If you checked out my previous post about living in isolation in Madrid, you might already know the number one reason why I have stayed put here in Spain during this global crisis.
As much as I would’ve loved to have visited my family during all of this, I couldn’t possibly imagine leaving my new husband all alone. Or just voluntarily separating myself from him.
This is not something I ever imagined us facing less than 6 months after our wedding day. Nor would I have quickly realized why we were facing so much opposition before we even said ‘I do’ to one another while we were engaged.
In fact, I don’t think any of us could have predicted 2020 to be so full of simultaneous changes and massive cancellations of every type of in-person events from weddings to funerals to concerts and conferences. You can’t even meet up with a couple of friends for a cup of coffee or a drink because all restaurants, cafés, and bars have been shut down. Only delivery is available from a select few.
Even amidst all of the panic, uncertainty and confusion we all felt here in the city of Madrid pre-lockdown, I felt safer here than I ever have before. While I don’t have any experience with this type of situation before and not a large portion of people living here do either, I feel like enough people would follow the new guidelines and protect others.
Besides, the last time Spain declared a state of emergency was in 1975 to help aid in the country’s transition to democracy after the death of the dictator, Franco, so they don’t call for them very often.
While my husband and I have both been severely affected financially due to this crisis, we have a little bit of savings to fall back on and family who are willing to support us as we try and get back on our feet. I am facing more pressure than most as I work as a freelancer in Spain and until my request for economic help from the government processes, I still have to pay into the Social Security scheme and file the necessary tax forms each quarter. It’s painful to see my earnings just disappear like that but I have made the decision to stay active in the system. I am both looking for work and ramping up work on another stream of income. It was something I was going to slowly but consistently chip away at this year but now I must accelerate things in order to survive.
The biggest and maybe self-explanatory reason for staying in Spain during a major health crisis is related to healthcare itself.
My personal and professional life aside, I chose to stay in Spain because I have full healthcare coverage here.
I pay into a system that provides me the right to access healthcare whether I have a job or not.
My health insurance coverage is not dependent upon my employer or my deductible or how much money I earn.
I can access the healthcare system here because I live here. And even if I didn’t, I would still receive the care and attention I would need. That is the beauty of a universal healthcare system, though it is not perfect.
I know the Spanish government made some decisions (and failed to make others) in the past 3-4 weeks that were not smart but healthcare access is something I am so relieved to not have to worry about at this time.
And honestly, there is no way you could make me go back to the US, potentially carry or catch the virus and be subject to the healthcare system of my home country. It’s one of the main reasons why I left and made my home elsewhere.
With all that we all do benefit from being in the 21st century and having access to the technology we have.
I know a number of families and students don’t have laptops, streaming services or even the Internet itself and my heart goes out to them. It doesn’t even matter where in the world you are right now, the Internet and phone lines are our lifelines right now.
I am truly grateful for having uninterrupted Internet access at a time like this. I am roughly 4,000 miles away from my hometown and even farther from some of my extended family and friends who are scattered across the US. I have connected and re-connected with friends and family and tried out a Zoom meeting (who hasn’t heard of this meeting software yet? haha).
It hasn’t been ideal but I remember the days when I had no way to text or send picture messages and videos from Spain to people in other countries.
Things I am most grateful for during this time
I have enough food, access to food and we are enjoying cooking new meals
We are here to support local restaurants by ordering delivery every so often
I can still get some sun to help me stay sane
I have both an in-person and global support system who love me
Advice if you are currently on lockdown
- Stay where you are and make the best of what you have around you and your situation. If you are a US citizen like me, check your country’s Embassy website for updates on the crisis. (For anyone in Spain, follow this page.)
- Another reason for staying: reverse culture shock in your home country will likely make things much worse compared to staying isolated in your room or apartment in your current country. Besides, even if you fly and arrive back to the US, you will likely have to undergo two weeks of quarantine before you can see your family.
- Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. If you’re sharing your living space with someone else, give each other alone time and then meet back up to watch a movie or do a fun activity together.
- Let yourself feel your feelings and work through them. If things are getting really tough, reach out to someone you trust and do your best to communicate with them every day. Or go to the local pharmacy to see what products or methods they would suggest. (For online therapy, I recommend Melissa Parks, Ph.D., from Intentional Expat.)
- Remind yourself that this is only temporary. It feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel but there will be. We have to keep our spirits up and believing that this too shall pass soon enough.
Are you currently living in a time of crisis away from your home country? Share your story and where you are in the comments below. We are all in this together!