With COVID-19 still affecting the way we engage with the world, it’s important to plan wisely and travel responsibly, both for your own safety and that of the places you visit. But as we reengage with the world, you're likely planning vacations not far from home. World Nomads can help by providing travel safety tips, inspiring content, and travel insurance designed to protect you while traveling.
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01:13 The van has clocked up some miles
03:03 Discovering the World Nomads Travel Podcast
06:39 Arriving in Namibia
08:37 Traveling within a group
11:40 Going home after lockdown
16:50 Visiting friends during COVID-19
18:34 Katy is back doing press trips
27:00 A new travel app
31:00 Travel Plug
“We were able to go see and visit the Himba tribal village for an afternoon. And all of the villages, even in the far reaches of Namibia have been contacted either by, I think it was the UN or WHO so that they're aware of COVID. They all had masks. And even in these villages, they had a foot pump that was attached to a rope that would drip sanitizer on your hands…” - Andrea
“I'm an au pair here in Spain, and so when I first started to mention to the family my desire to travel home, they were for sure way more concerned than I was.” - Cloe
“Because people are a lot more open to exploring the U.S. since their European holiday got canceled, it's helped me professionally. I've been able to establish myself as a Midwest expert because I grew up here, and really know it well.” - Katy
“…the idea is basically that you get to retain the independence and the autonomy that you get when you're traveling alone while being able to dip into a network to share one-off experiences.” - Heeral
Andrea Rip is an American ex-pat who recently traveled for the first time since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, visiting Namibia with Trekkup Dubai.
Andrea also runs the blog The Earth Ink, representing “her creative talents and excitement for travel, photography, design, and communication.” Follow Andrea on Instagram @theearthink
Cloe Zarifian is an American au pair living in Spain. She recently flew from Madrid to LA via Miami and shares the experience with us in this episode.
Katy Spratte Joyce is a journalist using her love of writing to share travel experiences and the restaurants she seeks out along the way. Read Katy’s story featured in the New York Times about living in Nebraska during COVID-19.
You can also follow Katy on Instagram.
With a quarter of women afraid to travel alone but still aspire to do so, 22-year-old Londoner, Heeral Pattni has come up with a solution to make solo travel more accessible than ever. The Amica App provides women with a new way to make friends and connections while on the move. Through this online community, women can meet, explore, and adventure with fellow like-minded travelers.
Heeral is also the co-founder of the Travel Plug.
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Kim: So this episode is a bit of a bumper in which as mentioned we catch up with a couple of ex-pats, an entrepreneur, and a travel journalist. Andrea lives in Abu Dhabi and her recent trip to Namibia was the first time she traveled more than 15 kilometers, that’s around 9 miles from her apartment since the 9th of March.
As an avid explorer, Andrea only recently discovered the World Nomads Podcast.
Andrea: Well, actually the group I travel with the most always recommends World Nomads Insurance. I had a connection with the website. I think even previous to that when I was traveling on my own. And then just kind of Dabble on the website and found the podcast and started listening in. I'm always attracted to good travel content to give me ideas for next trips or whatnot.
Kim: Nice one. Will you have defied the odds I guess, although the world is starting to engage, you've actually lived ... You are in Abu Dhabi, right?
Andrea: Yep. I am in Abu Dhabi.
Kim: And you left there to go to Namibia, now what was the reasoning?
Andrea: Well a lot of my friends who live in the United Arab Emirates love to travel and there's a group of us who like to travel to very unusual places. This was maybe not quite as unusual as some that we've been to, but it was one of the first countries that opened up. And so there were a lot of trips listed through this one to a group and we just signed up for a few of them, kind of hoping that one of them would go ahead towards the end of the year, and then maybe it was that one.
Kim: What was the time, the length of time between your last trip and this one?
Andrea: I got back from a trip to Bulgaria and Macedonia on the 9th of March and we took off for this trip on the 6th of October.
Kim: Yeah. So you were willing, truly ready for travel and adventure?
Andrea: It changed a bit. I actually only left my house to go about 13 or 14 kilometers over the course of seven months. So it was about time.
Kim: What was the preparation like once you'd been accepted. I'm using inverted commas, you were able to go to Namibia. What plan of attack did you put in place?
Andrea: Well, on this trip I started packing about five weeks ahead of time because I'm sad. I was really out of practice. I didn't realize that was a skill you could lose and I still ended up over-packed, but there were a lot of COVID concerns, obviously. And as you are probably aware the targets for COVID change almost daily in different countries and different regions. And so it was constantly monitoring what was going on. The group checkup that I went with was very, very good at kind of following along the COVID requirements, both for leading the United Arab Emirates and for getting to Namibia. We had to book a COVID appointment in the United Arab Emirates before we left within 72 hours to take off in order to go to Namibia and land there. And then they had little kiosks set up in the airport there to check all the documents, to make sure that they could contact us during the trip to make sure we were able to be tested for our return and just do our due diligence on our itinerary when we were in the country.
And then we had to get a test when we came or before we came back within 96 hours of coming back to Dubai airport. And then when we reached Dubai, they also tested us there. And then in Abu Dhabi, there's a whole other set of requirements, so I have to undertake a mandatory quarantine for two weeks and then get tested on day 12 again. It's a little bit off-topic for the preparation, but I think all the COVID thinking had to be done ahead of time as well.
Kim: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrea: First thing that you encounter when you get to the airport in Windhoek is the sanitizers and they everywhere in Namibia. They have a foot pump sanitizer. You don't have to use hands, it's touchless, you press the foot pump and it sprays in the grocery stores, the airport, cafes, restaurants. You have to sign in everywhere you go with a contact number in case they need to trace you back. They're very active in that. We were able to go see and visit the Himba tribal village for an afternoon. And all of the villages, even in the far reaches of Namibia have been contacted either by, I think it was the UN or WHO so that they're aware of COVID. They all had masks. That was really interesting to see.
And even in these villages, they had a foot pump that was attached to a rope that would drip sanitizer on your hands, set up not quite as fancy as the spray bottles in the airport, but that was really interesting to see that they're very aware and cautious of COVID. The thing I think I admire about them the most are, and I extra admired this when I came home was that the Himba tribe it's lived so simply, and yet they still have so much fun and happiness together. The women were just joking around and laughing and I'm sure they were laughing at us sometimes, but it doesn't take all the things that we have at home and in order to make us happy. And when I came back home, I was like, "Man my apartment such a mess. Why do I have all of this stuff?"
Kim: Time to start googling, becoming a minimalist.
Andrea: I think so. I think so.
Kim: Engaging with them was lovely. How did you engage with some of the other fellow travelers, was that all fairly normal?
Andrea: Yeah, I think we all have different levels of familiarity or maybe familiarity is not the right word, but comfort with COVID and how we want to be with other people or not. And so when we started the trip, everyone was super cautious about getting sick and wearing masks and using sanitizer and wet wipes, and kind of by the end of the trip especially after we had tested negative in maybe other six days later, we were a little less concerned about that. And also the cases in Namibia are very low. And so there was a little bit of freedom, I guess we found from traveling and everything while we were there that we still did our due diligence and we're responsible travelers, but I think it gave us a little bit of a break from the outbreak in general.
Kim: How cool that you went to a country that you probably would not have had on your radar?
Andrea: Yeah, like I said I travel with a lot of these people kind of regularly, so I knew three of the women before, and there were two other women who joined us. And we were all six women between the ages of 35 and 45. And the kind of we all went on this trip more or less because it was the one that was available.
Kim: You shared with me when you reached out a blog called the earthinc.com/blog, we'll share it in show notes where some of your past stories and experiences sit. What is it that you actually do?
Andrea: Yeah, it used to be a freelance travel writer and do some content development for different travel companies. And now I'm actually doing marketing and communication for a major engineering firm for the Middle East. I've shifted a bit, but I still keep my blog open. And when I have time, I like to put my thoughts out there on the internet and share some of my experiences. One of the reasons I enjoy living in the UAE is because there're so many opportunities for travel, and I think I can help some friends and family and people who have been around the world understand how similar we are as humans. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about who other people are and that gets us scared. And so I'd rather look at the positives and tell some of those stories via my blog when I can.
Kim: Yes! Look at the positives. Thanks, Andrea.
Phil: Cloe is an American living in Spain, and at the end of June flew from Madrid to Miami to Los Angeles, and back, staying in the US for a little over 6 weeks and says, “it sure was an experience”.
Kim: Cloe, great to meet you.
Cloe: Hi, I'm doing well. How are you? It's nice to meet you, Kim.
Kim: Cloe, Lovely to meet you as well, and thank you for reaching out.
Cloe: Absolutely. Yeah, I've been following World Nomads for a couple of years now, when I first sparked my desire in travel and then reading about COVID travel, I was like, "Oh, I got to hop on this." So, I'm glad I had that opportunity. Thanks for reaching out to your listeners and asking to hear back from us, so thanks.
Kim: It's an absolute pleasure. I mean, you guys are the experts. You're out there doing it. It's now time, would you agree, Cloe, that we start to travel through COVID as opposed to thinking about travel post-COVID?
Cloe: Yeah, I think that traveling through COVID is going to, I mean, for me, it's not only been necessarily, but it's taught me a few lessons in terms of how to take care of myself, and again, in a different environment, a new environment, but it's also been, to be honest, much more inexpensive, which for me, I've always been a budget traveler, so finding the COVID prices, at least for now, have been really helpful towards my being able to go to more places longer and do even more things. Just in terms of money, not necessarily being near a bunch of people, but my opportunities have definitely widened.
For example, I'm here in Spain right now. I'm from Los Angeles. My family lives in Los Angeles. So I was able to fly from Madrid out to the US but actually stopped in Miami, which is where one of my best friends lives. And so I've never been there before, and the ticket was cheaper to stop in Miami versus going direct or even to have a more, I guess, a shorter layover in maybe Dallas or New York City. So being able to go to Miami and spend time with my friend was more inexpensive versus my general flight home, which is why I flew home because it was cheaper.
Kim: Were you concerned about, well, obviously you were concerned about your safety, but how did you go about it?
Cloe: So, yeah, when I first started to, I'm an au pair here in Spain, and so when I first started to mention to the family my desire to travel home, they were for sure way more concerned than I was. I was concerned, but I was still very prioritizing wanting to be with family, seeing my friends that I haven't seen in a long time, especially going through the whole quarantining that was March and April. So safety for me meant first talking with them, the family that I live with. And so they helped me. The first thing that I wanted to make sure that was clear was that I was going to, number one, wear a mask at all times, wipes or tissues to sanitize my area, along with packing my own lunch. Also brought a change of clothes, which is something that when I did arrive in Miami and when I did arrive in LA, I always changed my clothes, just to take that extra step.
Other than that, when I'm on the plane, I'm not particularly trying to get up. I'm not trying to talk to anyone. My international flights, so Madrid to Miami, both ways was super empty. There was no one near me. Only coming back did someone I think was set, like was assigned a seat next to me, which at that point I did ask the gentleman to if he could sit in a different seat or I could sit in a different seat, and it was very easy to do that since the plane was empty. And yeah, I think that the general, what I've done in research is the mask, sanitizer alcohol, and the cleaning of the area, but they do a pretty good job, the airlines.
When you arrive in Miami, you have to go through some sort of screening, which is very simple. You fill out a form and you answer questions. Are you sick? No. Were you near anyone sick? Who was sick? No. Are you having any symptoms, anything like that? And I'm also very transparent. Excuse me. There is no requirement to, for like a 14-day quarantine. It's recommended, they suggest it, but there's no required, nor are they following you after your flight, which is something I was afraid of. Because I was flying into Miami and eventually heading to Los Angeles, I didn't want to have any issues there, so I was very concerned once I got there, but there's no mandatory quarantine in the United States right now, as far as I know.
Going to Los Angeles, I did stay in a separate apartment than I usually. I usually go stay with either my mother, my father, but this time around, I decided to stay in a separate apartment where I didn't have to share any very close spaces for long periods of time. When I did go see my parents, it was more at a distance. When we were indoors, we did wear masks and when we were outdoors, we didn't. It was just more keeping that six feet apart or one and a half meters. When it came to visiting friends and I, like I said, being very transparent with them, I was clear that I just got off a plane. I was clear that I was going to be visiting other people, but that I am carrying hand sanitizer, washing my hands very often, making sure I don't have any symptoms.
I think that's something that you have to really be honest with yourself. You have to wake up and say, "Okay, so I feel good today?" If I don't, then I just should just take the day to myself to just not put anyone else at risk. Luckily, I didn't have any day that I felt under the weather. I didn't go to any parties. I did hang out within small groups at parks, but I feel like I didn't do anything that was putting myself or others at risk in terms of COVID, especially. That might be different from other people. Everyone has their opinions right now, and some people think that on the basis of traveling alone, that you're crossing lines. But I think as long as you're honest with people, some people will be interested in seeing you and spending time with you and some people won't. And I faced both of that while I was out at home. It all worked out. Everyone was always very happy to come together, and there was a situation for everybody. Some people would love to come over and maybe have a lunch meal or something, and some people much rather just be outside at a park and have lunch at the park. Both work for me. I was very flexible.
Kim: Thanks, Cloe. We met Katy in an early on in our episodes featuring COVID-19 and Travel News.
Phil: Katy is a journalist who in the past few months has taken a few press trips (carefully chosen for safety) with Travel+Leisure, Thrillist, Conde Nast, and Departures.
Kim: Well last time I spoke to you it was April, and you were in Nebraska. What's happened since?
Katy: Well. Since then, Nebraska was one of the only States in the U.S. that refused to shut down, and refuse to have a mask mandate statewide. So, I'm lucky to be from Minnesota, which has been a little bit more aggressive in its handling of the pandemic. And I was able to shelter in place up at our cabin in Northern Minnesota, for a couple of months, since I spoke with you.
Kim: At the time that we spoke, did you think at the time of recording we're in October, that this thing would still be going?
Katy: Well from everything I'd been reading at that time, I kind of thought it would wane in the summer months. But where I am, I'm back in Nebraska. I just watched a press conference today, that our hospitals are at a higher capacity than they were in the spring. So I would say, "I definitely thought that the cases would be way lower and that people would have been responding with compassion and wearing masks." But that hasn't really been the case everywhere, which is kind of disappointing. So I definitely didn't think we'd still be in the deep throws of the pandemic. I thought that it would hopefully have tapered off at least a little bit so.
Kim: Since April as a travel writer, you've been on a couple of press trips. Tell me about that.
Katy: Sure. Yeah, so I've been on actually five press trips. So I only go on them with a set response, which I came up with beforehand when I started getting invitations, which was about June timeframe. So I've been on five trips just in the States. And if the PR or DMO rep could answer my safety questions, if they had a mask mandate? If it was a group of journalists that were numbered about four or less? And then if most of the dining was outside and it was more outside activities? That's the trips that I agree to go on.
Kim: Okay. So you were very specific?
Katy: Yes. So my dad is sick, so I have taken the pandemic very seriously because it can very easily affect my dad. So I've actually been tested eight times. I get tested before and after my trips. And then I make sure that I have some buffer zone of two weeks to isolate, before and after just so I'm not spreading anything. And so seven of my tests have been the PCR, which are the nasal swabs, which feels like your brain is getting stabbed kind of, it's quite uncomfortable.
Kim: Okay [crosstalk 00:02:56].
Katy: Yeah. Yeah, and sometimes they do one nostril and sometimes they do two, I don't know why. I don't know when that switched. And then one of my tests was from one of the destinations I went to, and they gave us like a mail-in kit, where we swabbed our throats, and mailed it in and we got the results right away. But those ones are less, are considered less, they're not as good as the PCR tests.
Kim: So once they were able to tick the boxes for you in terms of safety, what were the trips about?
Katy: Well, the first one that I went on was actually to Alaska, which is a favorite destination of mine. Because it, it feels like a big international trip, but it's still within the United States. And it's a destination that's really perfect, for social distancing because of how it has such a small population and it's so spread out.
So I actually went fishing with three other women, and I knew all of them, and they all had been very careful. So I felt even more comfortable going. When you land in Alaska, you had to produce a negative test result within 72 hours. Like when you landed you had to show them where you had to go quarantine. So fishing in Alaska was obviously a really easy example of a social distancing trip.
Because our group was by ourselves in the dining room, we are separated from other guests. We are on a private Island, so there was no one around. We did temperature checks every morning. And they just did a really nice job of making the guests feel comfortable during... It was the first weekend that the fishing lodges were open, in early July. So I was traveling before some of my other colleagues.
Kim: So in your opinion then, and we know that we will be traveling safely as we move forward. Things like fishing, cycling, camping, having from your Intel, is that the type of travel that's attracting people?
Katy: Yeah, that seems to be a huge trend moving forward, and especially like in the U.S. in terms of our outdoors. The national parks have really been having a moment, where people are really taking the time to explore their own backyard. And obviously naturally being outside is just safer than being in confined spaces.
So one of my other trips was hiking focused, and I really, really enjoyed that. That was in Michigan. So yeah, I think that's an easy way to travel more safely, just the way your itinerary is structured. And with such a huge country, there's just so much to offer in so many different things to do.
Kim: Yeah. I think that's the advantage, is in all the positive that's come from COVID. Australia like the U.S. is a big country, and I've been overseas before. I visited some of the places here in Australia, so this is a really good opportunity to make sure I've ticked off, all the places in my own country before I start exploring the world again.
Katy: Oh yeah. I completely agree, and I will say from a professional standpoint. I'm based in the Midwest, which is not a traditional travel hotspot. I believe Nebraska where I live part-time, is actually like the State that gets the least amount of tourism's expenditure.
But because people are a lot more open to exploring the U.S., since their European holiday got canceled, it's helped me professionally. I've been able to establish myself as a Midwest expert because I grew up here, and really know it well. And there aren't a lot of travel media based in this area, from what I've seen.
I know of one other travel writer in my city, and she does mostly travel trade. The reason I broke into travel and leisure, and departures, and Thrillist, were all for Midwestern features.
Kim: So this has been a good time for you on reflection, even though you're making sure that you're healthy and your parents, particularly your dad is healthy?
Katy: Yeah. With the pandemic and everything's slowing down, it's kind of a good thing to have time to reflect. And I kind of refocused how I thought about my business of freelance writing, and decided to focus on two niches. And I'm married to a pilot actually. So I write about private aviation. And I also, as I said, have been able to cultivate the Midwestern expert moniker, which is great. So even though it's hard to see the bad happening from all of this, personally and professionally, it has actually really helped me to thrive.
Kim: Thanks once again, Katy. Always great to catch up. Gayle wanted to get in touch after listening to the World Nomads podcast, which she says has helped her through lockdown, to tell us about her client.
Phil: With a quarter of women afraid to travel alone but still aspire to do so, 22-year-old Londoner, Heeral Pattni has come up with a solution to make solo travel more accessible than ever.
Kim: Introducing the Amica App, designed to bring confidence and inspire women around the world to travel. And during this pandemic, the design, development, and investment have taken a hugely positive step with the App now ready to launch.
Heeral: So it's really funny because we were actually meant to launch our app this year in May. So obviously that didn't happen but it's okay because it got us more time and we got to really know what problem we were solving and what our solution was to that problem. So we're refining the product and we're really building our community. And I think that's the amazing thing about this time is that we put out the importance of community and I see that everywhere like there are so many digital communities at the moment that are thriving and we recently founded a community called the Travel Plug where women can sign up and receive kind of firsthand information.
We curate almost wonder lasting aqua destination diaries every week. Someone from the community shares her favorite places in any sort of destination and things like that. So when people register, we ask them kind of what they're looking for so that we know what that is to provide. And so many people say that they really want a travel community like they want people to talk to about traveling during this time. They want people to talk to about how to travel in the future and that sense of community is so strong at the moment. And I think that's also as a result of the pandemic, people are leaning into other people more than they ever would have otherwise, I think.
Kim: Yeah. So that's what the app is, it's about a digital community.
Heeral: Yeah. I mean, I hope that our users from the Travel Plug will find value in the app but the app itself. So the Travel Plug is more of that digital community that we're trying to provide during this time. We just created it during COVID because we saw that there was definitely a need for it. But the app itself it's to meet like-minded women in any area in the world. And it's for people traveling for business, leisure, permanently moving somewhere and you don't know anyone and you don't know what causes you to join to try to get to know people. You go onto the app and you enter a couple of different preferences and a few categories such as fudge drink, culture, activities and then you are shown people in your area with those same interests. So you're being very intentional from the beginning with who you kind of are open to meeting, I guess because I think as you get older you're more intentional with your friendships anyway.
So that's something that we wanted to narrow. But yeah, the idea is basically that you get to retain the independence and the autonomy that you get when you're traveling alone while being able to dip into a network to share one-off experiences, as in when you choose to. So if you want to try out a new restaurant with someone you don't want to do that alone, you can find someone in the app who loves the same cuisine or your favorite band is playing in a city and you want to go with someone, maybe even just to feel safer you can find someone who likes the same music. And that's what it's for, it's for those one-off experiences.
Kim: There will be a link to the app in shownotes, but we’d love to hear what you have achieved so far during 2020, using the time in lockdown and with travel restricted to create something or pivot into something entirely different.
Phil: email [email protected] and please remember to rate, share, and subscribe from wherever you get your favorite pods.