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Updates from Team Asia: How our Trip Leaders are Doing During the COVID-19 Crisis

By
Rebecca Formoso
on
July 14, 2020

Below are some updates of how our Trip Leaders in Asia have been dealing with life during this pandemic. If you've ever gone on a trip to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam or Cambodia you might recognize some of these names.

Kobe

  1. Where are you?
  • Thousand Oaks, California, USA
  1. Are you by yourself or with family/ friends?
  • Family! My sister and I both came back home to be with our parents. It’s the four of us back together under one roof for the first time (for more than a couple of weeks) in a decade or so! The four of us try to do family dinner and watch an episode of something together every night. It's actually kind of nice to get to spend this time together as a family. 
  1. Who keeps you company?
  • Netflix. Lol. We are following very strict lockdown protocols in my house, which means we haven’t interacted face-to-face with anyone outside of our home in months. So it’s just the four of us and our two dogs. 
  1. How are you really doing?
  • It’s always challenging when you are an adult, used to having your own life and suddenly you find yourself back in your childhood room living with mom and dad again. Add to that, prior to this I was living a life full of action and adventure on the other side of the planet- it has been an adjustment! We’ve all been living such vastly different lives, in very different places for so long, that now we are just trying to navigate what it means to occupy this space as four adults. It is very challenging at times, but we have great love and respect for one another.
  1. Do you have a pet? What’s it like living with a pet during the pandemic?
  • We have two dogs. Riley is an English Cocker that I got while on vacation in Mexico when I was in undergrad (my family was definitely really pleased by that lol) and Scout is a Chiweenie that my mom rescued not long after I brought Riley home. They are pretty old now, so it’s nice to be here and spend some time with them. Riley has gone deaf so he’s constantly barking and my mom feeds Scout 9,824 treats a day so she is beyond obese, but my sister and I take them on walks which is nice bonding time for all of us
  1. Has your job been affected?
  • Absolutely! As international travel is at a standstill, there haven’t been any trips running, so there hasn’t been a need for trip leaders abroad. That being said - I am so grateful for and excited about the opportunity to lead the first of each of our new US National Park trips starting in August!
  1. How are you coping?
  • People have been talking a lot about the disruption this has caused in their lives, the lack of normalcy they feel in this current situation. Before COVID I had been living in Thailand with a wildly unpredictable schedule between trips and before lockdown I’d been traveling through Japan during a month long break from work - so I sort of went straight from this exciting chaotic lifestyle back into my childhood home with my family. It’s been an enormous change, but I don’t necessarily feel that sense of disruption of normalcy - because my life never really had that kind of structure anyway. It’s just another, albeit very different kind of, adventure to embark on. 
  1. What personal/professional projects are you tackling? 
  • I need to do a complete overhaul of my room. For someone who lived out of a backpack with minimal belongings for a whole year, I have a really hard time throwing things away. I have an unbelievable amount of junk and I just need to let it all go. 
  1. What worries you the most about all this?
  • I worry most about the people that were already struggling to get by. I’m lucky enough to have savings, a place to live, my family as a support system - but there are so many people that don’t have those things. How will they manage? And of course countries like Thailand whose economy relies so heavily on tourism - how will this affect the people of those nations?
  1. What have you been doing to entertain/ keep yourself busy?
  • My best friend and I have started a little two person book club, it’s helping me branch out and read more substantial literature than my standard detective novel. We are currently reading A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit while we wait for our copies of How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi to be delivered. 
  1. What book, movie, series, article, IG account (or anything on social media) that has gripped you recently? Why did it capture you?
  • 13th. It’s a documentary titled after the 13th amendment which abolished slavery EXCEPT as a punishment for conviction of a crime. It examines the history of race, the justice system, and mass incarceration in the United States. I think it is an important and illuminating film that everyone should watch - especially those of us from and/or living in the US. (Watch it on Netflix).
  • Waco. It’s a miniseries depicting the days leading up to and the siege and 51 day standoff between the FBI and the religious group known as the Branch Davidians. The screenplay was based on two books, one written by Gary Noesner, the FBI hostage negotiator, and the other by David Thibodeau, a member of the Branch Davidians who managed to escape the massacre. I was just a kid when all of that happened and I really didn’t know much about it. Watching it with my parents was eye opening - they remember seeing and hearing about it, but only after watching the miniseries did they realize that there was so much more to the story than what they were led to believe at the time. (Watch it on Netflix)
  • Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Negotiator by Gary Noesner. I had to read the book after watching Waco. But Waco is only one chapter in this book; it is a collection of stories about hostage negotiations both successful and otherwise. It is an unpretentious look at the impressive career of a man seeking to reform how hostage situations are dealt with by the authorities.
  • Queer Eye. When my sister started watching it I pooh-poohed it as just another makeover show that I couldn’t be bothered to watch (afterall, there are endless procedural dramas from countless countries available to me on various platforms. I have my hands full watching people catch killers, okay?). But the more I watch it, the more obsessed I become. Not only are these 4 men and 1 “non-binary fairy” sprucing up people’s homes, snazzing up their wardrobes, glamming up their appearances, and introducing people to new foods - but the Fab Five are teaching people how to love themselves. I am not great at emotions but by golly, I cry nearly every episode. Queer Eye is so positive and uplifting, it’s exactly what I need right now. 
  1. What specific place or activity are you most looking forward to visiting/doing once this is all over?
  • Aside from traveling - because I know we all want to get back to that! I’m dying to see my best friend and her family. We’ve known each other since we were three, our parents are best friends - we’re family and I miss them so much!
  1. What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?
  • Be kinder to people, we are all in this together. And please, please, please listen to science!


Rebecca

  1. Where are you?
  • The Philippines
  1. What was/is the lockdown like in your location?
  • It was very strict. We had to stay indoors and there was only one quarantine pass assigned per household meaning only one person could step out of the house to do groceries and visit the pharmacy. It wasn’t interchangeable. We are still on lockdown but it's eased up, even though our numbers are climbing again. Oh, we also have a liquor ban over here!haha
  1. Where did or have you been spending your time during this pandemic?
  • I spent it in three places. I had to self-quarantine in an Airbnb by myself for two weeks once I arrived back in the Philippines (I had just come back from leading a trip in Vietnam and Cambodia). The second place I moved to was my godparents’ house. I spent most of my time there (3 months). I felt very lucky that I was able to stay in a house that had a swimming pool and a backyard. The best part was that I was “locked up” with 3 of my cousins. It felt like we were reliving our childhood. The third place I moved to was back to my mum’s house (been here two weeks now). Since the lockdown has eased up, I was finally able to leave Manila and go to my mum’s (she lives just by the border of Manila which was why it was impossible for me to get to during the strict lockdown)
  1. How are you really doing?
  • There have been hard and overwhelming days, I’m not going to lie. But doesn’t everyone else have those days too? This has all affected us, and what’s brought me some peace is knowing that others are feeling and going through what I am as well. Speaking to family, friends, the company, and travelers have really made things a lot brighter. Everyone has been so supportive. I’m a lucky girl.
  1. Has your job been affected?
  • Unfortunately, it’s no secret that the travel industry was hit hard, so yes my job has been affected. Here at under30experiences, we now have a skeletal force team, and are on reduced hours and pay, but that’s life right? Lucky to even have a job nowadays.
  1. What have you learned throughout this all?
  • That it was about time I (and the world) slowed down.
  1. What worries you the most about all this?
  • Oooh! A lot. But what’s the use of focusing on all your fears? I kind of don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. Let’s just take it one day at a time, shall we? Got into this saying called “Amor Fati” which basically means to enjoy the reality of life for what and how it comes. Sure, have your expectations, fantasies and goals, but always keep in mind that whatever reality brings is better, and should always be better anyway than what goes on inside your mind. I've been trying to train my mind that when things don't go the way I imagined it to be, that it’s okay and in fact, even better than what I imagined. That it’s what’s meant to happen and be...don’t fight it. Learning to fall in love with reality takes a lot of practice. Sure I could be in Europe right now and that would’ve been magical, but being at home writing this in front of my computer with my mum beside me is worlds better at the moment. Old me would’ve fought that and would be so stressed out right now, but new me is all about, hey I wouldn't have it any other way, and I shouldn't.
  1. What messages of hope do you have for yourself and others?
  • Someone once told me that the world is too big to fail. There are a lot of very intelligent and good human beings out there, and one way or the other, we’ll find a way. We always adjust. We’re meant to live through adversity and challenges, just don’t lose hope. Again, take it one day at a time. Things may or may not be the same, but we’ll thrive through it all (and perhaps maybe even prefer it. You never know)
  1. What specific place or activity are you most looking forward to visiting/doing once this is all over?
  • I miss the company of my friends and just hanging out. I miss hiking, driving around and going to the beach. Most of all I miss hugs and kisses, and just being able to relax and chill with my loved ones without having to worry about the consequences.
  1. What’s something you miss that surprises you?
  • Paying!haha I miss paying for a snack or whatever food at a cafe/restaurant.
  1. What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?
  • Always be grateful and appreciate what we have. Be kinder to yourself and to others, and throw in some humor if things get a bit too scary.

 

Angga

1.  Where have you been staying during the pandemic?

  • I've been staying at home and around the community village most of the time!

2.  How have you been spending your time?

  • Babysitting the boys and enjoying the time together with family and people in the community!

3.  What is something that you miss while on lockdown?

  • I really miss my job and my routine. I also miss driving the scooter.

4.  Where is one place you want to travel after lockdown?

  • I would love to take a scooter ride and drive all around Bali! I would love to take the boys to go to the zoo because they keep asking me to.

5.  Have you learned a new skill or completed a personal project?

  • I got to learn more about our culture and religion. 

6. What did this pandemic teach you? 

  • This pandemic taught me how to help and support each other! I received a donation from some of the Alumni at U30X and was able to share that with other families! It makes me feel so happy. 
  • I am learning to survive in life without money!

M  

  1. Where are you?
  • Chiangmai, Thailand
  1. How are your family and friends coping?
  • Good. We  just have to be careful when we go out in public. We must always wear a mask and bring hand gel. 
  1. Where did or have you been spending your time during this pandemic?
  • Mostly in my apartment.
  1. Are you by yourself or with family/ friends?
  • With my close friend.
  1. How are you really doing?
  • I’m good but a bit bored.
  1. Do you have a pet? What’s it like living with a pet during the pandemic?
  • I have 1 cat and he loves to stay with me all the time.
  1. Has your job been affected?
  • 100% affected because my income is from the tourism industry.
  1. How are you taking care of yourself today?
  •  Wear a mask, wash my hands, and keep away from the public.
  1. What skill did you learn or master during the pandemic?
  • PlayStation and cooking.
  1. What have you learned throughout this all?
  • In life, we must have a plan B and plan C because disaster can change your life any time.
  1. What worries you the most about all this?
  • I’m worried about the tourism industry in Thailand because it has affected my job.
  1. What messages of hope do you have for yourself and others?
  • We will get through it together.
  1. What is your day to day routine like?
  • Like my vacation! Wake up, cook, feed my cat, play play station, have lunch, play station again, go to the market, cook some dinner, have some beer, shower then go to bed.
  1. What have you been doing to entertain/ keep yourself busy?
  • Playing with my cat and PlayStation.
  1. What book, movie, series, article, IG account (or anything on social media) that has gripped you recently? Why did it capture you?
  • Book: Harry Potter; movie: anything on Netflix; PlayStation: The last of us
  1. What habit have you started or broken during the quarantine?
  • I’ve had to avoid partaking in beer o’clock with my friends because of  the lockdown and curfew time.
  1. What’s the easiest part about the quarantine? 
  • Stay at home and keep away from the public.
  1. What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?
  • Share, love, help, and care for humanity. We need all of this to pass this challenging time together.
  1. How do you want this experience to change you? How do you think it will?
  • l learned so much more about love and sharing; that we can love and share with everyone even if you never knew them before.


Neeni

1.  Where have you been staying during the pandemic?

  • My home in Bangkok.

2.  How have you been spending your time?

  • Sleep, eat, watch some movies that I missed because I was busy, seek more places for traveling (and eating LoL), do whatever I want to do with my home, take care of my tiny garden and fight with my family. 

3.  What is something that you miss while on lockdown?

  • My job that came with a million questions from my tourists / travelers, and delicious desserts especially home made ice-cream, chocolate and cheese.

4.  Where is one place you want to travel after lockdown?

  • Any place that has a lot of delicious desserts!

5.  Have you learned a new skill or completed a personal project?

  • Skill’s not sure… I tried to learn more languages like Chinese or German but instead I learned a few words from Korean drama. There are many projects that I planned doing before going back home. One of those is related to Global warming as some of you know I am very passionate about this and I am trying to teach my family to reuse or recycle some plastic bags more than usual. I have a recycling corner as well for sales to "Secondhand Saleng" at home, and compost from our food waste/ fruit peels to be used for my tiny garden. My family cooperates with me but they sometimes make a few mistakes but better than nothing, right?

We hope you enjoyed these updates as much as we have! Don't forget to send them a message to let them know you miss them. We're sure they'll appreciate it. If you find that the Trip Leader you're searching for isn't here, don't worry, we'll keep updating this space the moment they send their updates in. For now, see ya around and stay safe! 
Rebecca Formoso
Rebecca is a U30X trip leader in Europe and Asia. She grew up in the Philippines and has been living in Spain since 2012. She loves to play sports, take pictures, and go on new adventures.

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