Our travels in times of corona

To move, to explore and to be free. That is what traveling means to us. Whenever we will look back on our journey in the future, there will be a time ‘before’ and ‘after’. Before corona and after corona; BC and AC.

We have been riding the wave of ‘yellow countries’ ever since we left on our second leg of our journey in August. Our timing turned out to be perfect. We travelled through six countries without any problems. The only difference: wearing a mask to the supermarket.

The biggest change for us though, was that it wasn’t up to us anymore where to go. We could still move and explore, but the sky was no longer the limit. We determined our route based on the coronavirus statistics and that’s how a little bit of common sense and luck got us all the way to Greece.

When we arrived in Greece in October the country was still one of the ‘safest’ destinations in Europe without travel restrictions. That changed from November on, when Greece went into a strict lockdown. The government ordered a ban on traveling between regions and people were not allowed to leave their houses anymore without permission. Overnight the country transformed from one of the best places to be to one of the worst; from paradise to prison.

As the infection numbers were going up everywhere in Europe, the restrictions didn’t come as a total surprise. We knew the virus would catch up on us again at some point, but we didn’t expect a complete lockdown, considering the fact that the number of cases were not that high compared to other European countries.

When the lockdown was announced we were in the most southern tip of the Greek mainland. After spending three months on the road without a plan, at this point we needed a plan and we decided to look for a nice place to stay for the upcoming weeks. We found a beautiful spot in the dunes to park our van. Ironically we got stuck right at the same spot where a big ship stranded on the beach forty years ago.

The lockdown was supposed to last 24 days, until the 1st of December and we were determined to spend it in one place. We met some other travellers who decided to stick around as well. One of them gave us an official form from the Greek government that allowed us to get groceries once or twice a week. There was water, a cold beach shower and – most importantly –  space to go for a walk without the need to fill out a form.

All in all not a bad place to get stuck. Every day we got to know our ‘neighbours’ a little bit better. Most of the time it didn’t feel like a lockdown, but more like a beach retreat. The weather was nice, we did yoga together on the beach, invented silly games and cooked each other festive meals.

In the meantime other vans stopped by for a night or two and took off again. All of them told us the same story: they travelled around without once being bothered. Then the Greek news reported that the lockdown probably would be extended. At this point we decided we didn’t want to stay in the same place until Christmas, or spend the whole winter in Greece for that matter. On day 17 of the lockdown we left and hit the road again.

Without the perspective to be able to move around freely in the near future, we realise and accept that our journey is coming to a natural end. The only way forward is back. Back to The Netherlands. We are ready. The only question now is how: overland through the Balkans or oversea via Italy, the same way we came?

We hoped to adventure back through Eastern Europe, but traveling overland concerns crossing a lot of borders, taking corona test and freezing temperatures. That brings up the following three questions which are characteristic for travels in times of corona: What is still possible? What is the sensible thing to do? And what do we desire to do? Only the first two questions really matter right now. To take the way of least resistance is – at this moment – in everyone’s benefit. And there you have your answer: overall the oversea route is probably the easiest, so we are going back via Italy.

For over 500 days we have lived and travelled in our van. It has been – and still is – an incredible adventure. We are ready to end this journey and look forward to building up a new routine back home. Grateful for our time on the road and excited about what’s coming next. See you all soon, but hopefully not too soon. After all those days of traveling, we have adapted a pretty slow pace of life. We will try to stick with that as long as we are on the road and will see you when we get there.