Little did I know when I called last orders on a Tuesday night, that it would be my last shift before the world was shut down by a global pandemic.
I locked up and began my walk home through the heart of Antwerp. The city was still and peaceful and I remember thinking as I took in the breathtaking surroundings, how lucky I was that I got to call this place home.
Antwerp is truly a hidden gem; a picturesque city of cobbled streets that wind around a looming cathedral.
I’ve lived here for almost seven months and I still stumble upon a new bookshop or a quaint bar where I wile away a few hours reading and sipping on delicious Flemish beers.
But that is all gone.
Now, the Grote Markt (the ‘’Great Market Square’’) is eerily empty and the usually bustling streets have been transformed into a ghost town.
News broke on March 12th that due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, everything bar essential stores was to be closed from midnight the following night.
While I have my amazing boyfriend, a gorgeous apartment with lovely roommates and friends, I knew that I could be facing potentially months of unemployment and being essentially locked into my apartment alone.
My family were in Ireland, and they wanted me home.
And as the news kept flooding in, I knew it was only a matter of time before flights would be cancelled and borders would close.
It wasn’t an easy decision because while I adore living in Belgium, in times like these - family is everything.
Living through this unprecedented time has forced me to think - where really is home?
Is it made up of the people who surround you, is it a feeling or simply a place?
I love Ireland with all of my heart but for the first time I was torn between an old life and my new one.
I arrived safely in Dublin and have been watching this unfold alongside the rest of the world.
For now, I’m isolating in my hometown of Lucan but as soon as it is safe to do so, I will head back to Belgium and my boyfriend.
Because as I have discovered, home can be as many places as you like.
And Antwerp has become my second one.
We are living history. The challenges posed by Covid 19 are similar the world over but everybody’s experience of this emergency will be different. In this special series, ‘Lockdown Letters' gives our readers at home and across the globe an opportunity to share their stories about how the Coronavirus and the measures to tackle its spread are impacting their lives in these unprecedented times.
Please email your submission (400 words max.) to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a photograph. We will publish as many letters as possible on Independent.ie and a selection in print every week.
I'm a native of New Ross, Co. Wexford. I've been in Sydney 24 years but have travelled home every year since to visit close family and friends, sometimes twice a year.