Travel Life in Times of Coronavirus Pandemic

The recent developments have had an incredible impact on me as a fulltime traveller in several ways. As a traveller who spends the time of the visa in a country I am depending on open borders. But mostly, now that every country calls their citizens back home due to the corona virus pandemic, I am questioning myself: where to go? I have no adress anymore, so apparently no place to go or to stay. I am also in danger of being stuck in a country due to closed borders.

Many travel companies organise the safe return for people on vacation but that does not include people like me.
Many airlines increasing their prices – typically in capitalism: try to gain money when ever you can. Crisis as a chance for the rich to get even richer. A catastrophe for many. Airlines, do they care?

Difficult situations need creativity – and solidarity

If I would still be in Mexico, I could stay with friends but due to the pandemic it is impossible to travel from one state to another anymore. I would probably be forced to go back to Germany as many tourisic places have to close. No hotel, no hostel, no airbnb. No accommodation. However, it would eventually be impossible to rent something either.

But I am not in Mexico anymore. Not even in Guatemala. I decided to join a group of sailors in Guatemala after my hike in Antigua and after I figured out that somebody was using my credit card. I found the group on the webpage called which is a platform for volunteering, most of the time it means working for accommodation and food. I joined them when they were still in lake Izabal. But that has been weeks ago. Since then we left the lake and sailed through El Golfete to Livingstone, where the Caribbean Sea begins. We spent a week organising food and water for 12 people, enough for several weeks and fixing what needed to be fixed on two quite old boats, one 87′-catamaran and one aluminium monohull, 1974.

We left Livingstone by sunset with direction North East. First, we navigated to some lonely Belizian isands. We have not been allowed to go on land apart from one tiny little private island, probably around 600 squaremetres, with only two inhabitants. They are fishermen who live there for some months each year and have been so kind to invite us. Maybe they were desperate being only in each others company since two months and happy to see other people after spending such long time in solitude. We even cooked the fish we caught together.

But we left after one day to head South East to Roatan, Honduras. We arrived there after sailing almost two days straight. As we were already planning the shifts to sail through the night due to the impossibility to anchor in the dark, a military boat came. The men, covered with masks, wanted to know from where we came, what we were doing here and to inform us that we are not allowed to go on land neither to be here at all. After we explained that we were tired after having sailed for 34 hours and we only need to rest for a night before heading to Guadeloupe. „That is far. What are we doing here then?“. After a while they allowed us in Port, even helping us to enter to the harbour and anchor there for the night as the reef is shallow and it is hard finding the passage in the dark.

Our catch

Plan: Guadeloupe

The next day we discussed our options. For the first time since we left Guatemala we got an internet connection, so we could receive news about the actual situation and could finally send messages to family and friends. Everybody is concernd. Some try to convince their beloved to return home, some say instead it is actually safer where we are. Fact is that we are 12 people without having any contact to the outside world for a while, and are kind of safe. Even in Livingston we had been in town only for groceries and to use internet in a cafe, and to get some beers in a bar. And that was before the arrival of corona in Guatemala, officially. No one knows exactly.

Still, the news are threatening. Corona causes more death every day worldwide. And almost every country closes its borders. Around us only Nicaragua has its border still open and for the young guy from the UK on board, who‘s parents need him to go back, it might be his only option. But that‘s not our destination. We still want to head to Guadeloupe as it is part of France, part of the EU and most of the crew members are French, at least European. But France has closed its border, too. Will we even be able to get in? Around 3000 kilometres far away, it is a long way to sail. Maybe for nothing. Maybe to get stuck there. And what will be after? Where will I go, which country will let me in, especially when it is unclear for how long I would have to stay there. No other country will let me in being still a German citizen.

Problems to solve

Our two boats have some issues. The worn sails have to be fixed and the gas is leaking, so we are in danger that we can not cook when back at sea. Josee, the monohull boat has a hole in the hull so water runs in, the V.H.F. does not work either, nor the battery so we can not communicate while sailing (we figured out light signals for some cases).

Next destination: Cayman islands. Between Honduras in the South and Jamaica in the North East, both countries have closed their borders but we have to try. Using the yellow flag, the sign for having a problem to get the permission to stay in harbour for 24 hours without being forced to check-in.
Our two options as Edward, our english fellow sumed it up: staying here at this island and being forced to live here for an uncertain time on the boat, or to keep on sailing, trying to enter somewhere with a huge risk to get rejected everywhere and the potential to starve to death on the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea.

Humanity in strange times

Later that day after having spent most of it recovering and preparing for our next long sailing, the military returned. They were willing to help us refilling our stocks. They received a list of things we need via whatsapp, and took the empty gas bottle and $100 USD in a plastic bag. Very cautiously, but they helped us, although we will have to leave once we have received everything.

Helpful though sceptical

Our neighborhood was first terrifyied as they didn’t know from where we came. They have been anchoring for weeks, and went through quarintine to get permission to go on land. Some of them are curious or just helpful and brave enough to come by on their kayaks. A french guy recommanded to stay put and not sailing any further to destinations that will probably refuse us entry. He also promised to inform the community about us, that we would be no harm, having been isolated for a month. Therefore, we could join their community. That is important for some reasons, one is to join the night watch against pirates organised by an woman originally from the UK.

Suddenly, half an hour after we spoke to the french guy we are joined by Franklin, port ranger. To all our surprise he showed up with bags filled with food like cake, fish in cans, rice and pasta, soups in cans, beer and much more stuff. Gifts from the sailor community. Everyone donated what they have spare. Our happiness is hard to describe as we did not expected anything like this. Generousity in times of crisis. We say thanks in our own way: shouting thanks and doing our loudly and wild youyou, the arabic screeming. While unpacking the bags we can’t believe how helpful those strangers were. They returned several times during the day to bring more usefull, highly needed things like an old battery, even an functional V.H.F and cigaretts, wine and many important advices. They even informed us that we were the regions news as the gouveneur of the three islands talked about our arrival here on Roatan during his daily speech via radio. We are a curiosity.

Donations from the anchoring sailor

The new motivation that the group is gaining out of that support for our upcoming adventures is noticeable. In the evening we will keep contact to the sailor community with the V.H.F. who wants to follow us on social media to keep in touch and to know how things will turn out. We have to leave early in the morning.

Travelling in times of a worldwide pandemic is not easy and you never know what will happen, what will be when arriving into a new port.

Cheers, Nicole


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