Navigating the World in the Age of the Coronavirus

digital nomad coronavirus

What is up everybody? That is the question these days as the entire world is disrupted (not just our year) due to the coronavirus.

Greetings from Koh Phangan, Thailand! Oddly enough, this tiny island was never part of our original itinerary but, as we’ll get into later, we had a bit of a change of plans. We recently released a podcast about our world tour during the coronavirus. You can listen to it here. If not, this blog post is an update of what our life looks like during the corona outbreak. As you know borders are being closed and travel has become impossible due to the present conditions we’ll discuss what we experienced during our travels in this time.  

The world has changed considerably before our eyes in mere weeks. March has felt unfathomably long. The days where coronavirus did not seem as serious as it currently is feels like a distant memory.

Our Status

Many travelers across the globe have chosen to head home amid the global uncertainty. However, after a bit of consideration, Abhi and I decided to continue traveling while ensuring we are following the CDC’s best practices. That is to say, we are not actively traveling right now, but we are still abroad and self-isolating as the pandemic continues to spread. I saw “a bit of consideration” because for us, it really was not a tough decision. Although we are concerned for our friends and family back home as well as alarmed by the ever-growing numbers in the United States, we do not wish to return to the US if we can help it.

Back Up: Traveling from Colombia to India

Our lives were first interrupted by coronavirus when we had our flights booked from Medellin in February with a layover in Italy and Spain for a day each. We planned it to enjoy the cities and have a little fun before we ease our way into India. Two days before our flight, Italy became a level 3 risk zone for the virus, and we couldn’t risk going there or else we would be quarantined for two weeks when we got to New Delhi. It was a tough decision. At that time (and this may be hard to believe now) even Italian officials were telling people they could still enter the country and not to be afraid of the virus. Yikes…Because we weren’t sure just how serious things were, we were reluctant to spend an extra $600 to change our flights.

So, we did what all responsible adults do and flipped a coin and it was decided that we wouldn’t go to Italy. We changed our flights and got to New Delhi, and that is when we realized that the situation had escalated. Every incoming foreigner had to fill out a travel history and get his or her temperature taken. If we had gone through Italy, we would have had to go through a rigorous screening process and possible quarantine.

Escalation in India

Shortly into our trip, India banned all international flights into the country. This was way before other countries had done the same. At this point, we couldn’t tell if India was being over-cautious or if other countries needed to catch up. We visited the Taj Mahal just days before they closed all landmarks and temples to the public. At that time, we could barely enter a café without getting our temperatures taken first.

At this time back home, there was a small outbreak in Washington with several cases peppered throughout the states, but nothing major. With the situation growing more intense in India and numbers spreading through Europe, we were hoping beyond hope that we would be able to make it into our next destination, Bali, Indonesia.  

We missed it by just a few days, unfortunately. Four days before our flight, we learned that Bali was shutting its visas on arrival and a visa could only be obtained with a clean health certificate presented in the embassy. This obviously would take time, the time we didn’t have!

Change of Plans

Bali has been a huge part of our plan all along, but the circumstances made us change our plans. That is when we started looking at other options, we could go get health certification from the consulate or we could get on a plane and leave India as we didn’t want to be stuck there. Europe was definitely off the table and most Southeast Asian countries were not an option. We’ve considered Thailand in the past, particularly the Eastern Islands. So, we found Ko Phangan Island, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand. All recent articles had stated that although Thailand was closing public events, they were still letting travel into the country. We had to act quickly because we knew that there was little time left if we wanted to leave India. In a matter of hours, we completely rerouted our travel, bought new tickets, and booked a monthlong stay in Koh Phangan. Talk about a quick change of plans.

Leaving India

When we got to the airport, one of the ladies behind the counter almost didn’t let us check our bags. She said Thailand was no longer offering visas on arrival. Perplexed and scared, we asked to speak to her manager, who said: “google it.” Frustrated, we googled it and showed her that Thailand was, in fact, letting people in. Finally, the manager’s manager said yes. Nobody knew what was going on and the uncertainty worried us.

We stopped over for a layover in Calcutta, where we received some interesting news. We learned Thailand would be canceling its visas on arrival without a health certificate. However, it wouldn’t take effect until the day after we got there. Phew. But with such a narrow window, we were extremely anxious the whole flight to Thailand.

Landing in Thailand

We landed in Thailand without a wink of sleep, exhausted, dreary, and waiting with anticipation. Even at 5 am, there was tension in the airport. When we finally made it through immigration, with a one-month tourist visa stamp in our passport, we almost cried. Relieved, sleepy, and so incredibly grateful, we headed to the tiny island of Koh Phangan.

Current situation in Ko Phangan

We are self-quarantining by swimming, working, and enjoying some downtime while completing the 75 Hard Challenge. It is quite peaceful here on the island. Fortunately, we have a few take-away restaurants and grocery stores open but that’s about it. We do have toilet paper available! While we anticipated this trip as a one month detour, the current escalation of things has revealed that we might be here for a bit longer than expected. And we’re ok with that!

Currently, the Thai government is cracking down on protocol. Yesterday, a cop pulled us over for not wearing a mask, and some are anticipating a curfew in the near future. We’re doing our best to stay up to date with the latest news and keep to ourselves.   

Our Decision to Stay

Nearly every digital nomad we’ve met while traveling has since gone home. While we completely understand and respect their decision, it just wasn’t for us. We’ve decided to continue to travel as long as is physically and legally possible.

Follow Year Disrupted

You can listen to our podcast on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and here.

Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

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