As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, COVID-19 has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel podcast is suspending its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.
00:41 California in lockdown
01:39 Spring break in Florida is in full swing
02:43 Weed versus toilet paper
03:17 Suzie’s epic adventure
05:38 What could possibly go wrong?
08:18 Heading to the Taj Mahal
09:23 Finally home
10:27 The suggestion for 2020
“…and we were driving along in the car and I actually took a very rare selfie because my face was covered, and posted on Instagram saying, "Coronavirus warning, I'm going to the Holi Festival. What could possibly go wrong?" And curiously, that was about my last social media communication for about a week because everything went crazy from then on.” - Suzie
“It's really hard to know. I think you become a little hyper-visual and about them (symptoms). We may well have it, but we're safe here and we're safe from others. As long as we feel okay, I think we'll stay where we are. - Suzie
Suzie Weiss is a travel photographer now in self-isolation in Victoria, Australia decluttering her “suitcase, brain and beach house before I start working to process >10k of photographs when I should be flying into Everest Base Camp.”
Follow Suzie on Instagram @suzieweiss
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Kim: In this episode, the latest travel headlines. An adventurous tale from India's Holi Festival to Nepal, closing its borders and America's seemingly invincible spring breakers.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the World Nomads podcast, delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast, it's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.
Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil with you shelving our destination episodes to focus on how the coronavirus is affecting the travel industry, and also hear stories from nomads affected by it. And at the time of recording, 218,000 people globally have the virus. We are working from home. We are in the wardrobe. Now, some of the headlines include more than 21 million people in California were ordered to stay home, while Mexico and Israel have evacuated travelers stranded in Peru.
Phil: All right. And the cruise company, Carnival, has offered up its ships as floating hospitals. Talk about going on a war footing. While the coronavirus continues to affect travel plans, people are spending their time in lockdown or self-isolation booking cheap flights, as you do. As an example, cross country flights in the US are going for under a hundred dollars, and you can save up to 35% on domestic flights in Australia.
Kim: This is all at the time of recording. How quickly does it happen, Phil?
Phil: You could be on air all the time doing this, couldn't you?
Kim: Yeah. Live stream with Kim and Phil from the wardrobe. Look, we know governments prefer us to stay at home just like the Californians we just mentioned earlier, but spring break is in Florida. Don't appear too worried about the virus.
Speaker 3: Whatever happens, happens with the bars being closed. We'll find alternatives. Unfortunately, it does suck that the bars and restaurants are closed, but we'll find ways [inaudible] .
Speaker 4: It's really messing up with my spring break. What is there to do here other than go to the bars or the beach? And they're closing all of it. It's really messing my... I think they're blowing it way out of proportion. I think it's doing way too much.
Speaker 5: It sucks, but we're going to make the best of it. We are enjoying ourselves.
Speaker 6: This virus ain't that serious. There are more serious things out there like hunger and poverty. We need to address that.
Speaker 7: We're just living for the moment. We're just going to do what happens when it happens when stuff closes, we're going to do it when it closes.
Speaker 8: We planned this a long time ago and it was kind of up in the air if we were going to still go, but we're here. I just turned 21 this year, so I'm here to party. It's kind of disappointing, but we're just making the most of it.
Phil: Oh, being young isn't guaranteed immunity or intelligence. In fact, babies are even catching it. To control the coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands, virtually all restaurants and bars were being ordered to shut their doors until April six. It's got to be a very thirsty time. But within minutes of the announcement lines stretched around the block with people stocking up on weed at the cafes to get them through the lockdown.
Kim: So not worried about toilet paper then?
Phil: No, just rollie papers.
Kim: Okay. Are you ready for the story?
Phil: Yeah. Go on.
Kim: Susie is a travel photographer and was on a photography tour of India and Nepal when everything went into lockdown. Now, this is a cutdown version of her epic adventure.
Susie: It's been a bit of a saga. I left Australia actually originally on the 1st of February for a couple of months of travel, and I did some travel in Europe and went and took some photos in Norway in the Lofoten Islands and there were a few murmurings around about a bit of a strange bug going on in China. The only questions that came up through customs and passport control were about travel to China, so nobody was too concerned really.
Susie: And then I came home at the end of February for a three-day quick turnaround, just to change my Arctic circle clothes for my India linens, and pick up my partner where we were heading to India and Nepal for a month. The plan was to go to really to photograph the Holi Festivals in India. We headed to a place called Mathura, which is the birthplace of Shiva, an ancient, very culturally religious-based town where they have some famous pre-Holi celebrations.
Susie: And two neighboring villages, it's a long story as to what the festival is [inaudible] in, but it's celebrated in two neighboring towns about a day apart. On day one, we were sort of pretty pumped. We knew they'd be big crowds, everybody throws colored powder. We had our disposable clothing on, and as we were driving to the first village, our fabulous guide said, "Oh look, I should tell you that the Prime Minister has said he won't be attending Holi because he's worried about crowds and worried about Coronavirus." And we went, "Oh, coronavirus, okay, is it in India?" And they said, "No, no. But everybody in the world seems to be getting a bit worried about it. So we've got some masks for you and you'll need masks because, at Holi, people touch your face." So we put our masks on and we sort of thought it was all a bit of a novelty.
Susie: And we were driving along in the car and I actually took a very rare selfie because my face was covered, and posted on Instagram saying, "Coronavirus warning, I'm going to the Holi Festival. What could possibly go wrong?" And curiously, that was about my last social media communication for about a week because everything went crazy from then on. The Holi Festival went really well in terms of Coronavirus, but we caught in a human stampede, unfortunately, when about 10,000 people were stopped by police from moving in one direction. It created this huge bottleneck and I ended up dragged into a shop with the shopkeepers trying to push me out, and my guide trying to drag me in. The next day with a mild case of post-traumatic stress disorder, we decided to harden up and attend the festival in the next city because surely that couldn't happen again and we did that.
Susie: There was a place called Nandgaon where the best photos are to be taken of Holi. Headed off to Varanasi, and while we were there, there wasn't much talk of Corona. We did hear that there was an Italian fellow in Agra, obviously visiting the Taj Mahal, that had tested positive and subsequently, his traveling group, which was 14 Italian people, were taken into quarantine. Undeterred we soldiered on. We flew then to Delhi to head to a place called Chandigarh. While we were in the air, we landed, the situation was changing. We landed and only to find that the local government had, or the local police there, had closed off the festival, which was essentially the whole town. And our hotel was in the middle of it. So it was closed to foreigners. We couldn't get into our hotel. So we had to hatch a new plan quickly.
Susie: We got cars, again, our amazing guide, with four-wheel drives rolled up and we go into two each in a convoy. And we headed for the next place on our itinerary, which was Amritsar. And then we had some time to fill because of our changed itinerary, so we took a vote, decided we'd head to Jaipur, which is lovely. We first found out that Nepal, where we were headed on the Monday, was closing its borders to foreigners and suspended all visas. So we started then trying to contact airlines. Basically we were all, at that point, stuck there with no relief in relation to our existing tickets, and every airline office was closed for the weekend.
Susie: We woke up on Saturday morning and again undeterred thought we'd head for the Taj Mahal, which was still open. We got to Agra and we got to our Radisson Hotel and we went up, handed over our passports, and as we were checking in advice came through to say that India was closing down all the state borders, and checking foreigners and would quarantine foreigners trying to cross into other states.
Susie: But we needed to get an international flight out. We needed to be in Rajasthan or Delhi. And we needed to be there really quickly. And started this race to Delhi, and it felt like being a fugitive. We got back to Delhi, decided we'd go straight to the airport. There were some flights going out with our airlines that night. We weren't confident about getting on them, but we thought we might be able to actually talk to someone from the airlines.
Susie: Anyway, ultimately we had to just book our own, book new fares home, and thankfully everybody was able to manage to do that within 24 hours. We came home via Bangkok thinking, "Whew, that's over," and the last little piece of icing on the cake was arriving and landing at Melbourne, sitting on the tarmac to have the staff announced, "Could everybody please take their seat? There's a medical situation on board." 10 minutes later, a man in a hazmat, a health official in a hazmat suit and visor, glasses and gown came on board, fiddled around with a lady at the back, who we were told unofficially had developed a fever in flight. And they said, "Okay, you can all get off now," and nobody told us what the upshot of that was, what her situation was, whether we should be tested as a result.
Kim: Have you exhibited any of the symptoms for coronavirus?
Susie: It's really hard to know. I think you become a little hyper-visual and about them. We may well have it, but we're safe here and we're safe from others. As long as we feel okay, I think we'll stay where we are.
Kim: Stay well, Susie, and she says it's going to be her dinner party story for 2020, Phil, once out of isolation. What's your story? Email us at email@example.com.
Phil: Have you seen, somebody suggested that we unplug 2020 and plug it back in again? See if it works better this time?
Kim: I think it's a good idea. Like rebooting your computer.
Phil: Yeah, totally. Look, in our next episode, we'll look at the loss of income for travel bloggers.
Speaker 2: The World Nomads podcast. Explore your boundaries.
HOLI--are you serious, I travel--I am 70--you people who are advancing exposure and traveling across natioanal borders are foolhardy and extremely selfish--look at the results 2 weeks after a festive Mardi Gras in NOLA--it is a real disaster that they can't handle it NOW, but they have Mardi Gras to remember. So you should behave like most travel business and shudder your enterprise for the time being.
It's disgusting that you are carrying on business as usual and I will remember this in future travel planning
Thanks, Amanda for your feedback. We are not "carrying on business as usual" in fact its the opposite. We have shelved our destination episodes in favor of daily updates on how the pandemic is affecting travel and travelers. This episode featured the story of an Australian travel photographer trying to get back to Melbourne after photographing the HOLI festival.
She is now in self-isolation. If you have a story to share please email me firstname.lastname@example.org