It’s hard to be a nomad right now.
If you’re anything like me, you yearn to travel. You need it! It’s what drives you forward, enriches your life, and makes you feel alive. But right now, it’s really fucking difficult to just jump on a plane and go somewhere new.
But it isn’t impossible.
Since being isolated in the UK for several weeks, I’ve been to Portugal, Greece (both the mainland and the beautiful island of Syros), and Germany. I’m currently writing this from wonderful Berlin, where everything feels kinda normal.
And let’s be clear: I’m not advocating for unnecessary travel. Just because you’re sick of being in one place doesn’t mean you have the right to move around, but if your in-built need to go somewhere new can be justified because it is also important to your well-being, or that of others, then you ought to at least look at your options.
So how have I done this, without putting myself or others in harm’s way, and what should you think about if you absolutely have to scratch that itch?
Preparation and data
Before going to north Portugal, I made sure I was fully aware of the situation. The fact is, the north of Portugal is incredibly safe. Portugal did all the right things, quickly and early, and reaped the benefits of those decisions (unlike the UK, which was frankly getting sketchier as time went on).
I checked various resources to see which countries were “safe,” including Our World in Data’s country charts, Worldometer’s excellent resources, and I contacted friends in each location to ask what the situation was on the ground.
In the case of north Portugal, Greece, and Germany, each had either no recent cases, or very few, and each had returned to some sort of normality. I also checked each country’s travel restrictions to ensure I knew what I would have to do on arrival, opting to avoid those places that had a mandatory self-quarantine and sometimes having to complete questionnaires in order to receive a QR code that would be scanned on arrival.
Common sense and alcohol
Of course, the best thing you can do for yourself and others is to be sensible. Wear a mask when you’re traveling, for example. When I traveled from London to Porto, I wore a mask from the moment I reached the train station to the moment I got to Esposende, with only a brief break from mask-wearing while I waited for the Uber to pick me up in Porto.
And do everything you’ve read you should, including washing your hands regularly. That’s where the alcohol comes in, by the way. I never thought there’d be a time in my life where I’d pour more alcohol on my hands than down my throat, but this is 2020, and nothing is normal.
When you get to your destination, and you’re fitting in with the locals by wearing masks inside stores, disinfecting your hands on entry, and generally being a good citizen, don’t then just assume that every one of your friends wants one of your trademark hugs when you meet them.
Ask first, and if your friend would rather tap elbows, or fist bump, or (heaven forbid) heel tap, do that instead.
Make sure you’re ready, just in case
While the nomad life we live does require you to be fluid, pandemic nomad life will need you to be able to react to new and potentially uncomfortable situations, so have backup plans.
What if there’s a second wave where you are, and you have to go into lockdown again? Are you ready for that? If not, make sure you are able to stay in the accommodation you’re using for an extended period, just in case. And what if you get ill? Does the country you’re in provide good and free healthcare? Do you have insurance? Keep that in mind and ensure you’re able to get the help and care you need.
So yes, while I’ve had to slow my travels down thanks to COVID-19, it is possible to be a nomad during the pandemic. It’s harder to do, and it requires a lot more preparation than usual, but you can live a fairly normal nomad life. Just do it for the right reasons. In my case, my stays have all been important to my business (which took a huge hit before lockdown), my mental health (which was suffering), and my future (which had stagnated).