The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 24 April

In this episode, the nordic country where it's business as usual, managing a second month of lockdown in Italy, and the airlines where airfares cost less than vegetables.

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woman sitting in the sun Photo © Rebecca Winke in lockdown in Italy

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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

01:02 What will airfares cost post-pandemic?

02:15 It’s business as usual in Sweden

07:13 Travel moving forward

09:36 Love in lockdown

12:00 One day at a time

15:50 Managing money during the pandemic

17:33 Get in touch

Quotes from the episode

“I feel unsafe here, to be honest. I feel totally unsafe…nobody wears masks. It's very strange coming from a place where they were taking it incredibly seriously and taking measures possibly beyond what is needed, but just very safe measures, to here where they're doing as little as they possibly can.” – Hanna

“It was a very hard day yesterday and I just sort of had to say, ‘Okay, this is a day that I'm not going to get a lot of work done. I'm going to be a little bit teary-eyed. I'm not going to do yoga or pop in an exercise DVD. I'm just going to make it until bedtime.’ And I did.” - Rebecca

Who is in the episode

Rebecca Winke’s first visit to Italy was a coup de foudre, and her affection for the Bel Paese has only grown over 25 years of living and working here. She currently covers travel, cuisine, and culture for The Telegraph Travel, Italy Magazine, and other publications, and creates travel content for a number of small and large businesses from travel agents to Viator and TripAdvisor. Her most prized accomplishment has been mastering the art of navigating Italian cobblestones in heels, but she has yet to come away from a plate of spaghetti with a spotless blouse.  

Hanna Francis and her boyfriend were evacuated from Vietnam cutting short their round the world travel. Hanna is an American and Swedish citizen, and her boyfriend Italian, and they live together in Sweden.

Resources & links

Parenting in a Pandemic: One Mom’s View from Italy

This CNN reporter returned to Wuhan three months after it went into lockdown.

Chinese airlines offer insanely cheap deals to lure back travelers.

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 [email protected].

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 Nordic country where it's business as usual despite a rising death toll from coronavirus, managing a second month of lockdown in Italy and the country where airfares are literally as cheap as chips.

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 Phil with you sharing those stories and headlines surrounding travel in the pandemic, which doesn't seem to be going away, Phil.

Phil: No, it's not going away is it, with almost 1,400 fresh cases and 47 deaths in India at the time of recording. The death toll in the US is also continuing to rise as it is in the UK. As China starts moving again, airlines there are offering what the media are calling bok choy price airfares because they're cheap as Chinese vegetables.

Phil: I was having a discussion with somebody about this before in airfares post-COVID are either going to be really expensive or really cheap. It's sort of supply and demand, isn't it? In the meantime, a CNN reporter has headed back to Wuhan where the virus originated to see what it looks like three months later. We'll share that story in show notes, it's pretty interesting to look at how it's going there. And while some beaches have reopened in Australia, including the one near me, woohoo.

Kim: Lucky you, mine's closed.

Phil: Yeah, okay. There are very definitely strict rules in place. You can't linger on the beach, you just have to go do your swim and get out and get off the beach again, so no lying around on the beach, and everybody's keeping their social distance, so it is hopefully working because it is so good for your, not just fitness, but your mental health to be down there as well. And beaches reopened in Jackson, Florida as well, where the crowds cheered as police took down those barriers and then they went for it. Swimming and surfing and sunbathing as per normal. Not sure how long that's going to last until it gets shut again.

Kim: Speaking of normal, we've read in the news, Phil, that life is going along just like that in Sweden, despite the pandemic. And this week the country reported 185 deaths in a single day. Hannah and her boyfriend have just returned to Stockholm after almost six months of travel and she shares with us what it's like.

Hannah: My boyfriend and I, we were traveling sort of around the world for six months, put our lives on hold and the second leg of our trip was in Southeast Asia and we started in Sri Lanka in January. And then we went to Thailand and then to Vietnam and we were in Northern Vietnam in Hanoi, when things really started to actually just get shut down and closed completely. All of Halong Bay and the Sapa Valley, the entire villages were closed to tourists. So our plans changed because we couldn't explore Northern Vietnam and it was looking like we couldn't leave the country to continue our trip to other countries in that geographical area. So we decided to go to Southern Vietnam. Oh, just to backtrack, the reason you couldn't leave the country was that the state department of Sweden where we live, they had officially recommended no unnecessary travel, so our travel insurance would not be covering us if we crossed any borders.

Hannah: And so we decided to go down to Phu Quoc, an island in the South, because what was happening also in Hanoi and a few other places, we were in these Facebook groups for backpackers, so we were seeing what was happening in different areas. And if there was someone staying at your hotel, which had recently been in contact with someone who was later tested positive, then the entire hotel would just be in quarantine for two weeks. So we decided if we're going to get forced quarantine, we want to be somewhere nice, we don't want to be in the middle of a city. So that was our idea for going down to Phu Quoc. Actually [inaudible]

Kim: I'm assuming you're still there then?

Hannah: We're not actually, we're back in Stockholm now.

Kim: So how did you get out of Vietnam? And I'm assuming you would have ended up in your 14-day isolation back in Sweden?

Hannah: Yes, but we don't actually need to be in isolation technically here. That's just the recommendation. I don't even think that they recommend it, but the government here would recommend that. The way that the Swedes are handling this is if you are asymptomatic, then you're completely fine and you should just go about your life as normal. So it's completely different, it's the opposite approach of Vietnam. No one has been in quarantine even coming from hotspots.

Kim: So how does that make you feel?

Hannah: I feel unsafe here, to be honest. I feel totally unsafe. And the schools are open, just the high schools are closed, everything is running as usual. Bars, cafes, everything is open. People are staying home to work a little bit more, but other than that, when you're walking around, it feels completely normal, like there's no pandemic. Nobody wears masks. It's very strange coming from a place where they were taking it incredibly seriously and taking measures possibly beyond what is needed, but just very safe measures, to here where they're doing as little as they possibly can.

Kim: So no temperature checks, no hand sanitizer, no toilet rolls disappearing from the shelves of supermarkets?

Hannah: Nope, correct. Everything seems normal here when you're walking around, it's incredible.

Kim: You being a traveler would be interested in what's happening in the rest of the world. You said you felt unsafe. It must seem really weird when you see pictures of New York as an example and empty streets.

Hannah: Exactly. I'm from the US originally and my boyfriend's Italian originally, from Northern Italy, so his family has been in lockdown for a long time and even a few members of his family got sick and one of them was in the hospital for a few weeks. He's okay now, but it's coming from America now with the lockdown's are really starting to hurt people economically and it's just a completely different situation when you know, I'm on Facebook or Instagram, and I'm looking at how my friends are doing and it's a completely different environment than it is here in Sweden, where it's like, "What virus?"

Kim: So you've had this taste of travel, you've had this experience on this idyllic island, you've gone back to Sweden, it's not all that it's cracked up to be. How do you see travel moving forward and how do you see yourself in that space?

Hannah: Less travel, I think, and I hope actually. One of the things that you really notice when you're traveling, especially in the area where I was in South East Asia because I'd never been there before, was just how over-tourism is ruining the planet. And most places where we were, we were lucky because there were so few people there at the time. But I think that was the only reason that we could enjoy it was because it wasn't completely overrun with people. So I'm really hoping that air travel isn't as cheap as it was, honestly. That sounds bad, but because it encourages people to basically completely destroy these treasures that we have on this earth. And then there's, we won't have anywhere left to travel to. So I hope that people are beginning to notice some more of the treasures that are at home and maybe explore their area a little bit more and that it won't just be a travel boom after this because people felt so claustrophobic.

Kim: Well, speaking of claustrophobic, you heard Hannah mention her boyfriend's family are in lockdown in Italy and have been since March 9, so in contrast to Hannah's experience in Sweden where you can do whatever you like, travel router Rebecca, has been self-isolating with her two children in the small Italian town of Assisi and explains how she's been getting through it.

Rebecca: I have a boyfriend, I have a companion, and at the beginning of this he actually was working in Africa in Eritrea, and he works for an international company. And when all of this began in March, they had all of their international staff return home. So we had to make a decision at that point because his home here, he doesn't really keep a house anymore, but he does have two aging parents and they live about an hour away from me. And so we knew wherever he chose to go was where he was going to have to stay because there's no moving around. And so we decided together that he would stay with his parents. That just seemed like a better solution. So I haven't actually seen him for two months because he has been an hour away and we can't visit each other.

Rebecca: And we were talking on the phone the other night and you know, he's very sweet and tells me how much he misses me and I'm very low key about all that effusion over the phone. And he said, "I just get the feeling that you don't miss me that much." And I said, "I can't miss you right now. There are only so many things you can deal with at one time. And if I start thinking about you being far away, there are just certain things that I have shut down right now." And that is one of those things because it just gets to be too much. So if I started also worrying about my own mortality, a boyfriend who's an hour away who I haven't seen for months and probably will not see for another month, all of these other things, I can only worry about so many things. So right now let's worry about making sure that the online schooling is working and making sure that we've got enough groceries in the fridge and making sure the dog is getting enough exercise. That's about all I can deal with right now.

Kim: Well, speaking of the dog, it was another thing that I loved about your story. I throw a few rules out of the book. If the dog wants to sleep in the bedroom, the dog can. If you want to be in your pajamas, you can. If you don't want to set your alarm for seven, get up at nine.

Rebecca: Well, I do want to say there does seem to be two schools of thought about the lockdown and some people are being extremely creative with their time and really structuring their time and picking up new skills and new hobbies, and I don't in any way want to undermine that, I think that that's a great way to face a crisis. What I'm noticing is that most people who are doing that are also not parents and also perhaps not people who have lost their jobs. Because I think that that frees up a lot of creative energy if you know that regardless you're getting a paycheck and if you have a lot of extra time on your hands.

Rebecca: Most people I know who have in some ways either lost their work or have had their work reduced, severely reduced, I think are very preoccupied about that and that tends to limit your creative juices. And most people I know who are at home with kids, even if your kids are older, there's just a lot of kind of basic family logistics that need to be taken care of. So, to go back to talking about picking your battles and letting things go a little bit loosey-goosey, I don't know, I feel like there almost starts to be a culture war between the people who are drinking wine with their cornflakes and the people who are learning Sanskrit. And that's not how it has to be, we all need to respect how we are all getting by. And for some people, that's living an extremely structured and "productive" day. And for some people, that's pretty much just making it through. And if you can make it through the day without having any huge anxiety attack, then great, that chalks it up as a success.

Kim: I'm glad you don't judge the cornflake eating, red wine drinking people. I feel like that's what I've become.

Rebecca: Yeah, I straddle those two groups. I have days that I feel like I am on top of this, I am winning the lockdown game. I have just cleaned my oven today and made French pastries and had both of my sons do their homework and I'm on top of it. And then I have other days that are just very hard. Like you have days that are good and days that are not so good. Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the death of a very good friend and grieving is not a linear process. It's more of a circle that goes around and around. And this was a year that it would have been very, very good for me to spend with friends and company. It's not a good idea to grieve by yourself. And I am still, and her family and all of the people who love her, are still very actively grieving her.

Rebecca: And it was a very hard day yesterday and I just sort of had to say, "Okay, this is a day that I'm not going to get a lot of work done. I'm going to be a little bit teary-eyed. I'm not going to do yoga or pop in an exercise DVD. I'm just going to make it until bedtime." And I did. And you know what? Today's better. I feel like the hardest part of this experience has been both managing my own grief, because I think to manage grief in a healthy way also means sometimes to completely let go and just sort of life in that grieving moment, which involves generally a lot of tears and things that might be upsetting for your children to see, which in my experience, I try to not have my children participate in that. I think that to see your parents completely out of control in grief, I think is something that is upsetting to a child, to a child that [inaudible 00:14:15].

Rebecca: So, it's this trying to manage in privacy my own grief and my own fear while also being present for my kids as they're trying to grapple with that as well. And that is a very hard thing and that has been perhaps one of the hardest things of being a single parent in lockdown. My children do have a father and he lives not far away from here, but my ex-husband, their father, lives right next door to his parents. My ex-in-laws and my children's grandparents. So they had very limited contact with their dad over the past, maybe six weeks. They did actually see him over Easter weekend. It's an especially hard thing to manage as a single parent because there's no passing of the baton. There's no saying, "Honey, I'm having a really hard day today. I need to go into the bedroom and take a couple of hours and just cry and scream into my pillow and you need to pick up the slack and deal with the kids right now." There really is none of that as you're a single parent. There's nobody in the batter's box, it's just you.

Rebecca: And that has been a very hard thing because there are days when I do feel overwhelmed. I'm a human like everyone else and the future is a very scary thing and I'm trying not to have my children participate in that feeling of being out of control and being overwhelmed because I think that that would only add to their anxiety.

Kim: Well you mentioned managing things. This isn't a personal question because you've been open about it, but obviously your income has suffered, but you are lucky enough that you had a little bit of money put away so you're able to feed the kids, put food on the table.

Rebecca: For right now, yes, and I do have to say that Italy has been very proactive in their bonus checks that are going out to help people get through. I primarily do travel writing and right now obviously that has nosedived, so I am regrouping a little bit and seeing what my options are. It's just hard right now to plan because we're not exactly sure is this something that is going to last through the summer and by this fall there will be work again in travel? Or is this something that is really not going to be picking up until next spring?

Kim: Leave us with Italy's unofficial new motto.

Rebecca: Oh, [foreign language 00:16:25] I think that's lovely actually. And I'm not even sure how that started. It seems in this area, to have started with some sort of a grade school project in which the kids were given as a home homework assignment to draw rainbows and write underneath [foreign language 00:16:41] and everyone put these things in their windows, which means that everything will be okay. So that has been actually really lovely in this kind of [foreign language 00:16:51], the flags, the motto, the singing from the balconies. That has actually been a wonderful experience.

Kim: That was just a small part, Phil, of the much longer chat with Rebecca. But I will share the article she wrote in show notes where she expands a lot on those points.

Phil: Yeah, look, two very different experiences there. I'm not sure how I feel about the Swedish experiment.

Kim: 185 deaths in one day. I feel it's not good.

Phil: Yeah, that's right. Hopefully, this never happens again, but there's a lot of lessons to be learned from it, isn't there?

Kim: Definitely.

Phil: By the way, at the time of recording, the coronavirus count in Italy was decreasing, which is great news. And listen, if you've got a story to share with us about your coronavirus experience, please let us know. Email [email protected]

Kim: Still plenty of conversations to share, Phil, including Will Hatton, who will look at the possible long-term repercussions on the travel industry, and he's got some ripper advice too.

Phil: That's a broke backpacker right?

Kim: Yep.

Phil: Bye.

Speaker 2: The World Nomads Podcast. Explore your boundaries.

 

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