COVID-19 forced me to leave US, but reunited me with my family

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Elias Loefgren, Staff Writer

I have never seen any airport as deserted as LAX was when I decided to move from Santa Barbara to my home country of Sweden weeks back.

During the beginning stages of the panic, I was very calm, determined to stay in the U.S. despite the pandemonium.

Then came the stay-at-home order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Suddenly everyone in my life was going home. My roommates moved back to northern California, my best friend was forced back to Norway by her parents and a lot of my Swedish friends started talking about going home too.

Despite this, I told my parents I was going to stay.

A couple of normal days passed before the Swedish Embassy in Washington and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told all Swedish citizens to go back to Sweden as soon as possible. They didn’t want us to risk being stuck in the U.S.

I wanted to stay, but being alone in my house was too much for me. The isolation was one thing, but I couldn’t handle the loneliness. 

So, without telling anyone, I booked a flight back to Sweden. 

My friend and I booked the flight together, leaving one seat empty between us to maintain social distance while chatting on the 10 hour flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam.

When I landed in Amsterdam at 8 a.m. local time, which is about 11 p.m. in Santa Barbara, I sent a text message to my mom saying I was awake. 

A friend of mine picked me up from the airport in Stockholm and drove me the two hours from the airport to my hometown. 

We surprised some of my friends before moving on to my family. 

My older sister walked into her own living room and saw me sitting on the couch. She started jumping with joy, screaming and crying at the same time.

As we all went back to my family’s house, we discussed how to surprise my girlfriend. 

We came up with the idea that my family was going to invite her for dinner as she had her last shift on her job that same day.

Me, my dad and one of my friends went to get take-out and my younger sister picked my girlfriend up. 

As I walked into the living room, she put her face in her hands and started crying from shock. All I could do was hug her and sit with her for a while before having dinner.

From the feelings of fright on the deserted airports to all this joy in one day. Even though I already miss Santa Barbara, surprising my family, friends and girlfriend was all worth coming home a little earlier than expected.