Greensboro woman overseas during pandemic experiences lockdown in Philippines

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — A Greensboro woman on a backpacking trip through Asia found herself stuck on lockdown and is now struggling to get back to the Triad. 

From a young age, Lauren Rhodes loved to travel.

“I had the plan to go to China and then the Philippines and Vietnam,” Rhodes said.

She started that excursion in mid-January, never worrying about a health crisis taking over the world.

“When I was leaving the US, there was maybe one article about the coronavirus that had come out, but I was like there’s no way I’m going to stop my trip for this potential virus,” Rhodes explained.

She spent 10 days in China.

“My best friend who I grew up with, she was teaching English in China,” Rhodes said.

Days after leaving and hopping on a plane to the Philippines, China was put on lockdown.

“Little did I know how much that would change the world,” Rhodes said.

While Rhodes and her two friends explored the Philippines, one of them came down with a fever and symptoms of food poisoning. Rhodes took her friend to the hospital where they were asked about travel to China. 

“They bring us to a room, and they’re like ‘OK we’ll be right back with the doctor.’ They come back in and are like ‘you guys aren’t leaving,’” Rhodes recalled.

Six days in quarantine and two negative COVID-19 tests later, they continued their travels to Siargao Island where Rhodes has been ever since.

Not long after settling in, like in China, the Philippines was put on lockdown. 

“It was super strict. The only people who could go out is one person from each household to get groceries,” Rhodes said.

She stayed in a hostel with a Filipino family.

“For me, it feels like I’m going back in time. I learned how to hand wash my clothes the way Filipinos do it. I went spear fishing to catch our dinner,” Rhodes said.

Money quickly became scarce, and she used Facebook to trade goods.

“The barter system is now a thing,” Rhodes said.

She’s made the most of her time overseas and is doing odd jobs to make some cash. She’s also teaching locals English and is volunteering at farms.

“I’ve just felt so connected here,” Rhodes said.

A connection that coronavirus created and changed her life.

Now that the lockdown is over, Rhodes has the option to come home but has no source of income.

Her job at a photo booth company in Greensboro is on hold until large events are allowed again.

She tells FOX8 she’s in no rush and making the most out of her once in a lifetime experience. 

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