The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 30 March

In this episode, self-isolating in a remote Kenyan village, things to do to keep the travel bug alive and the world-famous street getting a make-over.


Woman smiling Photo © Facebook

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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 is suspending its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.

What’s in the episode

00:48 Countries with most reported cases of COVID-19

01:42 The business idea flying off the shelves

04:03 What’s happening in Africa

04:47 Social distancing in a village

06:03 What would happen if the village went into lockdown?

07:48 The impact of capitalism

09:33 Next episode

Quotes from the episode

“I'm a young adult in this world kind of figuring out my place, figuring out what I want, what work I want to dedicate my life to. And it has felt so daunting within like the hyper-capitalist world to have to think about production all the time. And this pause I think is one that we all needed, and earth certainly needed.” - Neema

Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns by country. In alphabetical order here.

Who is in the episode

Neema Githere is an indigenous-African woman who is self-isolating at her grandparents' village in southwestern Kenya (Kisii county).

Resources & links

 The Getty Museum is asking people to recreate artwork using objects from around the house.

A message to our nomads.

What is the COVID virus and how you can protect yourself?

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, self-isolating in a remote Kenyan village, things to do to keep your travel bug alive and the business idea flying off the shelves.

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

Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil with the latest COVID-19 headlines at the time of reporting of course. We'll find out also in this episode what it's like to self-isolate in an indigenous village. Very interesting chat.

Phil: Fair enough. I thought we were in a Kenyan village when you started that off, but anyway, but here I am. I'm still in my pillow fort in Sydney. There you go. Look, again, at the time of recording, the number of cases of the virus is over 700,000 globally. The countries with the most reported cases are the United States, Italy, China, Spain, and Germany. But one of the most famous streets in the world has had the chance of a punk job taking advantage of the lockdown in the UK. Council workers have repainted the zebra crossing. What's the other word for zebra crossing? A crosswalk? Yeah, on either road outside the studios. That was the one with the Beatles on it for the front of the album made it very, very famous. Gets worn out by so many tourists copying the photograph.

Kim: Well I've done it.

Phil: I wish I had.

Kim: Okay. If you are thinking of a business idea and I like to think of myself as an ideas person, Phil, while you're stuck at home, nothing ever comes off though. This one is taking off and it was literally before the virus turned the world upside down. A woman has created stained glass films that fit onto airplane windows.

Phil: There is an ever-expanding list of things you can do online to keep the travel bug alive, including a tour of abandoned places around the world. I think I'm going to do that one. And you can get crafty. With the [Getty 00:01:59] museum in Ether, they're asking people to recreate famous paintings using ordinary items from home. Put a link in the show notes. I might start painting as well.

Kim: Neema is an indigenous African woman who studied at Yale and she was writing an article for us about Coastal Kenya. So I had initially reached out to her as a guest for our destination podcast episode on Kenya but then realized that she could offer us a perspective on the virus there, not realizing in Kenya that we would capture this unique insight.

Neema: So right now I'm in the Southwestern region of the country, but around two and a half weeks ago I was in Nairobi and I got here five or six days before the first case was announced. So the first case was I believe March 13th is when Kenya got its first case of coronavirus and it was from a Kenyan national who had traveled from Chicago back to Kenya. Much like the other countries on the African continent, the virus was brought here via airplane by a traveler, which I think speaks volumes kind of about the situation on the continent as a whole, that it's really been about global migration and global flows.

Neema: Even before the first case was announced, there was a heightened awareness and kind of this heightening anxiety about the virus coming in. We were already getting the adverts about hygiene, washing your hands and keeping distance. But as soon as that first case was announced, all of the schools were closed, I believe for a month. And they instructed people to work from home if possible. We're not at a full lockdown level, but social distancing they're trying to enforce that.

Kim: So really what's happening in Kenya is exactly what's happening in the rest of the world?

Neema: Absolutely. And I think it's interesting that there isn't a lot of discourse about what's happening in Africa. There seems to be this myth that coronavirus can't touch Africans or that it can't flourish in African climates. And I think that's a pretty dangerous myth to be spreading around just because we are feeling the impact of it. But what we're really trying to prevent is like an exponential growth here that we've seen in other countries. And I think it's good that we've been able to close our borders. That's also very unprecedented in African history.

Kim: Well, you're in your grandparents' village. What are they thinking about? What do they make of this?

Neema: So in the village, everyone watches the news every night. That's what we do. So we're watching the news from Nairobi and there's a lot of anxiety, but it's expressing itself in somewhat like jokes. Just because social distancing is very difficult to implement within the village environment. I think that people forget that Africa, we are indigenous, these are indigenous communities and a huge part of the indigenous social fabric is passing by your neighbor's home and bringing them the vegetables that you just plucked from the farm or stopping by just to say hello.

Neema: So there's kind of fear about how to change the lifestyle to accommodate these demands that the government is making about social distancing. And I was just reading on the news, there's even a study done and they were saying that only around 3% of Kenyans had been properly following the social distancing regulations. And that's very much so something I'm seeing here in the village, it's common courtesy to shake someone's hand when you say hello to them. That's something we're trying to replace with like a fist bump or a wrist bump, but across the board, and I'd say it's very challenging to implement those regulations within this region just by the way that life functions.

Kim: Absolutely. And if you, or if Kenya is intent on flattening that curve and it comes to a lockdown, how would a village cope with that?

Neema: Oh my goodness. I think we would cope with it better than people anticipate after getting over the social challenges of staying isolated in the home. One great asset that the village has is that we're totally self-sufficient on food. So for example, here at my grandmother's, we grow everything we eat, we grow the bananas, we grow the greens, pineapples, passion fruit, avocado, all in the backyard. So there isn't this sense of panic buying like, "Okay, let's go to the grocery store because we need to stock up on two months worth of food." We don't really even have a fridge that's big enough to hold that much food.

Neema: However, the biggest and the most damning challenge would be the healthcare infrastructure. That said the cases do proceed to the place where people need ventilators. The closest hospital is around 40 minutes away from here. And even that hospital doesn't have the same capacities hospitals in Nairobi do. So here it's really about prevention and trying to stick to the social distancing, which as I said, presents its own challenges. There's definitely pros and cons to being out here right now.

Kim: I want to come to your place. It sounds like a delight.

Neema: I know. I'm here just eating a passion fruit actually from the backyard. But I mean the fear is very much so there because this is something that the village has never have to face before we, there aren't health issues like that out here. And it's clear that this COVID thing is something that is touching everyone.

Kim: Globally, it feels a little like we're coming together. It's almost like the world needed this and the earth needed this pause. Does that sound a bit airy-fairy?

Neema: No, absolutely. I feel that entirely. I think we're globally seeing the impacts that capitalism has had on the way that we relate to one another, relate to our workplaces, relate to our institutions of learning, and for the first time, the whole world is being forced to sit inside and sit with ourselves and think like, "Wow, what do I really want to be in this world? Why do I want to survive?" And I think it's not to make it grim, but this is making us all kind of interact with the prospect of dying in a very proximate way, even if it's not our own passing. It's the threat of danger to the people that we love, which I think brings us into a very purposeful mode of thinking like, "Wow, this life means a lot to me in this way."

Neema: And to feel the global solidarity of people all around the world sharing in this moment of having to sit with themselves makes us remember our own humanity in ways that I think were long overdue. We've been in this mode of doing, doing, doing. I'm a young adult in this world kind of figuring out my place, figuring out what I want, what work I want to dedicate my life to. And it has felt so daunting within like the hyper-capitalist world to have to think about production all the time. And this pause I think is one that we all needed and earth certainly needed.

Kim: Well said. And Phil, Neema has invited me to her grandparents' village when this is all over and it sounds ideally she's going to wish that she didn't invite me.

Phil: They won't know what's hit them. We do share a list of border shutdown in show notes. Kenya, by the way, has suspended travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases. That's just about everywhere, isn't it?

Kim: Yeah, pretty much so. So just share your story. Email Tomorrow, Steven will share his story about being in military quarantine in Kyrgyzstan, after returning from what was supposed to be his wedding in Istanbul.

Phil: And how hard was that for you to say [inaudible 00:09:45]

Kim: Bye.

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


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