The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 22 April

In this episode, the Australian airline in administration, the New Yorker on lockdown in New Zealand and the items the French Government deem indispensable during lockdown.


woman in  a garden Photo © Heather Markel in lockdown in Kerikeri

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The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News

As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines, including the future of travel.

What’s in the episode

01:10 A message from Sir Richard Branson

02:17 The items the French Government deem indispensable during the lockdown

04:34 Return to NYC or not?

06:43 The special Passover Seder

09:44 Suspicions of a Yeti

11:31 In lockdown in New York

15:33 What’s it like in Brooklyn?

18:30 Next episode

Quotes from the episode

I was really lucky to come in here and, even luckier still, there's another American couple that is stuck here as well and they're in the cottage next door so I'm alone but not. We've been isolating together, and it ends up that they are also Jewish and so we had this magical Passover Seder at a six feet distance on the porch and we read from the Haggadah…” Heather

“I didn't notice at first because I live pretty close to a police precinct as well so I'm used to ambulances but I suddenly noticed there would be four, five times an hour, constantly all day and all night and I finally looked outside and I realized, oh, my God, these aren't police, they're ambulances…” - Anushila

Who is in the episode

Heather Markel left her 25-year career in Corporate America in 2018 for a career break. After a few months doing what she loves full time - traveling the world and meeting people - she made it official. She gave up her expensive New York City apartment and, over the past two years, has been to six continents and 25 countries. She began an interview series on YouTube and chronicles her journey to inspire people midlife to travel full time and was featured in the New York Times.

Heather is a speaker, author and looking forward to getting back on the road again. In the meantime, she's immersing in nature, reading a vampire series that appears to have no end, and knitting a scarf for the winter. Follow her on Instagram @heathermarkel and on Facebook.

The strange footprints on Heather’s deck

Anushila Shaw is a photographer based in Brooklyn NYC, her studio is currently shut because of the pandemic. Brooklyn has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Anushila lives about a mile down from Brooklyn Hospital Center, a major healthcare facility, and describes in this episode hearing and seeing ambulances rushing up and down all day.  Follow Anushila on Instagram @anushilashaw.

Resources & links

Check out Cassandra Brooklyn’s photo essay of the empty streets of New York.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and World Nomads Travel Insurance Coverage

Travel safety alerts.

In self-isolation? You can put your time to good use practicing your travel writing skills

You can get in touch with us by emailing

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Kim: In this episode, the Australian airline in administration, The New Yorker on lockdown in New Zealand, and the items the French government deem indispensable during the lockdown.

Speaker 2: Welcome to the World Nomads podcast. We'll be keeping you up to date with travel alerts, information about coronavirus, and sharing some uplifting news and views to inspire you and keep you smiling.

Kim: Hi, it's Kim and with Phil away from this episode, the job of delivering the headlines surrounding the pandemic and its effect on the travel industry has fallen on Milly Brady, our travel safety content producer. Big shoes to fill.

Milly: Oh, is that a play on words there, Kim?

Kim: Not deliberate. You picked it up the first time we tried to record this. We are recording because of lockdown. I'm in my wardrobe and where are you?

Milly: I am in my husband's wardrobe.

Kim: It's not always a one-take wonder, right?

Milly: No, definitely not.

Kim: Well, launch into it then, Milly.

Milly: The big news from Australia today is the airline, Virgin Australia, are going into administration. Sir Richard Branson, who founded the airline, has hit out at the Australian government online.

Sir Richard Bra...: I know only too well how devastating the news today will be to you all. In most countries, federal governments have stepped in, in the unprecedented crisis for aviation, to help their airlines. Sadly, that has not happened in Australia. This is not the end of Virgin Australia and its unique culture. Never one to give up, I want to assure all of you and our competitor that we are determined to see Virgin Australia back up and running soon.

Milly: But more than 10 parties have shown interest in saving it so hopefully there's good news there.

Kim: Yeah.

Milly: It's not great news for the hospitality graduates in 2020 with the job market decimated by the pandemic and it's been reported some universities are asking students to consider graduate school to find a field outside hospitality.

Kim: I think that's harsh. I see where they're going with that but if you've studied and you're graduating and you want to be in the hospitality industry because there are so many fantastic jobs, that's hard, isn't it?

Milly: Yeah. If I was told I couldn't pursue whatever I'd done my degree on, I'd be pretty gutted.

Kim: All right. Now, this is right up my alley.

Milly: Local wine shops in France have started delivering survival packs of six or 12 bottles to quarantined residents.

Kim: Nice.

Milly: And going to a bakery for a baguette is now deemed indispensable for the continuity of life of the nation.

Kim: I agree with that. A couple of years ago Heather Markel left her 25-year career and is now living life as a nomad after giving up her expensive New York City apartment. Now, Heather first contacted me, Milly, in early March, as a potential amazing nomad but that was just before travel stopped and now she's found herself in lockdown in New Zealand.

Heather Markel: Yeah. At that point, I had actually just gotten interviewed by The New York Times because I have been a nomad. I quit my job and started traveling in January of 2018, with the intent of a three year, six-month career break and ended up just ... I love, more than anything, traveling and meeting people, so doing it full time was just living my dream so I gave up my New York City apartment in October 2018 and have been on the road ever since. This year I started in New Zealand with the intention of initially going to see parts of South East Asia I hadn't seen yet and then make my way back to Africa and see more of it and South America through November. That was the original plan.

Kim: You were in New Zealand when the pandemic hit and you could've gone home to New York?

Heather Markel: Yeah, it was this weird thing. I had planned to travel through November anyway and then first it was this weird day by day thing like, "Today, oh, maybe I shouldn't go to Asia, it's looking bad." And then meeting people who had been other places and couldn't understand what was happening, why was the media making such a fuss and then I was supposed to visit my friend in Sydney and as I watched their numbers come up, I suddenly started realizing maybe actually the travel I had planned isn't going to work out and then I was heading up north and I suddenly realized that I had this decision where, yes, I could return home, which was to New York, which at the time appeared to be an epicenter of problems, or stay in this nature area in the north of New Zealand and it was a terrible decision because I have my parents at home that are at risk so even if I went home, I wouldn't have been able to see them. I would be confined to my mother's New York City apartment where they closed Central Park so I'd be able to walk from one side of the apartment to the other and I wouldn't even be able to see the friends that I came to be closer to.

Heather Markel: And I also, at the time, had a viral cough and everything I was reading suggested that if you add on the virus to something else, it's not a good self-health move and I didn't want to make other people sick by taking a plane and infecting other people so I just made the decision that, for now, it seemed best to stay in New Zealand.

Kim: Yeah, well, you've traded your Manhattan apartment, as you'd said, for a cottage among nature, if that's how you say it.

Heather Markel: Yes, totally.

Kim: And we're all being told to check in on those people that are self-isolating on their own but sounds like you're loving it.

Heather Markel: I am. I don't know. I always feel like the universe is looking out for me ever since I started traveling and I ended up at this nature place totally by accident. I was at an Airbnb down the road and they needed me to check out a couple of days later and I saw this art gallery and I walked in to look at the art gallery and ended up on this nature reserve and they had cottages and they were renting by the month so I was really lucky to come in here and, even luckier still, there's another American couple that is stuck here as well and they're in the cottage next door so I'm alone but not. We've been isolating together and it ends up that they are also Jewish and so we had this magical Passover Seder at a six feet distance on the porch and we read from the Haggadah and we started talking about how the tribulation and journey of the Jews relates very much to current day, the pandemic, and looking at what we've already been through as a people and what we're going through now and it was actually a really deep Seder that I've never had a Seder like that. I really enjoyed it and I also think it made us closer so it's just been lovely.

Kim: What a special memory to have.

Heather Markel: Yeah.

Kim: It couldn't be any more polar opposite than what's happening in New York.

Heather Markel: Yep, exactly. And look at the leadership [inaudible] too.

Kim: Yes, that's making headlines.

Heather Markel: Yep. Well, both of them, right? Being from the US and having the leader that we do, coming here and Jacinda actually, every statement she makes, it's please be caring, be compassionate for others, think about other people. I've never had that experience where a leader is effective, she thinks out everything, she communicates really well and what's forefront on her mind is taking care of her people. But I have to say what amazing me, even more, was when this all started unfolding, there was a government website where we could get information and it instructed us that if we had a tourist visa, that they would be extending them for us. And first I was amazed that I didn't have to apply, I didn't have to go to an office, I didn't have to submit a form online, they were doing this for us and we'd be getting an email when the extension was done. I got that email 48 hours later and so my visa's extended until September 25th. I didn't have to apply for it and I'm not even a citizen and they took care of me in 48 hours. They're really, really lovely gracious people and a really lovely gracious government on top of that.

Kim: I'm imagining you making daisy times.

Heather Markel: If I could do that with the wildlife ... It's just really fun being a New York City girl that I've lived in many places and many different accommodation styles but it's really funny because I've traded a fear of ... And you have traffic noise and sirens and all that and it's just completely silent here, except for the animals who, last night, I'd heard ... My neighbors heard it first but last night, I finally heard the heavy breathing noise and there are no footsteps. There's a giant rubbing against the wall of my bedroom and I'm just really curious, what is this?

Kim: Did you find out what it is?

Heather Markel: Well, no, and there were footsteps on my porch a couple of days ago so I took a picture and I showed them to the owner and she was baffled so she's decided it's a yeti. No idea.

Kim: You're never bored when you've got your imagination.

Heather Markel: No, it's thrilling and I never know what insect is going to end up in my home. I had a praying mantis perch on my curtain rod, I've had spiders, I had a giant cockroach. It was really weird, I walked into my bedroom at 11 o'clock and I turned the light on and there's this roach and it looked very intelligent. It kind of sat up as if it was thinking, what's going on here? Why is the light on? Who are you? I don't know, it just looked kind of kind and I just had respect for it so I didn't want to kill it so I took my laundry bag and put my hand over it and tried to put it outside.

Kim: Oh, that's lovely. You could've had a new friend.

Heather Markel: I feel like I do. And the birds here, there's a fantail bird. I'm learning all about nature and this bird is like a Disney bird, it comes and flies over and hovers by my head and it chatters with me.

Kim: oh, how fabulous.

Heather Markel: It really is, yeah.

Kim: Okay, to finish off, if you were to give your cockroach a name, what would it be?

Heather Markel: I think Hubert.

Kim: I like that. Hubert the cockroach. Well, say hi to Hubert if you see him again, or her.

Heather Markel: I absolutely will.

Kim: Look out for the yeti and please take care.

Heather Markel: Thank you so much. You too.

Milly: Not the worst place to be locked down, is it?

Kim: No, certainly not and she painted a fabulous picture. Who wouldn't want to be friends with a cockroach? Anushila [inaudible] is a portrait photographer and she's shot pics in places from Mexico to Mongolia, but amid the pandemic, like others, her livelihood has taken a beating.

Anushila: Yes, I am a photographer in Brooklyn and I have my own photo studio here [inaudible] I came at it from an interesting path. I have an undergraduate degree in finance and then I went to law school and, strangely enough, when I graduated law school, it was 2010 and the financial markets had crashed. And so, the first time I was hunting for a job in my life, a full-time permanent job, it was like the worst market that any young graduate could graduate out of. But I got a job in New York, started my career, eventually left the law behind, went back to school in 2016, got my masters in photography and now I'm building my career and we're back to the worst possible time to start a job and build your career, do practically everything. It's an interesting situation to be at and I feel like it's the second time in my life I'm here again.

Kim: Well, if anything, you're resilient.

Anushila: I hope so, yeah. I'm learning a lot of lessons for a future event that I hope never happens again.

Kim: How's your career been affected?

Anushila: It's been greatly affected. I'm a product and portrait photographer. We do commercial work and I can't do anything. Obviously, I've had to shut down my studio. My studio is also a commercial rental studio so people rent it for the day, they pay for monthly rentals. I stopped all of that pretty early on, about a week before the mandated shut down because I just realized that it would be impossible to provide a safe environment for everyone to work in and the first three weeks, everyone was just so tense and afraid and everything had just paused and everything was shut down. In the last couple of weeks, I think, as we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in New York, I've been doing a lot of Zoom meetings, little iPhone training sessions, I reached out to some of my previous clients and I figured out a way that if they mailed me their products and I work with them via Zoom or send them pictures I can shoot in my studio without having anyone else present and I've also been working on a personal project, shooting essential workers at their place of work and I have a long lens so I wear a mask, I'm more than six feet away, I shoot them outside.

Anushila: We're learning to work around it but it's hard because, economically, it's hard and people are fearful and photography's normally a thing of joy and excitement, not something of fear and trepidation.

Kim: I am seeing ... I know you said you're a portrait photographer but I'm seeing some great photos of normally busy streets that are just totally abandoned. You said you were doing some photos of essential services, have you taken any of Brooklyn Bridge or anything like that's normally a bustling place?

Anushila: I'm not really much of a street photographer. I've taken some. I'm actually focusing on the streets in my neighborhood. I live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Clinton Hill and it's one of the most affected neighborhoods in New York and Brooklyn, as a whole, has been really badly affected. I'm in a mixed neighborhood that's sort of in the process of gentrifying but it's very much a working-class neighborhood so I have been focusing on the streets and the people I see in this particular neighborhood and just telling the story of one place. I did go out a couple of times and try to take some empty streets but it's funny because a lot of New Yorkers are just walking out and about because the weather's turning nicer and people are cooped up at home and they're getting exercise so the streets aren't as quiet as they were maybe the first couple weeks but there's a lot of essential workers. New York needs a ton of people. They're delivering mail, they're delivering packages, they're cleaning, they're running the shops and I think they're occupying those spaces that are normally otherwise busy with other people.

Kim: Well, speaking of busy, you live down the road from the Brooklyn hospital center, which you said is a major healthcare facility. What's it like?

Anushila: Yeah, I haven't gone too close to the hospital, although I've sort of circled around. I will tell you that it has been eerie, hearing the ambulances. I didn't notice at first because I live pretty close to a police precinct as well so I'm used to ambulances but I suddenly noticed there would be four, five times an hour, constantly all day and all night and I finally looked outside and I realized, oh, my God, these aren't police, they're ambulances rushing back and forth taking people to the hospital and it was really freaky and it was the end of March and it was cold and rainy and you couldn't go outside at the time and all you'd see outside your window was just ambulances rushing back and forth on the main road and it was heartbreaking knowing that each of those ambulances contained somebody who was struck by this and they were in a bad enough condition that they couldn't breathe, that they were close to death, and some of those people wouldn't have made it out of the hospital.

Anushila: And so, I remember having to put my TV on all the time just to drown out those sounds because otherwise you could sit in your apartment and really fixate on that in a way that's not really mentally healthy. Although I'm pleased to report now that it's gone down a lot. I still see a lot passing outside my window but it's not the sort of constant every few minutes.

Kim: Well, as you said, you survived the 2008 global financial crisis, what did you learn from that, that you'll take post coronavirus?

Anushila: My dad told me this because I was really, really down when I was in law school and getting ready to graduate and I would sign up for interviews and they would be canceled and I would look at a company and then they would go under and I was so frustrated but my dad told me, he told me two things. One, he said, "There's always an opportunity when things are changing." And this is the type of period where things will change, people will change. The way that we live or the way that we work will change and there's always an opportunity for someone who's looking on the other side of that change. You just have to focus on what's going to come at the other side and position yourself to be ready. And the other thing he told me was, "Even though the situation is bad and it's out of your control, keep working at it. Even if you spend two hours a day, and you have no control over the outcome, try to do something." And it took me a couple of weeks to get there.

Anushila: The first couple weeks, I think, I was really frozen in fear this time and so was the whole city, but now people I see are making plans and they're working and they're sending emails and they're making connections and they're trying to figure out a way to continue with their normal lives and even if it's not 100%, it's something and that really makes a huge difference mentally.

Milly: And a picture painted there of a New York Heather really wanted to avoid.

Kim: Yeah, exactly. Now, Sandra Brooklyn, speaking of New York, she's a regular guest on the podcast and has posted a photo essay about the empty streets of the city and I'll put that in show notes but if you want to get in touch with your story, pic, or surviving iso tip, email What's next?

Milly: Next episode, we chat with a rudder in lockdown in Italy for the past two months with her two teenage boys.

Kim: Oh, bye.

Milly: Bye.

Speaker 2: The World Nomads podcast, explore your boundaries.


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