The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, June 10

In this episode, the founder of a company cultivating transformative experiences stranded in Morocco and the bloggers caring about our impact on the world by encouraging sustainable travel.

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People by a rock Photo © Josh Telles, who was with Traverse Journeys on their March 2020 Morocco trip

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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

01:26 Las Vegas is open for business

02:14 How Jules and Christine met

05:04 The Not So Bon Voyage Podcast

08:01 Time for reflection

14:25 The German travelers arrested in Venice

16:03 Stranded in Morocco

21:20 Remaining cool, calm and collected

27:30 COVID-19 cases in the US

Quotes from the episode

Honestly, I feel like travel will just go back to normal. I feel like humans are just so habitual and they just fall back into past routines. And I think that I could just see travel going back to how it was.” – Jules

“I think in the short term, there will probably be more restrictions on limiting the number of people that get to visit an attraction one day or go to a park in one day or something like that, just to reduce the chance of crowds and so many people so close together.” – Christine

“I kind of had these different layers going on because my number one concern was keeping myself calm and cool and collected because I didn't want to do anything that would make the clients more anxious than they already were.” Ashley

Who is in the episode

Jules and Christine are the team behind the travel blog Don’t Forget to Move. They also have their own travel podcast Not So Bon Voyage, full of stories of when travel doesn’t go so well. You can follow their blog on Instagram alongside the podcast.

couple hugging
Jules and Christine. Photo credit: Supplied 

Ashley Blake is the Founder of Traverse Journeys offering small group, impact-focused trips to 25+ countries across the globe. Their mission is to cultivate transformative experiences to unique destinations, fostering cross-cultural appreciation, environmental awareness, and responsible tourism. 

Resources & links

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 [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, the founder of a company cultivating transformative experiences stranded in Morocco and the bloggers caring about our impact on the world by encouraging sustainable travel.

Hi, Kim and Phil with you as the world starts to open itself up to travel again. We’ll hear from Christine and Jules shortly which includes details on their own podcast Not So Bon Voyage, full of stories of when travel doesn’t go so well. Phil, what travel news do you have?

Phil: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the travel ban to the UK lifted as soon as possible. The government there is working on a new plan so British holidaymakers can travel freely around Europe from July, without the need to quarantine on their return.

Meantime Spain has further eased lockdown measures, Florida's Disney Resort hotels will reopen this month and New Zealand has declared victory over coronavirus after its final Covid-19 patient was given the all-clear.

Las Vegas has re-opened for business – well kinda. They are phasing in the opening of casinos and some will have hand-washing stations with water and towels and soap. And signs will suggest guests wear masks.

There are no shows, nightclubs, or sporting events.

People from all around Italy can travel to Venice again, while Venetians are no longer required to wear masks outside. Which locals say makes it feel normal again.

Kim: Ok we’ll grab some more news from you shortly and hear from Ashley about being stuck in Morocco with her tour but right now let’s turn our attention to Jules and Christine the team behind Don’t Forget to Move. They’re full-time travel bloggers from opposite sides of the world so let’s kick-off and find out how they met.

Christine: So we met when we were both traveling solos through South America, and we both decided to volunteer at an organization in Pisco, Peru, helping out after the earthquake down there. And we met while volunteering together and volunteered together for about six months and then just continue traveling together. And that was back in 2012. So we've just continued the life of travel as a couple now and been to a lot of places around the world.

Jules: Yeah, this is it. This is the life. We made the transition. We started our travel blog and our travel content creation and everything that's involved with that probably back in mid-2013. It took a few years to get started, but within the last four years, that's what we've been doing full-time, traveling around the world. We have a couple of bases that we'd like to sort of work out of. So Bali and come back to San Francisco and Melbourne. But other than that, we're on the road full-time working in travel. Yeah, it's a pretty good life, apart from now.

Kim: Exactly. It's not a great time to be in the travel industry, is it?

Christine: No.

Kim: So your blog is called Don't Forget to Move. How's it been affected or your income?

Jules: We definitely haven't forgotten to move, but we're definitely not moving at the moment. So with travel basically all but stopping within a week over here in the U.S., it really just kind of pulled the rug out from underneath all the trips we had for the rest of the year planned, all of our own travel plans, and yeah, it pretty much just stopped overnight. So all the trips, all the brands and the companies and destinations that we had planned to work within the coming six months, all had to postpone those trips or the other partnerships and stuff like that, that we had organized as well. Just as budgets became a lot tighter and travel became unknown, everything just got put on permanent hold, and that's pretty much where we are at the moment, just waiting in limbo for the travel industry to kick back up again.

Kim: Jules, are you thinking of other things to do outside of this travel blog? Or are you literally just waiting for things to start back up again so you can really resume life as normal?

Jules: Yeah, we've always got something. We're always working on something on the side. We've been putting a lot more time into our travel podcasts, which has been good because it's allowed us to continue talking about travel and staying in the travel space without having to physically travel. So that's been handy, and we've got a couple of other business ideas that were always floating around, but it's, I guess everything, in general, is a little bit uncertain at the moment.

Kim: I'm kind of jealous of your podcast. And these cold, not so bon voyage. It's all about the stuff that goes wrong on the roads. And we've done a couple of episodes where we've shared stories of things that have gone wrong on the road. But as Jules said, you've been able to focus your attention on your podcast and tell those stories. Where do they come from?

Christine: So we tell stories that we find from friends, from other travel bloggers, from stories from the news, all sorts of stories. Books and movies, but all true stories of when things go wrong while traveling, which we find to be, they make the best stories, right? You don't come home and tell all your friends and family about the time that everything went perfectly when you were out traveling the world. You tell them about the time that your bus broke down, or you had your camera stolen or something crazy happened. Those always make the best stories.

And we found that with social media and Instagram and everything, there was this skew trend towards the glamorous side of travel, where everything is picture perfect and you're on a gorgeous beach and no one else is there and everything just looks wonderful. But everyone who's traveled knows that there's the other side to that, where it's like, you're hiking down to this beach and you're sweaty and there's probably a million people there, and somebody's trying to sell you something. That's just the real side of traveling.

So we wanted to bring that to the forefront and just chat with people about that and tell stories of when things go wrong on the road because that's more interesting in our opinion.

Kim: Back to your blog. And on that, you talk about sharing the beautiful photographs and videos, and we're not talking about Insta perfect photos here, but those photographs and videos that show the world just how incredible a place is. Have you guys been amazed how, since the world stopped because of the pandemic, how different the planet looks so quickly?

Jules: Oh, it's really incredible when you see the satellite images of pollution and you see the river samples and all those sorts of things. And you see even just in this short amount of time, nature coming back and thriving and animal species. And it really does highlight the huge impact that humans have on the world that it can happen within a few months, which I think is, that is probably the more staggering thing. It's not so much what's changed. It's just how quickly it can change, and it really does show you how much even just pulling back a little bit and not putting the world under so much strain, how much of a positive impact it can have on people, places, environment, animals, everything.

Christine: Yeah, I think that if this pandemic has taught us anything, it's just how globally connected we all are. I mean, this thing spread incredibly fast because people do travel so much and they move so much and it was just so viral, of course. And that just goes to show how much of an impact one person can have on literally the entire world. And that can be a good thing, and that can be a really bad thing. So I think it's a really great time for every individual to kind of take a step back and think about their impact. Whether that's their travel or what they do in their daily life, how they get to work, everything.

Jules: How they choose to eat, what products they choose to buy, what companies they choose to buy things off.

Christine: Yeah, exactly. So I think this is just a great moment, especially for travelers to think, "Okay, the world is having a chance to regrow and to take a breather, essentially, and eventually we will be able to start traveling again. So how can I reduce my impact when I do go back out in the world and start exploring? What are some changes I can make to have not even just less of a negative impact, but actually a positive impact when you go traveling?" And that's something we really focus on with our blog.

Kim: Will you speak to the same audiences, world nomads? The people that are conscious of being sustainable travel and being ethical when you're traveling, supporting local grassroots businesses, leaving no footprint. So there is a sector that is already doing that, but do you think even you guys are going to rethink the impact that your trips have? Am I making sense, Jules?

Jules: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, we do put a lot of work and a lot of effort into planning our trips and trying to make sure that we're as sustainable as possible, but we're not perfect and we definitely don't try to pretend that we're perfect on Instagram. We try to keep it pretty real with everything that we post, and that's a really good question I guess, I don't know. Christine?

Christine: Yeah, I think so.

Jules: Yeah, I think so.

Christine: I mean, it's funny because I would say we definitely are at one end of the spectrum in terms of how we travel sustainably, and luckily, it's a growing trend. There are more and more, especially young people, very interested in sustainable travel. And we've seen that in trends from Google searches onto our blog, that this is a topic that people are interested in. They want to do the research and do their homework so they can have a more positive impact.

But even us who do a pretty good job, we can always do better. And sometimes it's hard to look at your actions and what you've done in the past under that microscope and think, "Okay, I probably made the wrong decision here, or I probably could have done better there," and have that self-criticism. But yes, we could definitely be doing better. I mean, things like taking fewer flights, doing more overland travel and things like that, and just making better choices every day. Complete reduction of plastic would probably be something that we would like to strive for. But yeah, sometimes it's hard to actually look at yourself under that criticism and think I could have made better choices in the past, but all you can do is try to do better in the future when you start traveling again.

Jules: Yeah, well, this has given us time. Just like the world is taking its time to regroup, it's giving us time as travelers to regroup as well and not just be continually moving and moving and moving. It's giving us that reflection, that downtime to look back on our travels and ask that same question. How can we be more sustainable? How can we be more efficient with our travel?

Kim: How are you guys going to San Francisco? With itchy feet?

Jules: Yeah, definitely. This is our time that we're usually in Bali or going back to Australia, especially during the winter. So we definitely like to chase the summer and that's one of the benefits of working online and working in travel that we can just bounce around and follow the sun. And so the weather is starting to warm up now in San Francisco, so that's definitely helping us, but we're ready to hit the road again. I think it's almost like the idea of that we can't travel is making it even worse. So we're not choosing to be here. Sometimes we've had times where we've been at home for two or three months just working on projects and taking a break. But now it's that we can't travel and there's kind of no certain future date. It makes us, even more, a little bit anxious about hitting the road.

Christine: We were lucky that right before this lockdown, we actually just came back from a two and a half month van trip through Canada, which was amazing. Very cold, but amazing. So we got the travel bug in right before this all came down. We literally came back to the Bay area and I think three days later we were in quarantine.

Jules: Yeah, three days.

Kim: The million-dollar or billion-dollar question that we have been asking our guests is how you see travel moving forward. We've touched on it a little bit based on your own reflections, but how do you see it as a whole?

Jules: Honestly, I feel like travel will just go back to normal. I feel like humans are just so habitual and they just fall back into past routines. And I think that I could just see travel going back to how it was. I think that it will change the way people think about how they may interact with each other, and I think that that might take a little bit longer to go back to normal. I just think it will sort of slowly phase back in. So maybe group tours and things like that, and really popular destinations might be hardest hit first. But I think that once people get the opportunity to travel again, I could see it back to normal.

Christine: Hopefully eventually it goes back to normal. I think in the short term, there will probably be more restrictions on limiting the number of people that get to visit an attraction one day or go to a park in one day or something like that, just to reduce the chance of crowds and so many people so close together. And obviously, that could be a really big, very problematic for the spread of Corona. So, which will kind of be a good thing for these locations, because one of the biggest problems with traveling and sustainability is the impact of so many people visiting one place, day in and day out. And a lot of people don't necessarily respect the boundaries and they go off-trail or they go where they're not supposed to, and that can have a huge impact on the ecology of an area and the animal species and local communities as well. So hopefully this is kind of a positive that comes out of it, where they restrict the number of people at certain locations and those places can start to go back to how they should be naturally.

Kim: A very timely thought Christine. Phil, you mentioned Venice as we got into the chat with the guys, you’ve got an example of what Christine described as “respecting boundaries”.

Phil: Venice was the center of attention when the pandemic was declared and all the tourists and cruise ships disappeared, water in the canals became clear and even dolphins were spotted. BUT the almost pristine waters were too much for two German tourists who couldn’t resist a dip in the canals, albeit an expensive one as they were both fined 395 Euros each and banned from the city for 48 hours.

Kim: Ashley Blake, is the Founder of Traverse Journeys, we will have links in show notes. Ashley reached out after hearing our chat with Julie from Venus Adventures who said the first people lining up to travel will be those trying to get home after she found herself stuck in Morocco

Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. She talked about the segment of travel that stuck. I believe she's from New Zealand and she lives in Egypt and that's when everything hit and there she is until she can get back to Egypt. I think like here in Morocco, borders closed really quickly with really no option of getting in or out or having time to make decisions.

Phil: So what was the story? So you were just going to Morocco for a trip and the borders closed?

Ashley: No, I wish it was that simple. Do you want me to go ahead and kind of give you the story of what happened?

Phil: Yes, please.

Ashley: Perfect. Yeah. So I am a founder of Traverse Journeys and we do trips, as I think you know, to about 25 countries across the world. And we had our Morocco trip with the departure starting March 8th. And I've been basing out of Denmark so I was coming in from Copenhagen and I came on March 7th. And things like there was kind of Italy that was happening at the time. You know, of course, China had already been happening, but there didn't seem to be an issue with Morocco. And so all of the clients, we came and we met and we started our trip. We were out in the Sahara Desert and it's kind of interesting because I've been to Morocco multiple times and in the Sahara, you really just don't have cell phone reception or internet or anything like that.

So the 48 hours that I was off the grid, you know, you always say to yourself, like what really can happen in 48 hours? Well, the world can actually fall apart in 48 hours. I came out of the desert with dozens and dozens of messages about borders closing and everything that was happening. And so we had a group of, I think altogether, 14 of us. So we got back to Marrakesh to assess the situation. The first thing that really happened was that Morocco had stopped all the flights to Spain and most of the clients were flying through Spain because they were leaving out of Tangier. And so we scrambled to get everyone rebooked flying out of Casa Blanca, like five days later. I think the date at this point was March 14th. And so we continued on adjusting our itinerary a little bit here and there, but it felt like every six or eight hours, we would get some new news in Morocco about restrictions on vehicles.

One of the mornings I showed up and my driver had an extra van for us that we didn't need. And he was like, "Yeah, we can only have, I think it was four people per car", or something like that. So moment by moment, there were these changes. And by the time we were in the Rif Mountains in Chefchaouen, which is this gorgeous little blue, it's called a blue pearl, a little city. If you've ever been there.

Morocco had pretty close to shut down at that point. And we were almost the only ones in the city. And this is where just like the spirit of hospitality in Morocco just absolutely blows me away. Like our hotel partners that we've worked with for years, they made sure all of the clients had a place to stay, made sure that because the restaurants were closed, they brought a chef into cook for us. Same within Fez because we're in Fez before that. Like just incredible hospitality and making sure everyone was taken care of.

So we as a group decided to go to Rabat thinking that a US repatriation flight would most likely fly out of Casa Blanca. It was really hard to tell because at that point they were shutting down all of the flights. We had three gals with us from Mexico and they were able to get actually across the straight into Spain because Mexico repatriated that way. So that was really wild for them taking a ferry in the middle of the night. And so the rest of the group, us out camping out in Rabat, we found a place just to stay because at this point our actual tour was over. So it became a matter of like, how do we get everyone home? How do we get everyone repatriated? And on, I think it was March 19th, in the middle of the night, the US Embassy sent a message out because we had put everyone on a list for repatriation flights flying out like the next day and you had to be in Marrakesh by like 3:30 in the afternoon.

So I scrambled. I called my driver who had already gone home across mountains. He turned right back around, gathered everyone up, got to Marrakesh like just in time. I think we got there at like three in the afternoon. And so I'm just really amazed. We had such an incredible group. All of the clients, this is a yoga trip as well. So our yoga instructor, everyone just really banded together. And even though people were anxious and weren't sure what was going to be happening or going on, the spirit of just like resilience and togetherness, to me, was just absolutely astounding.

But I decided to stay in Morocco because I'm in the middle of residency, but I don't have a residency yet. And so they were only accepting citizens and residents back. And so by that point, March 20th, Morocco had already closed its borders. Denmark had closed its borders too except for residents and citizens. And so I really had no choice. It didn't make a lot of sense for me to go back to the United States. So I found a place here in Marrakesh and I have been there since.

Kim: There aren't enough namastes that I could muster for what would happen when you're actually hosting a tour in that kind of global incident happens? How stressful was it?

Ashley: You know, to be honest, it was very stressful. I kind of had these different layers going on because my number one concern was keeping myself calm and cool and collected because I didn't want to do anything that would make the clients more anxious than they already were. So I had to take lots of moments for myself to just regroup and just breathe. Because while I was taking care of clients, I was also watching my entire business implode because we had other departures soon to happen in Peru and other places in the world. So we were getting inundated with emails about upcoming trips and people wanting to know what was going on.

And so I have a business partner back in the States, Laura. So we really kind of divided and conquer and I kind of went entirely offline because I just couldn't handle. Like we had to change our social media because, of course, we couldn't not address what was going on. Sending out newsletters, taking care of booked clients on other trips, talking with partners. So we had a whole bunch of internal things going on while at the same time I was in the very real physical environment of being with the clients and kind of step by step, making sure everyone got food, making sure people were comfortable having a place to sleep, working with, like I had said, our drivers to make sure that we could get where we needed to be when we needed to be there. So yeah, lots of layers.

Phil: There are so many people still stranded all around the world.

Ashley: I had had a ticket back to Copenhagen originally June 6th. It got moved to June 15th, and now it's been moved to July 1st. So ...

Phil: And how's that ... I mean are the airlines being accommodating for you? They're sort of letting you change that?

Ashley: I would say yes and no. Unfortunately, I've lost a lot of money on flights because I also had rebooked our yoga instructor's flight with Royal Air Maroc and they're doing a voucher system. But it's quite complicated because it's only for the person on the trip or like the passenger. But I paid for it. So it's kind of like, it's not a voucher that is very usable.

Kim: But it's tough though. I think Ashley, you've got a team member in the US that's from Croatia. I'm assuming these people aren't getting incomes.

Ashley: The gal in Croatia ... there is also kind of a lot of aspects to that. So one of the gals that she, her name's Alex and she does SEO work for us. And she's also our host for our Croatia trip. She's American, but she's lived in Croatia, I think like four or five years now. I mean, she lives with her boyfriend. They both work in tourism. They have a dog and a house. They live on his parents' property. So she's full-on life there. And she was with us in Morocco. And when all of this hit, she couldn't get back to Croatia because the flights were through Istanbul and Morocco had canceled the flights to Turkey. So her real only option was to go ahead and repatriate back to the United States. So she's with her mom. But now she's been away from her just normal life and family.

I mean, she just had, kind of like Julie from Venus. She just had like a suitcase of clothes. She didn't even have her computer with her. So she's kind of had to adjust and be in the States waiting for Croatia and the EU to whatever the border openings end up happening that way because of just the way she needs to be able to get back to Croatia.

Phil: What's your view about the near future?

Ashley: That's a great question. You know, I'm definitely an optimist in general, but I think this situation has forced me to also look at things in some real hardcore ways because they are talking a two to three year recovery period for tourism. And when I look at our partners on the ground and places like here in Morocco or in Peru, the guides and the porters and a family run B&B's and restaurants. It's really devastating because that is their sole source of income.

And so the options are slim and a lot of those partners will be forced to do something different. One of our favorite restaurants in Croatia Zagreb that we use, it's a really nice restaurant, had to close because they just can't stay open. It's a high tourism season and going on a few months of no business. And so I do see a lot changing in the future in travel, both on just like the partnership side because we do have to make so many changes as far as hygiene goes. We already do a lot of itineraries in nature, but I think that we're going to be doing a lot more of that in nature and in getting out into open spaces. So from the point of over-tourism, I think there can be some silver linings for sure, to like reduce the stress on cities and regions that have a lot of tourism.

From the client-side of things, I mean I feel like there are two camps of people. There are the ones that maybe didn't travel all that much to begin with and now they have perfectly valid concerns, but like health concerns or they're just like own domestic. But there's also, I think others that are just chomping at the bit and are ready to get out there again. I think it is going to be more of a hassle in terms of the airports and the experience of getting places. But I am optimistic that it will take some time, but it will pick up again. And I really hope those of us in the adventure travel and small group travel and people to people can find the opportunities to continue to have the impact that we still want to, because so much of our business is based on sustainable development through tourism. So that's kind of like the really challenging part. Like how can we continue to have those sustainable development efforts, especially in developing parts of the world when we can't travel right now? So we're addressing that for sure.

Kim: Thanks for that insight Ashley and best of luck getting on that flight.

Phil: There are thousands of citizens still stranded around the world, as the death toll from the virus continues to rise. At the time of recording, more than 100,000 Americans have died, and as the Black Lives Matter human rights movement continues to campaign, the mortality rate for black patients is reportedly 2.4 times higher than for white Americans.

Kim: To get in touch with your stories or feedback email [email protected]. Next episode social distancing while enjoying life on the road. Our special episode coming up.

Bye

 

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