• Meghan Bartok

How I accidentally moved to Vietnam during COVID

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Back in February of 2020, I came to Vietnam with the intent of doing a teaching English as a second language course and then traveling around for a week or two afterward. By April, I was planning on continuing my adventure through Asia before heading to Europe to teach English there. However, the universe had a different plan for me...

Enter COVID-19. Now when I had first gotten to Asia, starting off in Japan; this was merely a blip on people's radars. We knew about it, but it was still mostly contained in China. By the time I made it to Vietnam a month later, things were quickly escalating. My course was postponed until April, although most of us wondered if it would be better by then. As countries were closing their borders, I had two options - go home, or stick it out in Vietnam, hoping that things would get better. I chose the second because I wasn't ready to get rid of my dreams of traveling through Asia. I settled down in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and stuck it out through our three-week lockdown.

Overall, I had things pretty good staying in Vietnam - cases were under control, and the Vietnamese government was very efficient at keeping our case numbers very low - to date, there have been around 1350 cases, and 35 deaths, in a country with 97 million people. Quite impressive! Because of this, things quickly got back to normal, and I decided it was time to move on with my travels, except I would be keeping them within Vietnam. After a brief stop in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh/Saigon (I usually refer to it as Saigon, because it's quicker and easier!), I was off to the beach town of Mui Ne. This was one of those places that I hadn't even heard of, but after recommendations from a couple of friends, I knew I needed to check it out.

My original plan was to stay in Mui Ne for a couple of days, then head to the mountain city of Da Lat. I ended up being there for a month. I was fresh off the bus, toting my 50l backpack around, with a hostel recommendation from my friend Pat. At the hostel, I was checked in by none other than the man that I now am lucky enough to wake up next to every morning. We hit it off pretty much right away, and I quickly scrapped my plans to go to Da Lat. Instead spent the month beachside; reading, going for swims in the ocean, and taking the dogs out on walks.

Mui Ne had a lot of travelers who had settled down there during the coronavirus lockdown, then just didn't leave after it was over. I was lucky to meet so many nice people and the month flew by! The lifestyle was cheap and the company was more than good, so I couldn't complain! I also had a boy (and his dog) who had stolen my heart, and I was in no hurry to leave them. However, all good things must come to an end, and somehow it was decided that James and I would spend a bit of time road tripping around Vietnam, and of course, the dog was coming with us! After acquiring a motorbike for me and all the other necessary supplies, we set off on our summer adventure. I'll write more about that separately because those were three crazy weeks.

Towards the end of the month, we knew we were going to need to settle down soon to be able to save up some money before continuing our travels. We were hoping to visit some other countries in Asia, but nothing was open yet, so getting jobs as English teachers seemed like the best possible option to spend the next couple of months. After a job search that involved a 33-hour car ride, two weeks of quarantine thanks to a new COVID outbreak, many interviews, and frustrations, we are now back in Saigon. We have both been working as English teachers, which has been quite the experience. You can read about that here!

The biggest part of our adventure right now was finding out that I was pregnant in August. Mostly a surprise, but a very exciting one for both of us. Being pregnant in Vietnam has held a multitude of emotions. The hardest part is just not knowing when my family and friends will be able to meet the baby, as Vietnam's borders are closed, and probably will be for some time. Luckily the hospital we found is very nice, and I feel very comfortable and well-taken care of there. We definitely will be in Vietnam long enough to have the baby, and surely for a while after that. The uncertainty is hard for me, but as each day passes, I try to become more at peace with it.

Once COVID has subsided, and life goes back to something a bit more normal, I'm sure we'll move on from Vietnam. I know we'll both be ready to see new places at that point, and we're eager to be able to give Baby B a case of the travel bug from a young age. As to where we'll head next, only time will tell! As Helen Keller once said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all," and that's certainly what my time thus far in Vietnam has felt like. In the short span of a year, I've gone from a solo traveler to having a family to think about and take care of, and honestly, I couldn't be happier to start this new chapter of life with them.

There you have it, the not-so-short story about the time that I accidentally moved to Vietnam because of Coronavirus, and ended up with a small family. I plan to write a lot more about life in Vietnam, especially once the baby comes, so if you're curious to know more about what it's like to live on the other side of the world, stick around!

Thanks so much for reading and stay safe!




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