around the world as a digital nomad

WHY I CAME HOME

The past 9 months living abroad as a Digital Nomad was the best time of my life. That being said, it was time for my journey around the world to come to a close. This is why I chose to come home.
10 min read

Covid-19

You probably guessed this was the main reason for me coming back. COVID is impacting our society on a global scale right now, to the point where it will irrevocably change how the entire world operates. A pandemic of that degree obviously makes backpacking around the world…difficult, to put it mildly.

For the last three months of my time abroad, I was living on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. It seemed like literally a tropical paradise built specifically for me. It’s one of the premier scuba diving locations in the world, there are plenty of pristine beaches with crisp, blue water, rock climbing is available all over the island, and the cafes have incredible coffee. Sounds like a dream, right?

It was. For the first 2 1/2 months, I felt like I had found my home on the road. I was working in the best hostel, Deishaview Jungle Hostel, in order to have free accommodation. It was incredibly easy to fall into a routine of working at the hostel and exploring all of the nooks and crannies the island had to offer. Then, COVID ramped up in intensity and my trip around the world came to a close. 

Deishaview Hostel’s view of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan in the distance

Potentially trapped

After being on Koh Tao for several months, the COVID virus started to actually affect my plans for onward travel. A large group of us were planning on hopping to Vietnam and doing the motorbike tour down the country. Then, two weeks before we planned to leave, Vietnam started closing its borders.

No problem, we thought, we’ll just jump to Indonesia. Three days after adjusting the plan, Indonesia started isolating as well. “Alright, we’ll just stay in Koh Tao,” we said. Then, we started hearing worrying gossip. Rumors of both a country-wide and island specific lockdown. I attempted to take a visa run to Myanmar, but they closed their borders while I was on the ferry.

As a last-ditch effort, I visited the immigration office at the neighboring island of Koh Samui to attempt to emergency-extend my visa (which only had 7 days left). I needed a letter from my embassy, which they weren’t willing to give at that time. All-in-all, I got an extra 7 days, bringing my total to 14. I had every intention of sticking it out on my own tropical island, but my emotional and mental health had other plans.

Anxiety attack

The day after getting my minimal visa-extension, I had the first and only panic attack of my life. I had been struggling with either going back home to the USA or to hunker down in Koh Tao during the eventual lockdown. The weight of the matter, plus getting long texts from my parents demanding me to come home, made me feel like I had pressure in my chest. Like I couldn’t breathe…Like I had COVID.

Over the course of my time on Koh Tao, I had several…opportunities to experience the island’s healthcare system firsthand. The hospital doctor was only ever physically in the hospital 50% of the time. When he was present, he was misdiagnosing my tonsillitis as a common cold. That didn’t inspire confidence.

So, in the midst of my panic attack, I realized how screwed I would be if I actually caught the virus on the island. That thought was the final push to book my flights home.

Onward travel wasn’t adventurous

Although COVID was the main reason why I flew home, there was another underlying cause as well. Travel wasn’t fun for me anymore. That might surprise you, since traveling is the main obsession in my life. I had found that life on the road was starting to lose some of its luster. I still thoroughly enjoyed myself moving from city to city, but it became more and more difficult to keep the same level of energy. I had an increasing amount of days where I just wanted to go to a coffee shop and read instead of sightsee.

In the beginning of my trip, I was doing more adventurous things. Like driving solo around Ireland for 3 weeks. It became a routine of finding a new city, taking a bus / train to the next hostel, doing the free tours, and getting drunk with new friends. That can only stay fresh and exciting for so long. Even after having a routine at the hostel in Koh Tao, I found I was getting antsy. I wasn’t sure what I was getting excited to do, but it turns out I was really yearning to come home.

I’M HOME SAFE

Although this post might have a bit of a negative connotation to it, it’s not at all. I’m fresh out of my 14 days of self-quarantine and at home with family. I’m still getting accustomed to being back in the States during these crazy times, but it’s great to be home.

Until Next Time