A trip with no return ticket: A Pandemic Diary.
The air I breath feels unfamiliar, foreign. I graciously take in the energy of the city and ponder in awe. What makes this melting pot of different cultures synchronize so effortlessly? What are the accepted norms? What are the shared anecdotes that make them unique?
My two luggages have become a temporary feeling of home.
Its been over a month and I'm still 10,318 km away from home. Canada varies greatly from the United Arab Emirates — Climate wise, culture-wise, and societal norms. From a collectivist society to an individualistic society, it doesn't take much to realize that you must do things differently.
Being quarantined in a foreign country has taught me the following things:
1. Home is an Illusion. Everywhere is Home.
It was hard to accept that I was going to be fine leaving everything behind for a while. Was it really that easy to let go? Probably not, but then it hit me:
My phone, laptop, and PlayStation were home. Nothing really changed, I still had the same contacts, same routine, just a different setting.
You can take the routine with you. You still drink coffee, work (from home), cook or order your meal. You still talk to your friends, text, and socialize.
Everything was, in essence, the same. It took living in a new country to show me that I was not missing out on anything.
2. Everyone is Relatable.
The pain in someone's eyes, the shared laughter, the impatient look while waiting for one’s food are all shared emotions. Although I am quarantined with-in a foreign country, I did not feel alienated as the people that consider this country as their home are going through the same experience. I may not be around family, but I do share their emotions — boredom, loneliness, anxiety, and grief from the unknown.
3. Creation Comes from Discomfort.
Words I live by thanks to Jason R Johnson. Put someone out of their comfort zone and watch them flourish. The unfamiliar setting forces you to look at things in a different light. I thought I knew what I wanted until I didn't.
I was afraid of losing myself — but I realized I was more afraid of losing the routine I created for myself.
I dwelled on my routine until I came to the fact that there was no point dwelling when going out was not an option as the whole world is on lockdown. My routine is pretty much useless wherever I am.
4. This Experience is a Blessing in Disguise.
The very idea of living abroad would make me feel uneasy. Now I crave it.
I realized that things are different when I’ve become accustomed to (+1) from my usual (+971). There is a sense of enlightenment in living abroad. You learn to create a home inside of you. Disregarding the familiar external cues, your own tempo keeps you alive.
It's not the trees or the streets that help you survive but a forgiving mind.
Mental health is ubiquitous. The same dark thoughts travel with you, the same bad habits echo. You carry your thoughts, so make it a peaceful place to live in. Be kind to yourself, the external world is a reflection of your thoughts.
Humans are settlers, but in times of trouble, we let things go to survive.
5. You Leave Things Behind to Make Room for New Things.
I may not be within a familiar setting, but I feel more familiar with my own self due to the current circumstances.
Back home I am usually more dependent on the people around me but being in a foreign country has taught me that during difficult times you will only have yourself to turn back to. I harnessed that energy and found a new peace. As you adapt to the current situation you realize that you did not lose anything but made the best out of what you currently have.
Nothing is worse than an entrapped mind. You’re never free when your thoughts are a prison. Let go of the idea of ‘home’ because home is a mixture of your thoughts and the cues you create for yourself to feel comfortable.
You can carry ‘home’ wherever you go.