“When the time came for me to fly back home, things had really gotten out of control with coronavirus in China and other parts of Asia. My flight back home included a layover in Hong Kong… I was terrified to fly to Hong Kong. I tried to switch my flight so that I would not have to go through Hong Kong, but the airlines would not let me. I was so nervous. But I had no other choice.”
Melissa Brown was born and raised in Lemoore California, which is a small town about 40 minutes outside Fresno. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2017 with a BA in Sociology and after college, she secured a job working at a startup in her hometown. After spending two year theres she decided to begin a new adventure and embarked on the journey to earn her 200-hour teacher training certification in Indonesia.
That’s when COVID began to ravage the world… Melissa shares the details of her experience traveling back to the US in the midst of a pandemic panic, including how she was forced to fly through Hong Kong on the way back to the America during the height of the disease’s impact on Asia, her first hand experience witnessing just how quickly rules and regulations were changing, and how rapidly the fear began to set in across the world, as she traveled home.
Melissa shares how this entire situation has made her realize how important it is to live a life that actually makes you happy and details her blossoming passion for photography and sewing — which has now turned into a successful homemade bikini and mask-making business.
Read more, in her COVID Chronicle, below:
Can you describe your situation, living and traveling throughout Indonesia when COVID cases first began to rise and how the local community was handling it?
“I flew to Indonesia January 4th, 2020. I went to receive my 200-hour yoga teacher training and I was so excited. I had a layover in Hong Kong and this was actually the very first time I heard about Coronavirus. I got off the plane in Hong Kong after a 16 hour flight and I was walking with an older couple who I sat next to on the flight. After getting off the plane, they immediately put on face masks and warned me to be very careful because there was a terrible outbreak of an upper respiratory virus in Hong Kong. In that moment I thought to myself, hmmm — I kind of wish I had a mask and I better make sure I wash my hands really well! But I did not think too seriously about it. I waited in the Hong Kong airport for a couple hours until I hopped on the plane to head for Bali, Indonesia.
I started my yoga teacher training the day after I landed in Bali. It was an amazing experience. The training was three and a half weeks long and after about the 2nd week of training, I caught word about the coronavirus again. (I had not heard anything about it since I was in Hong Kong). Some of the girls in my training were talking about it. They spoke about how it was spreading throughout Asia, how many people were dying from it, and the potential of it reaching us in Bali.
“Before my flight, I went to a couple convenience stores to buy face masks and more hand sanitizer. Unfortunately all of the stores I went to were sold out of both masks and hand sanitizer. Everyone was buying them in order to protect themselves from the strange virus.”
I remember feeling very worried at this point and I decided to do a bit of my own research. I read that it was mostly attacking older people who already had health issues and I read that it was important to keep clean hands and to avoid sick people. From then on I made sure to have my hand sanitizer on me throughout the rest of my trip.
At this point, coronavirus had not made its way to Bali that we knew of. At the end of my training I flew to Singapore for a couple days in order to renew my visa in Indonesia. Before my flight, I went to a couple convenience stores to buy face masks and more hand sanitizer. Unfortunately all of the stores I went to were sold out of both masks and hand sanitizer. Everyone was buying them in order to protect themselves from the strange virus.
Finally after searching for about an hour, my friends and I came upon a store that had a few bottles of hand sanitizer and one pack of disposable masks. We each bought a bottle and I bought the pack of masks which we then split between ourselves. My flight to Singapore was the first time I wore a face mask for a long duration of time. I put it on the second I got to the airport and did not take it off until I was outside of the airport in Singapore. At this time there were a couple confirmed cases of coronavirus in Singapore and so I was very weary heading to this country, but I knew I would probably be okay as long as I was super careful.
Singapore was amazing and after my time there I flew back to Bali, again with a mask on the entire time. I was in Indonesia for about three weeks after my trip to Singapore. Many people in the country wore masks and locals warned me to be very careful and take good care of myself while traveling. Those three weeks were filled with lots of ocean swims, delicious food, good people, and lots of surfing. It was an amazing time! Although coronavirus was always in the back of my mind, I did not let it hold me back too much and I felt that I would most likely be okay.
“I was terrified to fly to Hong Kong. I tried to switch my flight so that I would not have to go through Hong Kong, but the airlines would not let me. I was so nervous. But I had no other choice.”
When the time came for me to fly back home, things had really gotten out of control with coronavirus in china and other parts of Asia. My flight back home included a layover in Hong Kong just as it had on my way to Bali. This time however, I was terrified to fly to Hong Kong. I tried to switch my flight so that I would not have to go through Hong Kong, but the airlines would not let me. I was so nervous. But I had no other choice.
I was also worried because I had read that many airports in the US were closing their borders to flights coming from Mainland China and I was worried my flight would get canceled or maybe that we would land in LA and not be allowed off the plane. So many scenarios and worries ran through my mind.
I braved the flight to Hong Kong. Once I got there I was extremely cautious. I had my temperature taken at security and I made sure to wash my hands and try to stay away from people. It was definitely scary, but finally I boarded the plane and was on my way back home. Everyone on the flight was wearing a mask. Once we landed in the US I expected to have some sort of conversation with customs or immigration about possible quarantine time or have some sort of health screening.
To my surprise, no one ended up officially approaching me about my recent trip from Hong Kong to LAX. I found that to be a bit strange. I was nervous. I was worried maybe I had contracted the virus on my flight home, so I monitored myself.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve personally faced so far during quarantine/the COVID crisis?
“The biggest challenge I faced during this season was being out of work, having just spent most of my money on a big trip, and feeling like I did not have the means to move forward.”
Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration to those who are feeling a bit defeated?
“I think throughout this pandemic I have really come to understand the importance of introspection. While I was stuck at home for the lockdown, I was really forced to look inside and face whatever was lingering in my heart.
It isn’t always easy to look deep within yourself and ask the tough questions, but I think it is so important and vital in order to live a life that you truly love.”
Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your personal priorities in life?
“I was able to spend a great amount of time during quarantine. I have always been very close to my family, but this time I feel brought us even closer together and I feel that my family is now more than ever an even greater priority in my life.”
What has been your general daily routine so far, during the pandemic?
“My general daily routine so far has been exercise, crafting/sewing, visiting with family, and learning photography.”
What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?
“I have been exercising to keep my spirits up and more specifically, yoga has been my savior!”
Had this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any especially important future plans you had laid out?
“I actually did not have any trips planned! I feel like I got lucky by traveling in January! (although that was still affected by the pandemic — and it sure did make my travels stressful!).”
As Melissa is passionate about environmental conservation and sustainability, she hopes to move her professional career in this direction.
In her free time, she enjoys photography, sewing, and surfing and currently is working on her short-term goal of creating a small handmade eco-friendly bikini business. She has been sewing bikinis throughout the COVID shutdown, which has been a fun hobby for her to practice and become better at, every day.
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