Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

Many things have changed rather rapidly with the spread of COVID-19, and our travel world has more or less come crashing down.  We have weathered it for as long as we can, but we’ve reached a point where it just doesn’t make sense anymore.

So we wanted to take a little time to reflect on what’s happened, how it has impacted us, and how both we and you can move forward once it’s over.

Practicing our mask wearing while in isolation in Ushuaia

Our original plan

When the novel coronavirus first broke out late last year, we really didn’t worry about it.  It was something distant and confined to an area we planned to visit but didn’t believe would impact us.  Like previous diseases that struck the news – things like SARS or H1N1 – this too would blow over and we could just continue life as normal.. well.. as normal as is the life of a nomad.

As many of you following us likely know, we had originally planned to travel south through South America, enjoying the beautiful bounty of Patagonia before taking the cheapest flight out – to Seoul, South Korea.

We even already had a couchsurfing stay lined up just outside of Seoul, and we were excited to arrive in time for the sakura season.

Kedi, our sweet kitty charge during a cat-sit in Istanbul
Kedi from Istanbul!

From there, we were vying for a couple of cat-sits in Tokyo and Sasebo, Japan, with plans to hop over to the mainland – to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos – afterward.  Then we could make our way to the Philippines and/or Indonesia before moving south into Australia and New Zealand.  That would round out our year, and provided my parents joined us in New Zealand as they’ve been considering, we could end our trip with a fun little family vacation and fly home with them.

Everything changed when the virus exploded in South Korea

First, the cat-sit we had already secured just outside of Tokyo dropped us, electing instead to go with someone already in Japan.  With the situation worsening in the area, they feared we wouldn’t be able to make it into the country.  Furthermore, the fact that we had plans to come from South Korea only hurt our chances as Japan was already considering restricting travelers from the ill country.

Clouds forming off the peak of the Cuernos mountains in Torres Del Paine National Park

For the same reason, the other cat-sit we were trying for rejected us.

And then South Korea was declared a Level 3 country – restrict non-essential travel.  Given the increased closures and the fear of not being allowed into subsequent countries, we made the difficult decision to cancel our flight to Seoul.

Some congratulated our wise decision; some thought it was an overreaction, thinking we were just afraid of getting sick.  And we did second-guess it as we continued to see pictures of deserted attractions and amazingly priced opportunities (this is one of the reasons we love traveling during off-season).

We continued to enjoy our travels

Us posing in front of a beautiful mountain view in Torres Del Paine National Park

At the time, we were loving Patagonia, now traveling with my dad.  Days were filled with long hikes; evenings were filled with pain-numbing drinks and social banter.  It was wonderful!  We didn’t know quite where we’d go next, but it didn’t matter.

And we overall saw fewer tourists as people began to cancel their trips.  We were thankful my dad got in when he did, as restrictions were spreading.  What perfect timing!

Dad sitting on a cliff overlooking a massive waterfall
Our dad and fearless avid hiker

Adjusting our itinerary, we decided to spend a little longer in South America, now eying places like Ecuador – which wasn’t even on the list before – and even Peru (which had fallen off due to poor timing).  As Southeast Asia was looking worse and worse, we set our sights on flipping our plans and going to Australia and New Zealand first, hopefully waiting out the crisis and hitting Asia later in the year.

The Antarctic opportunity

Meanwhile, we had made our way down to Ushuaia, Argentina – the End of the World!  We’ve known this to be the place to launch for the coveted seventh continent: Antarctica!  Being so remote and so expensive to get to, it has been my dream to travel to the white continent.  After all, I long to see this land of snow and ice before it’s all melted and irrevocably changed.

The Perito Moreno Glacier face in Argentina

Knowing we would make it to Ushuaia, it was always my plan to check in with the local tour offices for last-minute deals.  It was a long shot, but hey!  If we could actually find an affordable price, how could we not take the chance to go to Antarctica?

If you’ve been following us on social media (and if you haven’t been, you should!), you’ll know that we were able to secure a fantastic deal.  And after a lot of indecision, we decided to go for it!  It helped that fewer people were traveling, and that others were canceling their trips, that a spot opened up for us.  And with the desperation to fill the boats, the price was a steal!  We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Growing restrictions

The Milan Cathedral
The Milan Cathedral – we were just there!

Now, with an extra week to kill in Ushuaia, we simply bided our time and watched as the rest of the world appeared to crumble.  Italy’s situation exploded – right where we were only a few months ago!  The US ran out of toilet paper (seriously? what is the deal with that, honestly?).  And more and more countries shuttered their borders.

Argentina announced it was restricting travelers from virus-inflicted countries, including the States.  New Zealand implemented a 14-day quarantine on new arrivals.  We had even since gotten another cat-sit in Quito, Ecuador… until they also closed their borders (preventing both us and our host from traveling as we wanted).

Australia soon followed New Zealand’s lead, so we were out yet another cat-sit.

Our options were quickly dwindling, and we were faced with the choice of where to hunker down and wait this thing out.  Either way, we weren’t going anywhere until after Antarctica.  Worst case, that would be a great high note upon which to end our trip if it came to that.

The coronavirus taketh…

The World Explorer ship in the Ushuaia port
Our actual ship, just waiting to go to Antarctica

But as some friends of ours put it, the coronavirus giveth, and the coronavirus taketh away.  Just two days before we were due to set sail, we got the notice that our expedition had been canceled.  Thanks to so many being unable to even make it into the country and the concerns over having a lot of people confined to a boat for ten days, we sadly weren’t surprised.  But it’s still terribly disappointing.

When will we next be in this part of the world?  With the cancellation policy, will we now be forced to float $10k until we can come back next year?  We’re very unlikely to get this kind of deal again, and we’d have to pay the difference on a subsequent trip… not to mention the additional flights to get back down here.

However, with the situation, we should be able to exercise our evacuation policy on our insurance and get free flights home (which is why it’s important to have travel insurance, folks!).  That would at least mitigate flights to get back here.  And we’d rather be shut in at home with our kitties than somewhere else that has closed all attractions for the foreseeable future.  We’re still working that out.

Some perspective

A herd of guanaco in Torres Del Paine National Park
Guanaco look very much like llamas!

However, as disappointing as all this is, we know that we are quite fortunate in our situation.  Yes, we’re currently stuck halfway around the world from home away from anyone we know (and without any kitties to love!).  But we still have the saved finances to weather this storm.

We can continue to work from home on our website and business, and perhaps this is even a blessing in disguise – an opportunity to catch up on all the things with which we’ve fallen behind.

We are both healthy and not within at-risk groups.  Even if we contract the disease, I’m confident we’ll be fine.  But we don’t want to be unwitting vectors for those who won’t.

A large waterfall

Yes, having our travel plans uprooted really sucks.  But we both understand it could be much much worse.  And the sooner we can control this thing, the sooner we can travel again and inspire others to do the same.

So what’s next?

For now, we’re working to get home.  We think this is the best course right now so we can regroup and plan out our next steps.  We still have so much of the world we want to see, so have no fear that we’ll be back out there as soon as we can!

Our little travel kitties in front of a scenic mountain in Torres Del Paine National Park

And as previously noted, we are so far behind on all our accumulated travel stories anyway, so we have no lack of content, tips, and photos to share with you in the meantime!  We have plenty of work to keep us busy for a good long time!

As for all of you, we’re happy to have you with us through all of this.  And since everyone is practicing the important act of social distancing anyway, now is the perfect time to catch up on some of our adventures!  If you missed them, why not check some of these out:

Whatever you do, don’t give up on your dreams of traveling.  Keep reading blogs and collecting your favorite inspirational pictures for your next perfect trip.  We’ll survive this thing together, and we’ll see you all out on the road again before you know it!

One of the many stunning views in Torres Del Paine National Park

Where do you most want to visit once you’re able to travel again?

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9 thoughts on “Travel in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. I’ve been following your travels…….ummmmm, so FUN! You are an amazingly brave and courageous pair! Plus you are self-proclaimed “permanent nomads”! Love it!! Stay safe and enjoy every day!

  2. I finally succumbed this morning and canceled my solo hiking trip to Arizona. I’m crushed, but it’s not nearly as dire as your situation. Good luck getting back and stay healthy. I’ll expect a post on your joyful reunion with your kitties!! 🙂

  3. I’m bummed at the end knowing you didn’t get to sail to Antarctica. But then again, amidst this situation there really is nothing and nobody could do.

    I myself just wrote a long essay about how this whole pandemic situation that would possibly leave a lasting effect to the way we can travel affects my personal goal of seeing the world more often (and thus to some extent, my motivation to go about with life in general) – just when I thought I finally have the independency to manage my own financial resources and time since I just left school and started working. So thanks for posting this.

    Seeing that many people are feeling the same way – and even for people like you, travelling’s probably the only way of living you’d ever want – helps me to feel hopeful that someday we’ll find a way to safely travel again despite all odds. Greetings from a new follower!

    1. Greetings and welcome! Trust me.. we are also very much disappointed we weren’t able to actually go to Antarctica, having gotten SO close… However, we hold high hopes for the future and are sure we will travel again soon! We can’t see everything on our first venture out; after all, we need reason to return! 🙂

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