Friday, May 20

Traveling in a pandemic: five examples of great travelers who were surprised by COVID


Carrying out a great trip, one of those that has you traveling around the world for months or even years, is always an adventure. You are available for any unforeseen event, you know that everything can change from one day to the next, but of course what no one would have thought of is that a pandemic of an unknown virus could radically change your plans, sometimes by the thousands. kilometers from home.

The spread of the Coronavirus during the first months of 2020 caught the world by surprise, but those who were in a remote place, in constant movement, experienced it in a particularly complicated way. Estefanía, Jaime, Juan, Tamara, Roberto and Jan are great travelers who were surprised by COVID, and these were their adventures and misadventures to travel with the pandemic and return home as they could.

  • Estefanía Fernández and Jaime Fernández: 1 van, 2 years and 3 dogs

Estefi and Jaime left everything to embark on a long trip in a van that would take them to India with their three dogs, where they planned to volunteer. But COVID made them change plans. They had passed quickly through France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria, stopping a little longer in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro, and even longer in Greece and Turkey. They arrived in Iran and when they experienced the hospitality of its people they were surprised by the arrival of COVID, and everything was cut short.

“At the moment the borders closed we already knew that we could not continue to Pakistan and reach India, and we found ourselves locked up in a country where we did not want to spend much time because dogs are not very well seen, and we were traveling with three . So we take advantage of the fact that Iran has many uninhabited areas of forest, desert and beaches to quarantine. We got together with other travelers and we were buying what was necessary to spend periods of 15 days away from the population. We stayed like that for several months and in October 2020, when we had already been there for nine months, through the Turkish embassy we managed to get the border opened for us to leave Iran and continue on our way to Spain. But it still took us another year to get home,” recalls Estefi. “In fact, we were aware of the magnitude of the pandemic when we arrived in Europe, because in Iran, beyond our three months of quarantine, we did not see major restrictions and we joined, like the others, to lead a normal life.” You can follow Estefi and Jaime on their Instagram.

  • Juan Barrios: a year and a half through Asia and Africa on a motorcycle

Juan’s journey began in the summer of 2018, he lived with the hope of one day going on a great trip, and he bought a second-hand motorcycle, which at first he barely knew how to use, with the idea of ​​reaching India. But the journey went much further. He toured the Adriatic coast, passed through Kurdistan and shared routes through Pakistan. He went through India, through Myanmar and through Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. He sent the motorcycle by boat to South Africa and headed north to reach Sudan, a country where he began to hear about something called COVID.



“In my mind I was already on my way home, although I didn’t know how long it would take me. The problems began when people began to talk about COVID and I was at the gates of Egypt, where I didn’t want to stay locked up if they closed the country with me inside, “says Juan. “I saw that Saudi Arabia had just opened its borders and I decided to go there. He was beginning to see that this new virus was beginning to spread throughout Europe and that countries were imposing more and more restrictions. I went to Jordan and from there to Israel, with the typical bureaucratic procedures but without measures that went beyond taking my temperature. As soon as I entered they closed the country, but in order to return home I was able to travel to Athens. Leaving Greece was really difficult, I tried all the options and everything was closed. But one day, when I least expected it, I found out that a ship traveling to Galicia for fish did me the favor of sending the motorcycle. I didn’t know if this was legit or not, but it was the only option I had. So I managed to make a wooden box in which to put the motorcycle, send it, and after four difficult plane stops, I arrived home”. You can follow John on his Instagram.

  • Tamara Márquez: a trip around the world cut short by the pandemic

Tamara voluntarily accepted an ERE from the company she had been with for 12 years to fulfill one of her dreams: to go around the world. She started in South Africa and from there she went to Madagascar, which was followed by Israel, India, Nepal and China. She continued through Bali and from there she flew to Australia and New Zealand, from where she crossed to Mexico. She continued through Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, and it was there that she was surprised by the pandemic that caused her to interrupt her trip.



But, as Tamara recalls, it was not easy for her to return home. “When the pandemic arrived, it caught me in Ecuador, in the Amazon area, specifically in Puerto Misahuallí. There I was doing a coexistence with indigenous people and they invited me to a route through the jungle to get to know a virgin area, and when we returned three days later we found that everything was in confinement. All the hostels were closed, mistrust grew and even more so if you were a foreigner, and the family with whom I was living together invited me to stay at their house as one of their own. And since at first I saw that things were getting very bad in Spain, at first I thought that I was going to be better there and I didn’t want to leave. But after a few days I decided to contact the consulate and see what options there were to fly to Spain, and they offered me a repatriation flight that left from Quito. But getting there on time was quite an adventure. First I had to leave the village where I was by canoe until I reached Puerto Misahuallí, then a police car, not without problems, took me to the city of Tena, and there I managed to get a rice truck that went from empty to Quito take me to the capital. Where after two days of waiting I got a seat on that repatriation flight. You can follow Tamara on her Instagram.

  • Roberto Sastre: 3 years hitchhiking through Asia with 2 dogs

The journey of Roberto and his dog Cocaí began in March 2019 and their goal was clear: to reach China by hitchhiking. But after passing through Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Pakistan, the pandemic surprised them in India and they were forced to change their plans. But yes, they had time to add a new furry traveler to the team in the Rajasthan desert: Chai. In total it was three years of travel. The first from Spain to India. The second was a pandemic year in India. And the third was the time needed to return to Spain.



“I had to go through the pandemic in India with my two dogs, and that was crazy. The pandemic in India, especially during the first months, was an extreme situation, with the police beating sticks and handing out surreal punishments. We foreigners felt especially discriminated against. After the first two or three months of strict confinement, in which at least I could go out on the street because I had two dogs, from one day to the next they opened their hands and they went on to lead a practically normal life, with the temples and transports full of people. Of course, you could not travel between states. We couldn’t leave Tamil Nadu, which was one of the strictest states because in Chennai, its capital, there were a large number of COVID cases.” In total Roberto and his dogs Cocaí and Chai spent a year of pandemic in India, from March 2020 to February 2021, and from there they lived an odyssey full of gymkhana to return to Spain. You can follow Robert on his Instagram.

  • Jan Janowski: a 3-year walking journey

In the spring of 2018 Jan decided to start a project with which he wanted to reach Australia on foot. It was her great dream and she knew that she had a journey ahead of her that would bring many unforeseen events. During the first two years of the route she crossed 13 countries and accumulated 9,500 km on her legs, so that at the beginning of November 2019 she finally reached the Caucasus. Jan walked about 30 km on average each day. He was traveling with a car in which he carried between 40 and 50 kg, which allowed him to be self-sufficient in terms of accommodation and food, and he arrived in Georgia. Where the pandemic surprised you.



“At first I took it as a stop on the road, the borders were closed and I couldn’t leave Georgia on foot, but I didn’t give up my dream of reaching Australia,” says Jan, who fell in love with Georgia and spent all a year there waiting for the pandemic to pass. “The first bars of the pandemic were spent in Tbilisi and the atmosphere was surreal, because although we were not prohibited from going out into the streets, the city was empty. deserted. Along with other foreigners, I took a flat and we spent a couple of months there, which for me was a tremendous social experience because the previous two years I had been traveling alone. So, when for everyone the pandemic meant not interacting, for me in my small group it was the opposite. Time passed and Jan took the opportunity to get to know the country in depth and was captivated by its mountains, but since he could not advance little by little, he saw how his goal of reaching Australia was increasingly difficult. These difficulties, added to the economic ones and a Russian love that crossed his life, made him change his plans and postpone his trip to Australia. for now You can follow Jan on his Instagram.

Protagonists of great trips

Although none of these travelers could have thought that a pandemic was going to mark their trips, they all threw themselves into the abyss in search of a dream that would take them to see the world. To live experiences that they had never had before, to meet incredible people and to live on the edge far from their usual routines. And just as they got their travel inspiration from others, they will spread that same travel spirit this year in the IATI Great Voyages Days, which this year are celebrated again both in Madrid, on March 22 and 26, and in Barcelona, ​​on April 26 and 30. An event that each year serves as a meeting point for travel lovers and from which, of course, in each edition new great travelers are born who dare to fulfill their dreams.





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