largely the extent of our woes! While we certainly have the option of feeling the devastation and fear that circumstances like this tend to excite, we are choosing to accept our situation as perhaps the new “normal” and embrace our current home in Bangkok.
We have found a beautiful Airbnb downtown, complete with great water pressure, Netflix and a full kitchen. Our gracious host has been beyond helpful in translating phone calls for us, and giving us an amazing weekly rate.
Taking walks to the fresh markets and experimenting with local ingredients like water mimosa and sea coconuts allow us to get creative. Self care including adequate sleep and exercise, nutrition and staying in touch with friends and family are top priorities. The parks are closed, but there are plenty of waterways where we can watch the monitor lizards swim and not lose touch with nature.
We are not waiting for this pandemic to be over so that life can return to normal. Instead, we are accepting that right now is still a part of life, and making it fun.
As a floral designer I like to visit the local flower markets while traveling, and even during this pandemic, the Bangkok market does not disappoint. The hustle and bustle that I imagine under usual circumstances was lacking, however I was still able to experience the vibrant colors of marigolds, mums and water lilies, and smell the fresh jasmine blooms.
We are asked to wear masks at all times outside of the house, and I have yet to see anyone not doing so. Temperatures are being taken before entering any building including 7-11s, as well as complimentary hand-sanitizer provided upon entering and exiting. This is a “spray” culture, so toilet paper shortages are non existent!
The Thai government has allowed foreign passport holders an automatic visa renewal allowing us to avoid long ques at the immigration office. In contrast to what friends are reporting in the US, I’d give Thailand an A+ for being on top of this crisis.
I would say that not being able to return home is not ideal, but I think we’ve hit the jackpot in terms of an awesome place in the world to ride this out. Although I might not want a Pad Thai for a while after this, Bangkok will be receiving a five star review from us on Trip Advisor.
Ellen was lucky to met Sarah in Penang, Malaysia, in 2019, and can’t wait to see her again! Earth Vagabonds plan to return to Penang later in 2020, if the pandemic has eased and borders open.