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 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.