DATELINE April 18, 2020, Medellín, Colombia.
The Big COVID-19 Travel Quandary
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that travel has been a priority in our lives for a long time and one of the big motivators in our decision to become expats. Therefore, if we had to name one thing we miss the most about our lives before quarantine, it would be the ability to travel at will – or at least as and budget and Susan’s work schedule allow. It’s anyone’s guess what the post COVID-19 travel landscape will be like once this all blows over, but it might be years (if ever) before international travel recovers to pre-pandemic days.
Although our journeys are only part-time, at least until Susan retires, we still have dreams of becoming full-time nomads and pet/house-sitters someday. Through our blog, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting several couples who are living that dream. They’ve been on our minds lately: Without a conventional “home” to return to and wait out the pandemic, these full-time travelers have had to improvise and figure out how to shelter in place wherever they’ve found themselves.
Here’s how three blogging/traveling couples are navigating the COVID-19 travel world.
Nicky and Ian MacKenzie in France
Hailing from the U.K., Nicky and Ian are full-time travelers and house/pet-sitters who collaborate on their fantastic blog Above Us Only Skies. A month ago they were finishing up a “sit” in France when the country started to close its borders, and they suddenly found themselves scrambling to find a safe haven.
Luckily, Ian and Nicky were able to secure a new house/pet-sitting gig at a beautiful manior in an area in the Dordogne region of southwest France, complete with three cats, five chickens, and a stunning countryside view. Like pretty much everyone in these extraordinary days, their situation is indefinite since the property owners are likewise quarantined in the U.K. We’re so happy they landed on their feet!
Last week, Ian published his very sobering but realistic view of the COVID-19 travel landscape and what we might expect in a post-pandemic world. It’s definitely worth a read:
Bonnie Truax and Trinity Montero in Australia
Bonnie and Trinity are real role models: At a relatively young age, they positioned themselves to retire early and become full-time travelers and adventurers. Their blog, 43 Blue Doors, isn’t just a record of their travels – it’s also a wealth of knowledge and inspiration about how to live the financially independent life. Bonnie and Trinity were traveling and touring around Australia in their home on wheels when the coronavirus pandemic closed down the country.
“We are sheltering in place in our converted bus, Lil’ Beaut. We are parked just outside of Bunbury, Western Australia in the backyard of a local Australian whom we just recently met through a Facebook group. We are so grateful for the kindness and generosity of Australians. We are waiting to see how drastically our travel plans will change, aside from the obvious change of staying put right now. Originally we hoped to explore Australia for another year. That might still work out for us depending on when they open state borders and if our visa is extended. Beyond that we really don’t know, but honestly even before the pandemic we didn’t plan that far ahead. We take one continent at a time. When we finish exploring it we move on to the next. Eventually I believe travel will open again.”
Here’s their video with more of their story and their perspective on these crazy times (the links Bonnie mentions at the end can be found here):
Lisa Dorenfest and Fabio Mucchi Aboard S/V Amandla in Baja California, Mexico
We met Lisa and Fabio last July in Curuçao (how time flies!), where they were anchored aboard their boat Amandla after having just completed a seven-year circumnavigation. As former cruising sailors ourselves (from 2001 to 2004 we cruised Pacific Mexico and Central America aboard our own sailboat), we bonded instantly with these two and have been following their progress through the Panama Canal and up the Mexican coast. Lisa has documented their sailing adventures on her wonderful blog, One Ocean at a Time.
At this writing, Lisa and Fabio are in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, sailing to a marina in Puerto Escondido off Baja California to wait out the pandemic and shelter from the current hurricane season. When we spoke to Lisa yesterday, she had this to say:
“We had some delays that kept us from getting back to the U.S. when we’d planned, but now that feels like a blessing in disguise. At least here in Baja, the Mexican officials are taking strict quarantine measures. We’re taking care to protect ourselves and not infect others should we be asymptomatic. It’s important to us to heed the local community guidelines and mandates set out by the port officials.
Regarding travel, I think there will be an increase in local travel in the shorter term as efforts to slowly reopen take shape and are successful. It will have to be travel that allows for on-going social distancing and is affordable in times of economic uncertainty. That probably means only essential trips at first; we’ll just have to dream about recreational travel for a while.
We feel so blessed to be exactly where we are right now. Our situation might sound uncertain to some people, but we sailed away from certainty 7 years ago. We’ve been pushing up against our comfort zone for a long time. For us, this feels pretty normal! Above all, we’re so grateful that we got to finish our circumnavigation and that we have a safe, comfortable boat to shelter in. We did what we set out to do, and we look forward to what life has in store next!
Love her positive attitude! Here’s Lisa’s latest blog post on how their plans took an abrupt turn with the emergence of the coronavirus:
Mientras, en Colombia . . .
- Coronavirus cases are still growing here, with a current count of 3,621 cases and 166 deaths. The saddest change from last week is that two more doctors have lost their lives working on the COVID frontlines. Like the first doctor that died, both of the latest were young and leave behind wives and children. How can we ever repay the debt we owe to the healthcare workers who are out there very day, putting their lives on the line to save others?
- Just today, the government announced that some sectors of the economy will reopen by April 27, only a week away. If you take the numbers above on their face value, it would indicate that the curve is staying relatively flat and the fatality rate from the virus, so far, has been very low (there’s still only one recorded death in our large province of over 6 million). But we also know that Colombia still hasn’t reached the testing levels it needs to be doing to ensure that we have really passed the peak infection rate. So we’re skeptical about that April 27 date.
- One very interesting piece of news this week is that the group working to create a low-cost ventilator (#InnspiraMED) is ready to start mass-producing its design, following human testing. If all goes according to plan, these lifesaving devices will be rolling off the assembly line by the end of May. Medellín innovation at its finest!
- Making sure the poorest citizens have access to food remains a big concern here. Our apartment building has been running a food drive all week, and on Monday the building administrators will deliver our contributions to needy families right here in our neighborhood. And yesterday, our Laureles barrio finally got the visit from the mayor’s big caravan, part of the citywide drive to raise money for food and medicine and keep all citizens motivated to stay home. Here’s a clip from our balcony:
Speaking of gratitude . . .
Even if we never get to take another international trip, John and I feel so very blessed and grateful for the travels we’ve already had. And for now, we continue to be amazed and gratified by the way the Medellín community and Colombian citizens keep stepping up to the plate and protecting themselves and others by staying home, and by working to feed and care for the most vulnerable.
I like your international perspective and will enjoy reading the 3 new blogs you included in this summary. Buena suerte y viajes.
Buen suerte a ti, and gracias for your comment 🙂
Good post, as usual you two. Good to hear as well that fellow expats are making their way, ‘pushing against the comfort zone,’ and navigating this crisis with a degree of elan we’ve come to expect. The Medellin ventilator breakthrough is a terrific news. Talk about a win-win!
Gotta love Medellín innovation! Let’s hope we see more stories like that soon. Gracias, amigas!
Yes it will be awhile before travel returns to normal whatever normal is. Like you in our area there have been drives to donate food for those that are in need. Also we have been donating toiletries to our health staff. Every little helps. I am in awe of our health care workers.
Every little bit DOES help. Thank you for doing your part. The healthcare workers are our angels, all over the world 🙂
Yes, la vida es bueno en Colombia! I loved hearing the entertainer on your beautiful street.
I wish you could have been there for that! Big excitement 🙂 Thanks for your comment.
Thank you for your blog…it’s wonderful.
You are so welcome – thanks for reading!
I am already a (huge) fan of Lisa’s blog. Thank you for introducing me to the other two as well. I look forward to checking them out.
Glad you are staying stay. I join you in immense gratitude!
Yes, so many of us have a lot to be grateful for! Thanks for taking a look at the other two blogs – I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as we do. Take care!
💞As I am a huge fan of yours, Donna! Hugs from Puerto Escondido.
Thank you for including us in your story! Stay safe there in Medellin. That spray thing before the grocery store… not so sure about that. I hope it’s nothing to noxious, but good to see they are taking precautions. 🙂
It was our pleasure – we loved hearing your perspective from “down under.” I think the spray was pretty harmless – it was such a light mist and barely touched him. I’m more concerned that it didn’t really serve its intended purpose. And it’s not consistent; other stores aren’t doing it. Anyway, the intent is good as you said 🙂
Thanks for the shout out, guys! We too are looking at the planned closing of the lockdown here in France on May 11th – the testing here seems to be about as poor as it is in the UK so it remains to be seen whether they’ll really be ready or not.
It really comes down to testing, doesn’t it? There are so few countries that are doing an adequate job of it, and it’s really dangerous that they’re threatening to relax lockdowns before that happens. Add to that people that are actually protesting their lack of freedoms, like in the U.S. It’s all so frightening and uncertain.
Thanks again for providing such a great overview of the state of travel for us to link to 🙂
Love all of the blogs you highlighted here! The inability to travel is definitely the biggest challenge I have right now. UGH. some day soon I hope. Glad to hear y’all are alright 🙂
I do think we’ll be able travel again someday – who knows when or what it will look like. Hang in there!
Love you too, Pam. Hugs from Puerto Escondido
You and these other couples are such an inspiration. I follow Lisa and the Captain, and look forward to getting to know the others. I agree with Lisa that travel in the short term will likely be much more local. I’m actually looking forward to exploring more of my home province this summer/fall (provided the experts give the go ahead).
Yes, we’re pretty much committed to at least a year of local travel – which is a great thing since there’s a lot of Colombia we haven’t seen yet! Both Lisa and the Captain, and Ian and Nicky, have done a lot more overland travel in Colombia than we have, so there blogs will be our guides. Are you based in BC? Such a beautiful place to call home!
I can’t wait to see where your travels take you this summer/fall, Caroline! Will be wonderful to see what you find in your backyard. Hugs from Puerto Escondido.
John and Susan, thank you for introducing me to some new fellow bloggers. It is great to see that they are all doing well and are managing to stay positive. Here in the UK we are still in lockdown mode, but there are plans emerging on how to get us out of this situation. Although, like you have pointed out, travelling as we all knew it, will not be back to normal for a long time.
Thank you for visiting, Gilda! Wishing you all the best there in the U.K. I think countries all over the world are trying to figure out how and when they can reopen their economies. The same is happening here in Colombia. I wish the politicians would err on the side of safety, but that’s not always the case.
Amazing to think that it has been only nine months since we met in person. To me, Curacao seems like a lifetime ago as does our treasured time with you in Colombia. I am so grateful for the memories we created together and looking forward to more when circumstances permit.
I’ve been following Ian and Nicky ever since you introduced us to their wonderful posts on Colombia, and I thought that Ian’s recent coverage was spot on! Thank you so much for the introduction to Bonnie and Trinity. I hope that they are underway soon but glad to know they are skilled at living in the present moment and have a safe place to shelter.
Wonderful to hear that your apartment building is running a food drive in support of Medellin’s poorer citizens. And I was just saying to Fabio again how thankful I am that you are in Colombia and not Panama at this time.
Thank you so much for the lovely shout out. I greatly appreciate your sharing our story and even more, your being apart of it.
Curuçao and your Colombia visit really do seem like long ago, don’t they? Going forward, we’re all going to think of our lives in two phases – pre-COVID and post-COVID.
The thanks is all ours! We are so grateful our paths crossed and you welcomed us into your story. Wishing you and Fabio all the best up there in the Sea of Cortez, one of our all-time favorite places. Someday, the four of us will be sitting around (maybe in Amandla’s cockpit again?), drinking wine and saying, “Remember that time when we all went through the pandemic in exotic places?” That’s something to look forward to!
Big virtual hugs, amiga 🙂
Looking forward to that day 🙂
Thank you for sharing these very interesting stories. I’ve wondered what this pandemic is like for those who don’t have a full-time home. We are sheltering in place at home for now and grateful to have a place where we are comfortable and safe. We are scheduled to take my Mom’s ashes to Fairbanks, Alaska in July. I’m still hoping we can do that. If not, Mom will have to hang with me a little longer. Take care of yourselves. Stay safe. I found your blog through a comment you left on Natalie the Explorer’s blog. I appreciate your perspective on things.
Thank you so much for visiting! We love Natalie’s blog 🙂 And glad you’re hunkered down and safe in your home. It’s so hard to plan for the future, isn’t it? I’m sure your mom would understand the need to postpone your Alaska trip. Anyway, thanks again for your visit!
Thank you, John and Susan, for sharing your insights from Colombia and for your comment above. I’ve been following Lisa’s blog and have read the other blogs that you mentioned here. Stay safe and well. We’ll get through this.
Always fascinating to hear more views of COVID-19 around the world. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of the physicians. The sacrifice front line workers are making is heartbreaking.
It is hard to imagine what travel may look like in the future. I try not to get too far ahead of myself and take things one day at a time.
Thanks, Sue! I wish everyone who’s impatient about getting back to their “normal life” would remember those healthcare workers. We all owe them such a huge debt of gratitude. And one day at a time is pretty much the mode we’re all on right now! Travel may never been the same, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to still see some of our “bucket list” someday 🙂