The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 9 May

In this episode, job losses at Airbnb, as the property network turns its attention to post coronavirus, and the sailing business stranded in St Vincent.


A man and woman on a boat Photo © Steve and Monika

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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

00:34 Travel bubbles

01:35 Animals reclaiming the planet

03:03 What’s happening with Moon Chile?

06:03 Positives of the lockdown

09:07 Stranded in St. Vincent

15:30 Hurricane season

16:23 World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship winners

Quotes from the episode

“I've asked some of my readers a couple of days ago what they wanted to read and they told me that they wanted me just to inspire them with some pretty interesting off the beaten path destinations that I probably wouldn't write about otherwise.” - Steph

“…we've had a lot of cancellations, but rather than canceling, what we're trying to do is postponing. So, a lot of people in the tourism industry or the travel industry are trying to encourage the same thing rather than canceling.” - Steve

“As well as the boat is our home. This is where we live. We don't have other homes, so that's it. I mean, if we leave, we have to haul it out from the water, and we go where?” – Monika

Who is in the episode

Steph Dyson is a freelance travel writer, content creator, and an award-winning blogger giving expert tips for South American travel, she’s also very much into slow travel. Follow her blog Worldly Adventurer and Instagram here.

Steph is also the author of the guide book Moon Chile.

Pollution over Medellin
Pollution is usually a real problem in Medellin, as you can see here in the photo taken before COVID-19. Photo credit: Steph Dyson
Clear skies of Medellin, where mountains can be seen in the distance
Clear skies over Medellin since the pandemic. Photo credit: Steph Dyson

Steven and Monika run Sailing WildsideWe began this adventure in 2006 with our first catamaran, specifically bought for exploring a new kiteboarding experience, discovering new spots and ideas. As pioneers in this type of venture we had to experiment with the logistics of the operation in terms of destinations, safety, boat requirements and comfort to meet kiteboarders' expectations.”

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Resources & links

Read the winning entries from our 2020 Travel Writing Scholarship.

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

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, job losses at Airbnb as the property network turns its attention to evolving post coronavirus and the sailing business working to stay afloat while stranded in St Vincent.

Kim: Those stories and some news from World Nomads all coming up, what are your headlines.

Phil: There’s been a lot of talk about travel bubbles, basically allowing travel between countries with few cases of the virus or countries who have handled it well, New Zealand and Australia as an example could become two countries that allow cross border travel. Add to the list Austria, Israel, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece who have been in talks about a similar arrangement.

As you mentioned Airbnb has had to cut 25% of its workforce (around 19 hundred people) and “will reduce its investment in hotels and Airbnb Luxe and “pause” efforts in transportation, including flights, and Airbnb Studios” as it struggles through the pandemic.

And there’s been a rare sighting of a whale shark in knee-deep water spotted by campers north of Broome, in Western Australia. It appeared to be taking advantage of a super healthy spot to eat. According to scientists, there are very few records of whale sharks in the shallows preferring deeper water – another example of animals reclaiming the planet.

Kim: And there will be more examples of that is this episode (an btw that Whale Shark was 25 meters long!). Steph Dyson is a freelance travel writer, content creator, and an award-winning blogger giving expert tips for South American travel, she’s also very much into slow travel. Steph is currently in lockdown in a Columbian town.

Steph: I mean, it's interesting to me because I've spent the past sort of six months in South America. So we're kind of ... When I was deciding what I wanted to do about the situation, I kind of thought, actually South America is probably as much my home as the UK. But it still, it's a very trying time because I don't think anybody really knows what the right answer is, particularly for those of us who were kind of abroad and not really sure whether we should be heading back to our home countries or not.

Kim: Yeah, absolutely. It's a tough one. Now your site, Worldly Adventurer. Moon Chile guidebook, did it get off the ground?

Steph: Well, we're due to release in July in the US and August in the UK. So I have not heard anything to the contrary that it's not being published. So I mean, we're in the very last sort of stages of the publishing process. So I'm just a bit nervous about what's going to happen with the guidebook companies because I think they're in a sort of precarious position.

Kim: Well, we've seen what happened with Lonely Planet, unfortunately. But what's in your guidebook?

Steph: So Moon Chile is all about just Chile and Patagonia. So it covers the entirety of Chile as a country and also most of Argentine Patagonia. So it's basically a first edition of the guidebook. And yeah, I've spent the past couple of years researching it. I was living in Chile for three years. So I spent a lot of time traveling around the country and then a lot of time taking the photos and editing with my editor at Moon. So yeah, it's been a long process.

Kim: I absolutely love the name. And as Australians, we say chili not chile so I do apologize for that. Absolutely love the name.

Steph: Yeah, well it's ... I'm really excited to have it finally published and everything, and I'm hoping that people will still be able to travel in the next year because it would be such a shame after all the work goes into it for it to kind of flop when it gets published. But fingers crossed.

Kim: Yeah, let's stay positive on that one. So what is happening in South America? We know a lot of the borders are shut. When it returns to normal and it will, what will normal look like?

Steph: So normal looks like ... I mean I think for me, South America is always a little bit chaotic anyway. It's definitely, as somebody who's British and from a very kind of, I don't know, we have a sort of stiff upper lip culture in Britain and we're quite prim and proper. And South America is very much, everybody's very passionate and everybody just loves to dance and loves to be around family and loves to enjoy themselves. It's a very different kind of dynamic here and I'm really looking forward to being particularly here in Medellin. This is an amazing cafe culture. There are loads of great bars and you can go out and dance salsa and listen to jazz. And yeah, I'm just really looking forward to city life being back up and running again and everybody back on the streets.

Kim: What about your family in Britain? How are they coping?

Steph: Yeah. I think a lot of my family is kind of, everybody's been in lockdown and either working from home. Or elderly family members, they're in lockdown for the next three months. But everybody's staying pretty positive and it helps I think if you have a garden because you can at least spend some time outdoors. I do feel very sorry for the people around the world who are in apartment blocks and don't have any kind of outdoor space because that must be really tough right now.

Steph: The good thing about here in Medellin is I've got this beautiful balcony. And because one of the positives of the lockdown has been the pollution here is lifted and we've had some absolutely stunning views of the city. It's in a kind of valley so you get the ... Right as we're speaking, I can see the cityscape. It's nighttime here and I can see all the lights and everything across the valley and up the mountains, and it's been really, really beautiful. I think it's been quite an experience I think having time to really appreciate cities with a very different kind of atmosphere than they normally have.

Kim: So you normally wouldn't have that view?

Steph: Well, normally there's so much pollution here. It's actually one of the most polluted cities in the world some days. There's so much smog, you don't normally see the rest of the city. You forget that you're in a valley if I'm honest.

Kim: So the world, while we were all, not whingeing, but sitting at home in our pajamas or our yoga gear, the planet would be absolutely loving this.

Steph: Yeah, well, I mean I've seen lots of videos and things for Twitter of all the wildlife that's returning. And actually in Santiago, in Chile, they've had three pumas walk into the city because they've come down from the hills and because it's so quiet, they're less afraid. It's incredible. There's videos of just pumas walking down the streets.

Kim: Oh, I don't know how I'd go coming across a puma.

Steph: You don't want to come across a hungry puma.

Kim: So as a writer, a travel writer, not traveling and in South America. What sort of content are you trying to create at the moment?

Steph: Yeah, I mean I'm focusing mostly on my website, Worldly Adventurer, which is entirely focused on South America content. So I mean if I'm honest, I'm writing some pretty inspirational stuff. I'm speaking, I've asked some of my readers a couple of days ago what they wanted to read and they told me that they wanted me just to inspire them with some pretty interesting off the beaten path destinations that I probably wouldn't write about otherwise because a lot of the time, they're so random and so hard to get to that they're very hard to get picked up by magazines or there doesn't seem to be enough interest to write about them on my website. So I'm focusing on that because I think people haven't stopped dreaming about traveling and they just want to do it vicariously through the words that we can write for them. So yeah, that's my focus at the moment.

Kim: Fingers crossed Moon Chile gets published and do check out Steph’s site there are some great articles including 41 Incredible Places in Peru You Have Probably Never Heard Of.

Phil: In April we spoke with Brian and Karin stranded in the Bahamas on their boat SV Delos bought SV Delos with ports closed due to COVID-19.

Kim: In this episode meet Steve and Monika from Sailaway who are also stranded at sea.

Steve: We're in The Grenadines, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines, we're much further south than The Bahamas.

Kim: And how have you found yourself stranded?

Steve: We're lucky here, I mean, within the country we still have freedom of movement. So we're on the boat. I mean this virus isn't so bad, isn't effecting here so bad. So we don't really have any problems here. We could till go ashore every now and then to buy food, but we need to buy fresh veggies and all that sort of stuff. But you know, it's not too bad here.

Monica: Yeah. We don't feel like we are stranded. We feel like we are lucky. We can see what other people are doing. And even people who are in the Caribbean, they are in much worse situations than we are. They have curfews, they cannot move from one day to another. For us, it's all free within the country, within the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, we can move around freely.

Kim: That kind of doesn't seem fair. No wonder you asked the question, what are you still in lockdown there in Australia? Are you even watching the news?

Steve: Yes. We still have internet obviously, so we have social media and I listened to BBC podcasts and all that sort of a thing so we know what's going on. For us here, I mean it's like we're on unpaid holiday, all of our charters are canceled and we're just kite surfing every day and going swimming and snorkeling and sailing and fishing and all the sort of stuff you do when you live on a boat.

Kim: Yeah. Sounds ideal, but you do own a business, so I'm guessing there's no income.

Steve: Yes, that's right. I mean obviously nobody knows how it's going and so yeah, we're a little bit worried about how we're going to pay for everything soon.

Monica: Yeah. Especially that it happened in the middle of the season, so now it's the prime time to come for holidays here. So the best weather, the best conditions, they're both busy times and it's shot, there are no flights.

Kim: So tell me what your business is specifically.

Steve: We have a catamaran here and we do sailing trips. I mean people come in here and we just take them sailing around the islands and we do more or less actively related trips. We were doing a lot of kites, or we still do a lot of kite surfing trips and scuba diving and all that sort of thing.

Kim: Now we've spoken to Hanna recently on the podcast who was just about to relaunch her travel business with her husband when the pandemic hit, they're having to think outside the square. What about you guys, where your business is very, very specific. Are you thinking of, and have you heard this term while you're drinking sundowners after kite surfing, pivoting.

Steve: Pivoting?

Kim: So finding another way of earning an income or are you just going to sort of sit through it until next season?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, at the moment we're, so there's not really a great deal we can do because there are no flights in and out and I can go in and do other types of businesses, yacht deliveries and maintenance and all that sort of things. But every other country around us is in lockdown. So, there's absolutely nothing we can do for the moment. So we're going to have to just, I mean, we're trying to keep at the moment is a good time for us to sort of get on with a little bit more promotion and upgrading our website and doing some social media or letting people know what we're up to and we're still here and my waiting to get back into get going again. So I don't know what else we can do.

Monica: As well as the boat is our home. This is where we live. We don't have other homes, so that's it. I mean, if we leave, we have to haul it out from the water and we go where?

Kim: But what would your advice be to those companies that might not survive post-COVID?

Steve: I'm not very good at giving advice, I'm better at taking it. But this year was really a funny year in tourism for us. We know that our bookings were a little bit slow to start with in the first place. And there was a lot of travel companies that already had gone bust. We don't understand why, but there was a lot of travel companies within our industry that had already gone bust before the season. So now with this COVID, who knows what's going to happen. I mean we've had a lot of cancellations, but rather than canceling, what we're trying to do is postponing. So a lot of people in the tourism industry or travel industry are trying to encourage the same thing rather than canceling, let's postpone so that hopefully next year we can just kick off where we left though from, I mean we're a year behind, but if we can kick off where we left off from, I think we should be able to pull through as long as this doesn't last for too long.

Kim: What are your sunsets, your sunrises, have you seen bioluminescence dolphins, whales? What are you looking at?

Steve: Yeah, it's funny you should bring that up. I just posted some photographs on Facebook quite recently we were in Tobago Keys, which is a Marine park and the air is a lot clearer as you know, people would notice it in a lot of the cities, but even here it's a lot cleaner. And also the sea seems to be really quite clear and we're seeing a lot more sea life at the moment. So in one place, we were going snorkeling and we're quite surprised to find some decent sized reef sharks. Yeah, so we're actually seeing a lot more sea life. And it's not only sharks, I mean it's eagle rays and all sorts fish loads of lobster sort of hidden under the rocks here. And we're not moving around as much as we normally would because we can't leave the country. So we haven't actually been out to see if there are any whales and dolphins and that around.

Kim: Yeah. Well, you guys seem in an enviable position, despite the fact that you're not operating as you normally would this season. Anything else that you'd like to leave us with Steve or Monica?

Steve: Yeah, I mean we are. We're a lot better off than a lot of people. The next problem that is going to be coming along for a lot of the yachties that are further north in The Bahamas and the Virgin Islands is the hurricane season. Boats need to start heading out of the hurricane zones and heading further south. And the place that we all need to move to is Grenada and the borders of Grenada are closed. So the discussions for everybody for the North is that what are we going to do for hurricane season if the borders are shut? We've got to sort of stop making decisions what are we going to do and where can we go and speak to your insurance company and say, "Hey, what's the go here?"

 Kim: And it's only a couple of weeks until hurricane season starts, at the time of recording, so we have our fingers crossed for all those sailors. Phil, we have some World Nomads News.

Phil: At a time when many people are unable to leave their homes, the ability to transport a reader to a different place is a powerful skill. And we have just announced the winners of our travel scholarship who have managed to achieve that.

Kim: Evangeline Yong from Australia, Megan FitzGerald from the UK and Morgan Campbell from the United States, we’ll share their winning entries in show notes.

Phil: Make sure you tell your friends about our special COVID-19 episodes sharing its effects on travel and the travel industry.

Kim: And to get in touch email




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