Sooo… these have been quite an eventful few weeks, haven’t they?
And clearly this isn’t over yet. (Far from it.)
I didn’t post much here or on social media since the pandemic hit, as I felt that you may have other things on your mind than travel. I mean, who wants to hear from a travel blogger when you’re dealing with lockdowns, major disruptions to your life, and worrying about loved ones?
But I thought now might be the time to share a little about how I experienced the recent events and what I’m doing during this period of isolation.
It feels like ages ago, but until March 12 I was still travelling. I’d been spending 10 days backpacking on Cape Verde, a trip I’d planned long ago and decided not to cancel.
If you haven’t heard of Cabo Verde, that wouldn’t be surprising. Many travelers would probably struggle to point it on a map!
This archipelago off the coast of West Africa is not that well known (particularly among English-language travelers), but let me tell you, it’s amazing. My trip there was honestly one of the best I’ve done — and I can’t wait to tell you much more about it in the future.
I first went to Mindelo, a city bursting with culture and where you can hear live music every night.
I then went hiking for many days on the island of Santo Antao through epic volcanic landscapes, valleys filled with banana, mango, and papaya trees, and via donkey paths along rocky cliffs to isolated coastal towns. Santo Antao is a hiker’s paradise — I hadn’t felt so excited about hiking since maybe Nepal a few years ago.
I kept hiking until my feet were all blistered and I stumbled around the hostel like a pirate with two peg legs.
Unable to hike more, I looked for a rental car in the small town I stayed in. I found a car rental offered at the local grocery store — an amusingly small but surprisingly capable Suzuki Jimny. I drove it to the far side of the island through incredible volcanic landscapes, taking on passengers along the way and learning a bit about the local culture.
I headed for a remote fisherman’s village, but then the paved road suddenly stopped, as it just hadn’t been finished yet. I continued in 4-wheel drive along rocky dirt tracks and finally drove on the beach itself to reach the town of Tarrafal, a small settlement under a big gnarly cliff, alongside a beautiful black sand beach dotted with colorful fishing boats.
In this tranquil end-of-the-world place, I felt a million miles away from the current crisis.
Cape Verde was just pure adventure. It made it easy to ignore the coronavirus for a while. You’d hear it talked about occasionally on the radio, but 98% of the time I was just happily in the travel bubble.
That changed as soon as I got back to my home in Lisbon. I went from hiking through beautiful landscapes and things feeling very normal to scenes of hoarding at my local supermarket. It was all a bit surreal.
As lockdowns were now on the horizon, I stayed in Lisbon and prepared for an extended time at home. My girlfriend who’s been working in Seville came back to Lisbon so we could isolate together.
The first week of self-isolation was a little stressful. My thoughts were mainly with my parents, who are older and live in the Netherlands, where the virus was not taken very seriously at first. (I think my parents did, but many in the Netherlands didn’t.)
But it soon got easier to settle into a new routine. I know it’s not been the same for everyone and I’m probably in a relatively lucky situation… but so far, so good.
I’ve mostly been spending more time reading, cooking, and working on future projects. Zoom sessions have been great for keeping in touch with friends around the world, even playing board games over webcam. I help organize meetups for the Lisbon Digital Nomads community, which we’ve moved somewhat successfully online as well. I think video sessions have been amazingly helpful in keeping everyone (at least somewhat) sane. These tools did not exist during previous global crises and I’m thankful we have them.
And there’s been Tiger King, of course. Honestly, it’s trashy as hell, but it’s impossible to stop watching.
This pandemic is obviously leaving a huge mark on the world. I find myself trying to game out how this thing will play out. I’m not sure, but I guess I’m feeling mostly short term negative, long term positive. As one speaker on a podcast I listened to put it: this virus will act as a global vaccination against future crises. I think there will be silver linings that will become apparent later.
But that’s little comfort to us now. Besides the health aspect, there’s the economic one. The pandemic has been brutal to the travel industry in particular. Hostels, hotels, restaurants, and tour guides are facing zero revenues at the moment — and a rebound will surely be slow. Nomadic Matt did a great job summarizing what’s going on in the travel industry. Many people will lose their livelihoods and the coming recession won’t be easy.
My own blog was hit pretty hard too, with a 90%+ drop in traffic and revenues on March 15, though it’s recovering a bit now as some people start to research future trips.
Going to Cape Verde was part of my plan for 2020 to shake things up and go to more off-the-beaten-track places. My next trip would have taken me to Sumatra in Indonesia in April, though I obviously had to forget about these plans. Right now, I’m writing about Cape Verde and some other stuff I never got around to.
I’ve seen other travel blogs pivoting hard during this time, but I’ve mostly chosen to stay the course. I don’t think my blog lends itself well to running a Patreon campaign, nor do I want to start writing only work-from-home tips (it’s just too far outside of my core topics).
In any case, I’m in a fortunate situation, as I can still pay my bills, don’t keep permanent staff, and my cost of living in Lisbon is relatively low. I’m keeping things lean until things rebound. Not everyone will have that luxury and I imagine the next 6 to 12 months will be pretty tough all around.
I’ll probably focus on throwback content and going through my personal travel archives for things I’ve overlooked. (I’m sure there’s a lot; you have no idea how long it takes for a single day’s worth of travel to be processed into content. I feel like I’m perpetually ten steps behind!). Once it’s permitted and responsible to do so, I would visit my family in the Netherlands and maybe do a bit of nature-based travel in Portugal — but it’s still too soon to think about this.
For now, it’s still all about #staythefuckhome until this thing is under control.
I know from my blog statistics that many of you reading this are late Millenial or early Gen-Z, which makes sense as in your twenties is a popular time to go backpacking. I’m a bit of an old fart now (37, geez!) so I remember events like 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash quite well. Both stopped everything in their tracks for many months and the mood was pretty glum, but… things picked up again too. I know that eventually, it will be the same this time.
The world will be different after this, but hopefully — and someday not too distant — we can go explore it once again.
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I canceled a pre-birthday trip to freedive with Blue Whales in Sri Lanka.
Personally, I’m satisfied with this crisis. It’s unfortunate that our species has to learn the hard way to do the right thing.
I live in Thailand and since 2012 I’ve been traveling SE Asia twice a year. I’m tired of beautiful untouched virgin places opening their legs for the big **** of mass tourism.
We have over 7billion people in the world and last year alone, more than 1 billion went traveling. This has led to loss of culture, loss of heritage and loss of habitat for many area. Here in Thailand, people abandon ancient jobs that have been worked for generation to sell “I <3 Thailand" shirts on Khao San Road. It's much worse in Bali where the locals have limited access to fresh water because it's being reserved for hotels and restaurants.
Our species, as stated in the Matrix, is like a virus. We deserve anything that happens to us. That's harsh to say, but my words are not nearly as harsh as what we do our own people, our planet and our wildlife.
we have lost our holiday to Valencia and our trip to Berlin doesn’t look like it will go ahead. I suspect things wont get back to normal and cheap air travel may be a thing of the past (at least for 5 years) . I am lucky UK (where I live) is beautiful country I suspect I will be spending more time here
Thanks for a great blog post. I had to cancel two trips. One to Denver for a conference. But the second to New Zealand this month was tough to cancel. That was going to be a fun trip. Luckily I could cancel some accommodation, but got credit on the airfare (and it was a cheap fare. Next up is a trip to Africa, but that will have to be canceled too. Like you, I’ve been through many ups and downs in the economy. We will return to normal, well somewhat normal, and we will travel again.
Oof that’s a shame, New Zealand would have been amazing! I still had a Sri Lanka trip scheduled for later this year, but we’ll see what happens. Luckily the tickets are refundable/flexible. If nothing hopefully else we can enjoy some domestic/nearby travel this year and make up for lost time when things are more or less normal again! 🙂
Marek, Hola from Bocas del Toro in Panama. I’m also a full-time traveler but a retired babyboomer (71 years old and proud of it, lol), and you thought you were an “ol’ fart”. I’m on the island of Colon, self-isolating in Bocas Town. I came here a month ago, back when pretty much everything was still normal. Since then, all the tourists have left and all non-essential businesses have closed. I’m lucky to have a room with a kitchenette and most all food stores have not been sold-out of anything. So far, there has not been one case of the Covid-19 virus on the island since I’ve been here. My landlady is a nurse that also works at the local brand new hospital and reports to me every day if there is any change in the health of the island. The local airport is closed. All water taxis to the mainland have been shut down. All flights out of the country have been closed down too. I’m here for the duration and couldn’t feel safer. I don’t wish to return back to my home town in California any time soon. I plan on riding it out as long as it takes, after all, I’m in a tropical paradise. Stay safe and healthy as I’m doing.
Bocas doesn’t seem like a bad place at all to be holed up for a while, you’ll have fresh air and some wonderful views! And I suppose an island might be less likely to become infected. I was in Bocas two years ago at Nomad Tree Lodge outside of town, loved waking up to the howling of monkeys. Hopefully things will stay under control there in Central America 🙂 Stay safe!