Returning to the U.S. During a Global Pandemic

The morning after celebrating my 21st birthday, my friends asked me how I was feeling. Slightly weird.

That’s exactly how I feel right now.

I’m currently unemployed without a house or car to call my own.

I knew moving back to Michigan after living in Germany would take some getting used to but I was not prepared for this. No one was.

Before we made the international move last fall, we handed in the keys to our rental house, I said goodbye to my Ford Fusion, and left my full time job at a marketing agency.

These were drastic changes for someone who needs every second of her life planned, but in a way it felt freeing. A new chapter in our life as newlyweds and a fresh start in the charming town of Wiesbaden. We knew it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.

When returning to the states, our plan was always to move in with my parents until we found a house of our own in Michigan.

We didn’t know we’d be moving back during a global pandemic and stuck in self-isolation for 14 days.

So here I am. Almost 30 years old. Confined to my childhood home with no job and no car.

And I can’t even pet my dogs because somebody somewhere said that it’s possible for pets to spread coronavirus.

This novel coronavirus didn’t seem like a big deal at first. Yes, it was wreaking havoc in China but it hadn’t really spread to other parts of the world. I didn’t see how it would impact me or my family and friends.

For a while, there were no cases in Germany or Michigan. Then I heard the news that the virus had hit Italy hard. It was only a matter of time until cases started popping up in Germany. I remember texting my dad in the beginning of March while we were still living abroad… “there are now over 500 cases in Germany!” As of today they have over 13,000 cases. I would have never guessed how much would be impacted by coronavirus.

One week ago we were sleeping soundly in our flat in Wiesbaden when suddenly my phone rang. It was my sister. She knew better than to call us in the middle of the night so I knew something was up. I immediately went into panic mode. OMG, what happened?!

“Trump is closing the border Friday at midnight. You need to get home now.”

We were half asleep and in complete shock. We didn’t fully comprehend what she was was saying or how it would affect us. Friday at midnight as in Thursday when the clock switches from 11:59pm to midnight or Friday when the clock switches from 11:59pm to midnight?!

My dad texted us a clip of the address to the nation with the caption “late breaking news.” Very late breaking news. It was 2am in Germany. We sat in silence staring into nothing as time seemed to stand still.

Just like most Americans who were in Europe when they heard the news, it was not clear that American citizens would be able to leave Europe after the deadline. So in our minds, it was leave before Friday at midnight or be stuck in Europe for at least 30 days. Not to mention our visa was set to expire in the beginning of April.

We had already changed our flight home multiple times and had just one more week to go until our scheduled flight but didn’t want to risk getting stuck in Germany.

As soon as I remembered that Friday was Friday the 13th I knew we had to get on the first flight home on Thursday. Although I’m a frequent flier, I still panic on every single flight…even the short ones. There was no way I was going to hop on a 9-hour international flight in the midst of a coronavirus crisis on Friday the 13th. That’s a situation even expired Xanax won’t solve.

We jumped out of bed and started frantically packing up our flat. However, we didn’t have our suitcases because they were in storage in the basement of our building and we didn’t have a key.

I didn’t want to change our flights until confirming that we would be able to get our bags and make it to the airport on time for the only non-stop flight home that day. Each time I opened up the Delta app, less and less seats were available on the flight. I was really panicking now.

We started calling and texting our landlord around 4am and he finally answered at 5:30am. Once we were assured that we would get our suitcases, I quickly went on the Delta app to change our flights. But of course I received a message to contact a representative by phone. I tried changing our flights online and received the same message. So I picked up the phone and discovered there was a 4-hour wait to speak to a representative.

We needed to get on a flight that was taking off in less than 4 hours. I had no other choice but to rebook new flights. It was going to cost us $4,000 for 2 one-way tickets from Frankfurt to Detroit so I decided to try booking roundtrip tickets which only cost $1,500 total for 2 tickets.

Now we needed to figure out how to get to the airport…

We called and woke up our friend who generously came to get us.

At this point we had been awake for almost 6 hours after only getting about 3 hours of sleep.

Before we knew it we were at our gate about to board the plane. I couldn’t believe what had transpired in the last few hours. It was like something straight out of a movie.

Surprisingly the flight went by quicker than I thought. We were prepared for extra screening when we landed in Detroit but no one asked us anything about our health or where we had recently traveled. My mom came to get us at the airport and whisked us off to our new life in temporary self-quarantine.

When you hear the terms “self-quarantine” or “self-isolation” you feel like you’re about to walk into a jail cell.

Luckily it feels much more like an all-inclusive resort here at the Avesian Airbnb. My parents have been so helpful and accommodating making sure we are well-fed and comfortable…even though we have to stay 6 feet apart at all times. We even started using walkie-talkies to communicate from floor to floor!

For those of us with anxiety, it’s important to have a few laughs and make the most of this strange new world.

Not only am I an anxious person, I’m also a hypochondriac which means whenever I hear about new COVID-19 symptoms, I convince myself I have all of them.

I walk up the stairs carrying heavy boxes and my heart starts racing a little bit. OMG. I have shortness of breath. It must be coronavirus.

I check my temperature 5 times in a row. It’s different every single time. OMG. I have a fever. It must be coronavirus.

I have a slight tickle in my throat or cough a couple times after eating something spicy. OMG. I have a dry cough. It must be coronavirus.

And then I hear that some people who contract the virus don’t have any symptoms at all…

What should I do?! Truth is, no one knows exactly what to do. We are all making up the rules as we go.

We’ve officially made it a whole week in self-isolation and have only left the house once to take a walk around the block. Very challenging for people like us who are always on the go!

I’ve used this time to color-coordinate my closet, catch up on laundry, organize my bathroom, practice calligraphy, edit photos and watch home videos.

Maybe this unstructured time will help me learn to become more comfortable with ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ and just live my life without needing to constantly cross items off my to-do list.

Good luck everyone…we will all get through this together!


The Reagles

4 thoughts on “Returning to the U.S. During a Global Pandemic

  1. What a story. In a weird difficult time you provided some uplifting advice for all of us to follow.Not to mention they are very good guests.


  2. Welcome home. Let this frantic journey always remain in your thoughts. In the future, I know that your experiences will soften you heart and strengthen your compassion when you learn about the hardships and challenges of other people who face adversities in their lives. It is an experience that makes good people become even better (if that’s possible).


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