Hot Seat

Lana Willocks

We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. Lana lives in Phuket and is a freelance writer and editor. She's lived in Thailand for 20 years.

Q

Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)  

A

I’m from Canada and have lived in Thailand for more than 20 years. I first arrived in 1995 on a student exchange at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, then returned in 1999 to Phuket where I’ve lived ever since. I’m a freelance writer and editor, and also help manage my Thai family’s property rentals.    

Q

In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?  

A

Considering Thailand was the first place outside of China to have recorded coronavirus cases, I think the country did an amazing job at first. But the sluggishness in getting a vaccine program going really killed our chances in keeping covid at bay. Thailand’s low covid numbers came at a great cost to the economy, particularly in Phuket with its heavy reliance on international tourism. I couldn’t venture a guess on what could been done differently, though.  

Q

If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?

A

Get the vaccines out quickly and distribute the shots based on public health considerations, not nationality. I’d start handing out 20,000 baht fines to motorbike riders not wearing helmets, since far more people have died in road accidents here than by Covid-19. I’d ban the use of the phrase “The New Normal” in any context.    

Q

Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?

A

We had to cancel our trip home to Canada last year, and it’s been tough to be away from my family for so long with no idea when it will be feasible to visit again. I feel terrible for my two kids, who should be spending their teenage years venturing forth in the world but are now stuck at home with their boring parents!  

Q

From a work point of view, how has your situation changed (if indeed it has) and has there been any significant financial impact?

A

I’ve worked from home for many years, so my daily routine is much the same as it was before. So far, I’ve managed to find enough writing work to keep me going. My family’s property rentals have been hit hard, but we’re surviving.  

Q

Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?  

A

I’ve taken up hiking and have enjoyed getting out and exploring the island with friends and family. Phuket has some great trails up in the hills that I never knew about before – I’m appreciating the beauty of where I live.  

Q

When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?  

A

I’m hoping by early 2022, though I wonder how long it will be before I feel comfortable to sit maskless on a busy flight.  

Q

Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or decreased?  

A

I try not to think about living in Thailand in terms of my enthusiasm for it. I’ve made a life here and try to make the best of it, through the good years and the bad. I aim for a happy balance between rose-tinted delusion and jadedness.

Q

When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?

A

More travel for sure – I’ve learned from the pandemic to never again take for granted the freedom to just hop aboard a flight and see the world. Less screen time, more exploring and meeting up with people.    

Q

For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?  

A

Going out for a daily walk has been a lifesaver for me. Keep in touch with friends and family, even by text or Zoom call if that’s the only option. Get involved in the local community – volunteer, join a club. Know that in Phuket there are support networks like AA (aaphuket.org) that you can turn to for help.

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