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.
00:33 Movement in the air
02:06 The unusual steps countries have taken to stop the spread of coronavirus
03:05 Introducing Megan and Jonathan
05:05 96-hour journey home
07:34 Staying positive
09:45 Next episode
“We were looking for somewhere to go. We really didn't want to come back to the US, and part of that was if travel is what is spreading this disease, we didn't want to be jumping on a long plane flight and then potentially exposing other people to us or us to other people.” Megan
Who is in the episode
After five and a half years of living in the Bay Area of California, Megan, a public librarian, and Jonathan, an engineer left their apartment in April 2019 on a one-year trip around the world. Then COVID-19 hit…
Take a look at what they did until they were forced home in their blog Tristao Travels.
Resources & links
Watch the self-isolating Etihad crew sing the UAE national anthem.
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, a couple on an around the world trip forced home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the unusual steps that some countries have taken to beat the virus, and there's movement in the air.
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 and views to inspire you and keep you smiling.
Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil with you, hoping you are safe and well wherever you are in the world as the coronavirus continues to stop us in our tracks, Phil, but there has been some movement.
Phil: Yes. Etihad, the airline, has resumed regular services to selected destinations, kicking off with Seoul, Incheon, followed by Singapore, Melbourne, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Amsterdam. But of course that all depends on local approval in the landing destinations as well. Meanwhile, Etihad staff and their families are self-isolating and have shared clips of themselves singing the UAE national anthem in a show of solidarity. We'll share that video in show notes, of course. Lebanon has imposed some vehicle restrictions with license plates ending in odd numbers able to be driven on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and those were the even numbers or a zero on the other days, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. All car travel is banned on a Sunday. Ghana has closed all land and sea borders until the 21st of April. The number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in South Africa continues to rise alarmingly, while Indonesia has banned travelers, as a study, warns there that as many as 240,000 Indonesians, gosh, that's a big number, that's terrible, may die from the coronavirus. That's shocking stuff, isn't it?
Kim: Well, some countries have taken some unusual steps, Phil, to beat the virus. Now, Panama has separated genders. Men and women can leave their homes for only two hours at a time and on different days. In some Colombian towns, people are allowed outside based on the last number of their national ID numbers.
Phil: And the Malaysian government, look, I think us to apologize thereafter the Women's Ministry Youth Cartoons advising wives to, "Dress up, wear makeup, and avoid nagging the husbands during the country's partial lockdown."
Kim: I tell you what, I am struggling to remember to clean my teeth working from home. Okay. This episode's traveler's story is brought to you by Megan and Jonathan who set off on an around the world trip last year. They were gone for a year before the coronavirus hit, forcing them to take a long way home.
Megan: So, we left last April. We were chugging along. We were actually feeling really great. We were doing good with money. We were thinking we'd go until May or June of this year, go longer than a year. But then COVID-19 happened, so when we first heard about it, we were actually in Asia the whole time. Since the first case was recorded we had been in Asia and we'd had family contacting us in the beginning, "Hey, are you guys safe? How is this going?" And we kept telling them, "Yeah, we're good. We're in Southeast Asia, everything's good." But we were keeping an eye on it. And then by the time it had kind of gotten really big and spread, it was honestly worse in the US than it was in the Southeast Asian countries that we were in, so then people kind of stopped asking us. It was more asking us asking them, "Hey, how are you guys doing?" Because it had kind of flipped. Then, yeah, everything started closing and we decided that we needed to go somewhere else.
Kim: So, Jonathan, where are you now at the time of recording?
Jonathan: We're in Southern California. We're lucky enough, we have some family who has a vacation home here, so this is our self quarantining location. We're in the mountains in Southern California.
Kim: How are you spending your time?
Megan: Yeah. It's kind of funny because a lot of my friends, just from what I've seen, the hardest thing about a stay at home or shelter in place situation is that they're together all the time with their partner. And luckily Jonathan and I had about 350 straight days of that where we were together all the time, so that's been okay. And like he said, we're in a pretty big home, so we can separate easily. So, he's doing a little remote work. We've been reunited with all of our things. I've just kind of been catching up, reading emails, whatever else, hopefully working on the blog, but everybody says that and then it doesn't really happen.
Kim: I love that you're a realist. Now, did it take you 96 hours to get home?
Megan: It did. I mentioned that everything kind of started... borders started closing. We were looking for somewhere to go. We really didn't want to come back to the US, and part of that was if travel is what is spreading this disease, we didn't want to be jumping on a long plane flight and then potentially exposing other people to us or us to other people. So, we were in Vietnam at the time. Vietnam had it pretty under control. The week we were there, they actually had a plane land from London that had some passengers on it that tested positive, and kind of slowly from the North of the country they started shutting things down, and we were kind of in the middle and our visa only had one week left, and so we thought about, "Let's get an apartment and let's renew our Visa." Then we thought, "Well, let's just go somewhere we really like, like Tbilisi, Georgia. We could stay there for a year without a Visa. We love it there. It's very affordable, so even if we got stuck for a couple of months, we'd be okay."
Megan: So, I look into it and they've already closed their borders. Then we're like, "Well, we were going to go to the Philippines, so let's just move on. Oh the Philippines, they shut down Manila," and it was kind of everywhere we started looking, just all of our options were going away. My mom actually lives in Switzerland, and so it might seem strange to kind of fly into the eye of the storm and go into Europe at that point, but we knew that we would have somewhere to stay there rent-free, so if we got stuck it'd be okay. So we decided, "Let's go to Switzerland." So we check, we're still allowed to go, the EU is talking about closing borders, but it hasn't happened yet.
Megan: So, we buy our tickets, we get on the plane, we paid a little bit more to get faster tickets, but there were still two stopovers instead of three. So we stopped in Singapore, we stop in Dubai. We get on the plane in Dubai. They actually stopped somebody in front of us. They pulled aside a passenger whose final destination was Lisbon, and we could hear her talking and she was telling them "You can't go to the EU right now because you're not a citizen. You have to reroute your flight." And so then I started thinking, "Oh no." But then our final destination was Geneva and they let us on and I thought, "Oh, great," because even though Switzerland to Schengen, it's not EU, so they could make their own decision. Then so we get on the plane, we get to Switzerland, we get to passport control. I'm so excited. Like, "Yes, we made it, this has been exhausting." It had been about 30 hours at that point and we got turned away at passport control. That morning at midnight, they had decided to follow the EU's suit and close the borders to non-Swiss citizens or residents, so we were stuck.
Kim: Was your patience level holding out?
Megan: You know, I had been really nervous. I keep recommending to people, I just was constantly on loop watching videos of my little two-year-old nephew giggling. And so I told everybody, "If you don't have a baby, find a sister or a friend with a baby and have them send you videos because that's the best stress relief." But, yeah, I mean, I was very frustrated because I understood like I think it's good that the countries are closing their borders. I understand this disease is a priority, but it was very frustrating because I had been checking and checking and checking, and if it had happened when we were in Singapore or when we were in Dubai, those are both huge airports. We could have easily rerouted ourselves, and just to get all that way to get so close, my mom and I were joking that we should have found a window and put our hands up on either side of the window because to get that close and not be able to get to her, that was very frustrating. So, at that point, I wouldn't say I was impatient, just very distraught, and so that was one time I was very glad that I wasn't a solo traveler because then Jonathan was able to talk to the border guards and talk to the embassy and make some phone calls that I really was not in a state to make at the moment.
Jonathan: We've known each other for a long time and I think we had a pretty good handle on what is our individual strengths and weaknesses were.
Megan: On the way here, it was obviously a very stressful journey for us. Right? I knew at any point that things could change. It was not a fun journey, but I think it is the nicest that I've ever seen people be in airports. There was none of the impatience in security. Well, there weren't really security lines, there were very few people at the airport. But I just felt like people were being very patient, very kind, giving each other a wide birth, maybe because of the disease, maybe not. And I also think, I've seen a lot of people posting recently about all the travel they've taken for granted and how this is kind of showing them that already travel is such a privilege, and now even those of us with the financial or socioeconomic or otherwise privilege can't do it. And so I think it really does show how much we take it for granted.
Kim: That is so very true, Megan, and we'll discuss that in tomorrow's episode with Zoran, a writer and Croatian business owner in the travel sector.
Phil: Look, we'd love to hear from you during this time, whether you're a traveler or someone like Zoran who works in the sector and keen to share your story. Email us at [email protected]
Speaker 2: The World Nomads Podcast, explore your boundaries.