The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 31 March

In this episode, from military quarantine to self-isolating in the master bedroom, the South African travel ad offering us hope and the snorkeling mask engineered to save lives.


Man wearing a medical mask Photo © Stephen Loiy

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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 daily round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines.

What’s in the episode

00:35 Being innovative during COVID-19

01:24 Virtual tours

03:16 Being quarantined in a military base

04:37 Cancelling a wedding

06:27 Passing the days in self-isolation

08:00 Let the champagne flow

09:05 The South African tourism ad

Quotes from the episode

" I am in the master bedroom, and the only time that I see them is when I open the door for when they bring food three times a day. So, I've got six more days or I guess five more days now of home quarantine where the doctor calls and checks up on my temperature once or twice a day. Then after that, finally, we'll be able to actually spend time together." - Stephen

Who is in the episode

Stephen Lioy is a photographer and travel writer from the United States who is currently based in the Central Asian city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Stephen prepares writing and photography for a number of internationally respected publications. To see more photos and updates from Central Asia and beyond follow him on InstagramFacebook, or Twitter.

Stephen was quarantined in this old military base in Kyrgyzstan

Resources & links

A message to our nomads.

Take a virtual tour of the Pyramids of Giza.

Head to Lapland for a virtual tour of the Northern Lights.

The Italian engineers turning snorkeling masks into ventilators.

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 from military quarantining Kyrgyzstan to self-isolating in the master bedroom, the travel ad offering us hope, and there's more than one way to use a snorkeling mask.

Announcer: Welcome to the new Daily War 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 our daily COVID-19 episodes, keeping you up to date with experiences from travelers, the latest headlines. In this episode, Phil, new beginnings and innovative ideas.

Phil: Yes, innovative. Italian engineers have repurposed the easy-breathe snorkeling masks as a CPAP or ventilation mask. Obviously, the ventilation masks are in very short supply because everybody needs one when they get admitted to the hospital. Do you know which one I'm talking about? The snorkeling mask? It's the full face snorkeling mask. Have you seen those?

Kim: Yes. I have. I'm a snorkeler. So, when I've seen people with those, I've thought, "How do you ..." This sounds odd, "How do you breathe?" because it's a full face thing, but, obviously, they've got the snorkel. Have you used one of those?

Phil: I haven't used one of those snorkels, no, because I'm okay with the old school. So, I don't mind that at all.

Kim: They're certainly not needed for snorkeling any reefs at the moment. So, a big thumbs up to those Italian engineers. What else you got?

Phil: Look, the ideas for virtual tours keep on coming. The latest is the Northern lights in Lapland and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Links in show notes.

Kim: Still to come, the ad campaign that may just bring a tear to your eye, but first, this episode's travel story belongs to Steven. He was a military quarantine in Kyrgyzstan after returning home from what was supposed to be his wedding in Istanbul. So, let's hear all about it.

Steven: So, I'm based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan off and on throughout the year when I'm not doing projects abroad, working abroad. I left here on February 28th and managed to fly back finally on the 19th of March at 2:40 in the morning. I had left to go to ITB Berlin and, in fact, had already taken off by the time that they canceled it. So, I was in Istanbul on a layover when they canceled finally the conference.

Steven: So, anyway, I continued from there to Germany. Then by the time that I was trying to come back to Kyrgyzstan, this whole thing had just exploded. So, Germany was on the list in Kyrgyzstan for anyone arriving from Germany, Italy, South Korea, China, a number of countries was mandated to go to a 14-day quarantine. So, it wasn't quite 14 days for me at the actual quarantine facility.

Steven: After a day on the evening of day six, they finally let most of us go home for self-quarantine if we were asymptomatic. I spent six days living on the site of a former US military base that was once used as the transit center for soldiers going to Afghanistan, and then when the US left in 2014, they handed the base over to the Kyrgyz National Guard. So, because it was just across the street from the major international airport, the government set that up as the primary quarantine facility for potential COVID patients.

Kim: Well, I've spoken to a lot of travelers in Airbnbs, hotels, but nothing quite like that. Was it depressing?

Steven: Yeah. Look, I mean, surprisingly, facilities and treatment were fine. It was just depressing in the sense that the whole reason I flew back was to be back with my family here and then I made it to just outside the airport and got diverted into this quarantine facility. So, it certainly wasn't a good time and it's something I would go out of my way to avoid again, but it also was that one step closer to getting home and getting to my family.

Kim: I bet. Look, for those that may not know, that conference in Berlin is the conference on the travel calendar. So, I'm guessing you probably know quite a few people that were in a similar situation to you finding themselves stranded.

Steven: Yeah. Well, so a lot of the travel bloggers that I know ended up going anyway and doing just a side talks and meeting with each other and hanging out. So, for a lot of people, I think they still managed to get some use out of it, but I was coming at it from a travel writer perspective and was doing a little bit of work for a DMO. So, there was just really no reason for me to be there in the first place. I was just so thrown when they canceled it and I was already on the way that I said, "Well, I've got this flight tomorrow morning anyway, I guess I'll still take it and get there and then sort myself out after that."

Kim: Now, you've mentioned your family a few times. Not only have you had this experience, but you've also had to cancel your wedding. A lot of people have, but you were supposed to have your winning in Istanbul. Tell me what it was going to be like.

Steven: Yeah. So, March 21st in Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asian society, there really is a big holiday called Nowruz. It's like the traditional Zoroastrian New Year is the basis of it. So, we had scheduled it for that day thinking, "Look, this is already a big celebration. We want to pull all of our family together and have this big additional thing to celebrate for the rest of our lives."

Steven: So, it was going to be Bosphorus cruise on a nice little yacht with about 50 of our family and closest friends, basically just selling in-between Europe and Asia for five or six hours to tie the knot and do some dancing. We had some Kyrgyz cultural performances planned by some students that live in Turkey, and it really seemed like it was going to be a nice event.

Steven: Then, obviously, all of our family we're flying in from abroad. The vast majority of our friends were flying from other countries to Turkey. So, the closer we got, it just seemed really irresponsible to ask people to fly to Turkey and hope that they could get back home afterward.

Kim: So, a wise decision, but how's your girlfriend feeling?

Steven: Well, luckily, legally, she is actually my wife already. We finished all the paperwork in Kyrgyzstan before I left for ITB. So, we are, of course, very disappointed. I think a lot of our friends and family really are, too. They had really been looking forward to it. We'd spent a lot of time talking about it, planning it. Most importantly, we are married. In fact, that's the only reason I wasn't even able to come home because Kyrgyzstan had banned foreigners from entry, but for a three-day window, there was the possibility of the family of Kyrgyz citizens entering including spouses. So, had we not just taken care of the paperwork beforehand, that wouldn't have been impossible to fly back to the country.

Kim: Newlyweds in isolation, how are you spending your time, and that is not a leading question?

Steven: No. In fact, I am in the master bedroom, and the only time that I see them is when I open the door for when they bring food three times a day. So, I've got six more days or I guess five more days now of home quarantine where the doctor calls and checks up on my temperature once or twice a day. Then after that, finally, we'll be able to actually spend time together.

Kim: So, you haven't shown any symptoms of the virus?

Steven: No. So far, nothing. No cough, no fever, no anything, really. So, it seems like I've gotten very lucky in between the flights to get back here on the quarantine with other sick people and haven't picked anything up.

Kim: In your bedroom for two weeks. Explain to me how you're feeling about that. It has to be done to protect your family just in case you have picked up the virus, but most people's master bedrooms aren't that huge.

Steven: Well, it's bigger than the room that I had at the quarantine. So, it's certainly a positive view in that regard. To be honest, now, it's mostly relief and happiness to be with the people that I care about even if I'm not able to interact directly with them. For a long time, it was just the confused days as we were canceling the wedding, and as Istanbul was slowly starting to take things more seriously. It just was walking around in this era of being lost, and then added to that, of course, some stressful when I finally did fly back to Kyrgyzstan and was in there with people that may have been sick and nobody knew.

Kim: So, what's planned for when you come out of the bedroom? Is it some dinner with the family?

Steven: Yeah. We've got a bunch of champagne that we were planning to take to the wedding, the champagne in Kyrgyzstan. So, I think the immediate plan the day that I get out is a nice brunch with a couple of mimosas with the family altogether, and then after that, we'll still be at the apartment for a while because Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan is on lockdown until April 15th, I believe.

Kim: Now, will you follow through with the planned celebration or will you just consider that this is the way the wedding went?

Steven: Listen, to be honest, it's too early to say. We have very briefly talked about it, but so much of the focus for the past few weeks was just me trying to get home and trying to find ways to do that. So, until we can really sit down face to face and talk about many things including that, I think there's just no way to say for sure.

Kim: Well, one thing is for sure, things will get back to normal. In tomorrow's episode, we hear from a nomad forced to go back home and live with her parents until things do.

Phil: I just had to remind you what we have ahead of us. Listen to this ad from the South African tourism board and I'm sure it's going to bring a TDI. See you tomorrow.

Kim: Bye.

Speaker 5: This is not business as usual. No regular day of the week. There'll be no fighting the snooze button and getting ready for work. This will be something else. A country closed for travel, and so closed for business, but just you wait until we can travel again. Boy, are we going to travel? Long breaks and short getaways to bnbs, lodges, and hotels, girls' trips and getaways [foreign language 00:09:39].

Speaker 5: We'll be reintroducing ourselves to South Africa again, to her beautiful people and places. We'll be traveling to go see [foreign language 00:09:51] stopping here and there along the way. We'll be exploring like never before because we know what it's like not to be able to. There's no way we won't go. Imagine what's happening with visiting a farm or [foreign language 00:10:05] We'll do it all. We'll invest in our country right from our own pockets, making bookings here and reservations there, and getting people back to work again. For now, [foreign language 00:10:21] Stay home. Stay safe. Knowing that [foreign language 00:10:25] that it'll be South Africa again soon.

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