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.
00:46 Business as usual in Sweden
01:57 Apparently you can put a price on life
03:32 Meet Becca and Dan
05:38 This couple’s 90-degree turn
08:50 Thoughts on travel moving forward
13:10 Avoiding tourists
16:19 A guide to New York City
19:17 Take two.
“As no one is really traveling, we've taken a spin to the whole website to talk about remote work and how people can work from home, and hopefully start thinking about taking their next trip.” - Becca
“…we already had a pretty strong base of working remotely, but the theme with that was working remotely while traveling. So, we took all those interesting articles and updated them a little bit to be working from home, to be more relevant to what's going on right now.” - Dan
Becca and Dan are travelers, photographers, and adventurers. Their site @halfhalftravel is dedicated to sharing their travel guides, travel photos, and travel advice. Read their tips on how to work remotely. You’ll find their destination guides here alongside their travel advice, which includes tips for staying healthy as a digital nomad.
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 couple acing working from home and their plans for traveling the world within their home state of New York, plus the alarming death rate in this Nordic country from COVID-19.
Insert Show intro
Kim: Hi again, or welcome, if this is your first time tuning in, it’s Kim and Phil with Becca and Dan’s story shortly but Phil tell us more about Sweden.
Phil: Look we have touched on Sweden and how the country is managing COVID-19, or not, in previous episodes, in fact, it has shunned lockdown rules and its been business as usual, so it’s probably no surprise that at the time of recording the death rate there has risen sharply in the last week and is now the highest in the world per capita.
6.08 deaths per million people - more than any other country.
Forbes has released a list of US states open for travel and it includes Texas as a good choice because you can drive instead of fly and on that we are working on an episode about road trips, with RV companies reporting huge increases in bookings and inquiries.
And there’s also a great article from the Guardian sharing tactics for COVID-era socializing from dining mannequins to sensors. We will share both articles in show notes.
Kim: Dan and Becca are affiliate partners of world Nomads which means they earn money if someone buys a policy of ours through their travel blog. Phil, they love the podcast and were genuinely bummed you couldn’t join but I pushed on kicking off asking them about @halfhalftravel.
Becca: Our blog started as a project between the two of us, and that's because we have what we like to call opposite skillsets, meaning I love writing, Dan is a photographer. Dan is a web designer and I'm more vocal on social media. So together, we split up all the responsibilities that you would need to get a website going and to get people to know about it. But our websites started around March 2018, only.
Dan: I think so, yeah.
Becca: Yeah. And we started it as most bloggers do, as a way to talk about our travels and to recommend things. But it's really grown into a way for us to share tips, advice, places, where to stay, how to pack, how we have a few mindsets that we put behind packing, and how to plan our trips. And most recently, remote work, which is something we both have had an interest in and experience with during travels. But now, as no one is really traveling, we've taken a spin to the whole website to talk about remote work and how people can work from home, and hopefully start thinking about taking their next trip.
Kim: Great. I will read that in particular, because we've just converted a van and I'm very keen to work remotely from the van sitting by a creek somewhere, looking at a gum tree.
Dan: That sounds great.
Kim: We kicked off the chat talking about you being an affiliate partner. And as you said, quite rightly said, Dan, I think, a lot of travel bloggers or affiliates partners have been affected with the pandemic, but you guys seem to have pivoted. I'm using air quotes because some people are not enjoying the word pivoting, but you guys seem to have done it really well. So what's been the secret?
Becca: I think, and I love talking about this, so I'm so glad you asked, but I think a pivot is not so much a 180, but more like a 90 degree turn when it's done right with a business. So our pivot seemed natural, I would say because we already had a section of our website called Work Remotely And Travel. And now we've just shortened that to Work Remotely. We've even added in Work Remotely From Home.
So it's has seemed like a relevant type of twist that we can write about and also speak to from experience, because there's a lot of similarities between the challenges and even the struggles and also the solutions that people can bring about when they work remotely from a place very far from home or when they work from a place that is home. So we've tried to draw a lot of similarities to help people through that. We've even had friends who currently have worked from offices all their life, as I guess we did from the start, originally, but we've had friends reach out to us and say, "I never considered that working from home was something I could do or something I could do successfully. And thank you for giving me the resources and the confidence to find out that this is a way where I can be successful professionally."
Kim: With this 90-degree pivot or turn, you're definitely gaining traction.
Becca: Yes. Thank you. I was very luckily asked to host two separate webinars on how people can begin to work remotely and what tools they can find and use, and what types of things that they already have lying around the house can help them do that. That was for the university of which I'm an alumnus, and that's near Washington, DC. And then a women's professional network asked me to do the same.
So it's been really cool that we started our website as travel and we're recognized for that, and now we're being recognized completely in another space, in a time when travel is off everyone's mind. We don't really have any complaints and we're going to keep working at it.
Dan: A little more on that is that we already had a pretty strong base of working remotely, but the theme with that was working remotely while traveling. So we took all those interesting articles and updated them a little bit to be working from home, to be more relevant to what's going on right now. So we already had a strong base, so in terms of Google ranking for us, we were already kind of getting to be relevant in the work from home space. So we built out that section a little bit more to create a little bit more traction in that area.
Kim: And the great thing about that is, even when the world starts moving again and we're traveling, the working world is going to be changed forever. There are companies that are realizing they don't have to pay tens of thousands of dollars a month to rent level one of a warehouse to run a company with 15 people in it.
Kim: So there will still be people working from home or working remotely, so that content will always be there. But once we are traveling, how do you see the sector evolving?
Becca: Oh, my gosh, we have so many thoughts. And we're not sure if we are in the minority of, I don't want to say expert travelers, but travel professionals or people with these online types of outlets where they share expert travel content. We're frankly pretty frightened to travel. we don't have any desire to travel when it's been altered so significantly to the carefree travel experience that we once had and loved. And I think we're not ready to say hello to something that might be a very different type of foreign travel experience. For example, sitting next to a stranger on a plane and being rather uncomfortable for our health. and we're not ready for that.
So I think we want to explore either things much closer to home, for example, even other parts of Brooklyn, which is a massive city of its own, borough. But if it were a city of its own, it would be the third largest city in America. So, fun fact. But I think we would also be ready to more take car trips from New York until we have a better visibility on how air travel is really going to be altered in the long term.
Kim: And you guys have some inside intel in that. I remember from your initial email to Rebecca, you said that you were drawing on information from your community, which included people within the airline industry. Am I correct?
Becca: Yeah, that's true. On Instagram, we tend to engage a lot with our audience. And one day we asked if anyone worked in the travel industry and if they had any type of insights that we typically wouldn't have known. So someone reached out from airline security. I forget if it was an airline national, it might've been something like the TSA, but all of these people asked to remain anonymous when I re-posted what they said to me. So I blacked out their names. That was fine. And someone else said from an airline said that, as we know, airlines are cutting people, but also there are a lot of changes coming that aren't even really set in stone yet, but totally based on passenger safety and passenger ... Not even satisfaction, but passenger trust is going to be a huge thing for tour companies, agencies, airports, airlines, just to gain back trust in everyone. If they want to engage in travel, should they be fearing for their health?
So I think what they mentioned wasn't even too concrete quite yet, but I think the bottom line is, we're going to feel better once we are able to get on airplanes, if we go to the airport very early, and airports are going to start to look pretty different in terms of the travel experience.
I think what would help everyone if we acknowledged it is that you might want to take a vacation to Greece. And if you've been there before, you expect all the same stores and all the same hotels and all the same tour agencies to be there. But the fact is, and I think what we're seeing in New York right now, having been hit very hard in a very sad way, there are already small businesses going out of business or changing completely, or their storefronts that are pivoting to online. Or there are businesses that used to sell, just coming from people I know, but businesses that used to sell merchandise and are now selling masks.
I think a lot of places when, when we go back to see them, are going to look different in some type of way. That's not even beginning to start with large tourist attractions. I have no desire to stand in a crowded line for something or to go to a crowded space or to do any of these things I've done recently in our travels. Even just being stuck in a crowded transit tunnel in a Metro system. I think that however it is, there's going to change that helps people have more space and not touch each other, and things might start feeling more, I don't know, spaced out.
Dan: Yeah. That might be a good thing, though.
Dan: Because we might start ... How we like to travel is we like to have local experiences, and we avoid already-
Dan: We avoid those long lines, those big tourist attractions. And we try to go to not the biggest city, but the third or fourth biggest city, or even not a city at all because we want a local experience in a new place. That means that if we're going to France, we're not going to Paris. Or at least we're not staying there for our entire trip. So maybe that'll give other people a similar type of travel experience, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.
Kim: Well, this is where Phil would say, "If you feel like crusty bread, cheese, and wine, then any village in France will do."
Becca: Sounds like our Portugal road trip.
Kim: Now, you're talking about space, and you guys there are holed up in your one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.
Kim: You also mentioned New York. So if we can touch on how you hope to travel the world within New York City.
Becca: One of my favorite topics. I love this topic and I love that you've brought it up, probably cause I brought it up but in any case. New York is one of the most diverse places, I think ethnically and culturally, on earth, within a given area. And that's because I think that there are over a hundred languages spoken here from people from all over the world, really every continent. New York has, I think maybe the largest Sri Lankan population outside Sri Lanka. And there are tens of thousands of immigrants from East Asia who live in a select area of Queens, not to mention other parts of Brooklyn. New York has about four Chinatowns. Don't let anyone fool you, there's four.
And so I would say, we can take the subway between anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes and we can get authentic Mexican food, Venezuelan food, Colombian food, Korean food, Vietnamese food, Ethiopian food, we can do it all. You really never have to leave. I had Sri Lankan food for the first time in my life in Manhattan, and Ethiopian food as well. So I think that's something that'll be exciting to do once the transit system is safe again, and once we can get groups of friends together. It's something we really like to do, actually, to take food adventures with our friends. So I hope that type of thing continues. And I hope that people are more game for it more than ever.
Kim: Not only just within your city, but also within your own country. And I know Americans are really good at that. I think only 40% of you have got passports. And you've got such a diverse country, as does Australia. If you want to have a tropical holiday, you can have one. If you want to have a holiday in the desert, you can have one. If you want to have a mountain climbing experience, you can have one.
We had planned international travel in October, and obviously we can't do it. And there was this sudden realization, hang on, I've grown up in this country, and I haven't seen Uluru, and I haven't been to Darwin. I haven't been-
Kim: ... the Kimberleys. All these fabulous, iconic places.
Becca: Yeah, that's awesome.
Dan: That sounds great.
Becca: And actually, something on my to-do list for today, but we keep getting caught up with things like yoga and website updates and cooking. We have a Lonely Planet guide to New York City, and I really wanted to crack it open and see what sites or even architectural landmarks or something we haven't seen within walking distance. So maybe we've seen them all, but maybe we haven't. We're down for walking one to two to three hours a day just to see something new.
Actually, two weeks ago, we were walking in the south end of Prospect Park, which is essentially the Central Park of Brooklyn designed by the same architects, I later read. And there is a Dutch farmhouse from the 1800s that is preserved in the bottom of this park. And would you believe most people in Brooklyn haven't even seen it?
Dan: What's crazy is the farmhouse is right now on the bottom end of Prospect Park, but it used to be somewhere else. They moved the house.
Becca: Six blocks.
Dan: Six blocks. But still. To move it six inches, doesn't matter, they moved a whole house. It was crazy. I don't know how they did it.
Kim: That is incredible. What a story.
Dan: Yeah. But the crazy thing about New York is that New York is really old. So there's all these mansions from the early 1900s, maybe late 1800 to about various different public figures or farmhouses because New York wasn't always so built up. So I think there was a lot of farmland. There's a lot of different things that shuffled around. So to kind of hit those historical landmarks, I don't know if we've really seen a lot of it.
Becca: Also, a lot happens in New York when you start looking up. I think there's a hashtag on Instagram called lookup, and it's because a lot of people walk with their heads down, but the buildings here are so tall and they have so many layers that there's really a lot of architecture to see when you just lift your head up above the first floor.
Kim: You've done really well at some pivoting in a really tough time for our industry. I've loved listening to you, and I'm a little bit inspired there back to start exploring Sydney, just the way you've described New York City. Anything that you wanted to say in closing?
Becca: We love the World Nomads podcast and we've learned so much about cool places. Suriname stands out. This week we listened to the episode on Sao Tome and Principe. And we love learning about the world through your podcast, Kim and Phil.
Kim: Oh, that is fantastic. I will let Phil know that.
Becca: Thanks so much, Kim.
Kim: See Phil, you were missed…
Phil: Aww thanks guys (or along those lines) to get in touch email [email protected]
Kim: Next episode World Nomads Film Scholarship winner, Jigar Ganatra on life in Tanzania during Coronavirus