Imagine being on the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere, in a foreign country, when the world declares the current pandemic. Imagine you have to leave the country, but none of the neighbouring ones will let you in and there are no available flights back home. Imagine you are travelling with your own vehicle, there is no way to ship it elsewhere and you don´t want to just leave it behind. Imagine quitting your job and moving out of the place you´ve been living at just weeks before this global pandemic and then having to cancel everything you were planning, saving for and dreaming about for the last years. Yes, to many, this might still sound like first world problems. But trust me, these are no easy situations and crucial decisions sometimes have to be made in minutes. Some of us have therefore completely changed our plans for 2020 and the following years. Some have managed to return home while they still could. But some decided to stay and continue what they were doing. Even though this surely meant new arrangements and route changes. In this post, I´ve gathered 8 of my favourite people, couples or families which are currently on the road, responsibly travelling in different parts of the world during the pandemic. Most of them have already been on their journeys when it all happened almost a year ago, but some have only just started theirs a few months ago. Here are their stories.
@the_travely | 6 MONTHS OF EXPLORING GREECE & THE BALKANS
Valeria and Lukas are no strangers to long term travel. They took 10 months off back in 2017 to go around the world and have spent the last three years working for six months and travelling the other six, living off their savings. Pretty awesome deal, right? A year ago, just before the pandemic hit Europe, their plan for this winter was to travel overland to Turkey, Georgia, Iran & Saudi Arabia. For obvious reasons this was impossible to pull off so their plan B was to see the polar lights in Scandinavia. Unfortunately, this also got cancelled as Finland closed its borders for foreigners and Norway faced stricter lockdown rules as well. So, the best option seemed to be shipping their awesome 30 year old Toyota camper car to Greece, where they have been ever since they left Italy, their home country, at the end of October 2020. They have already seen so many amazing places in Greece and they plan to see many more in the next two months. If everything goes well they will return to Italy via Bulgaria and other Balkan countries sometime in May.
Following them has given me a great dose of virtual wanderlust every day and I am happy to drool over their stunning pictures, especially while being stuck here at home. Also because Charlie and I had to cancel our Balkan road trip twice already and it´s nice to discover all of these amazing spots in Greece through their stories. Excited to see more! Don´t get confused, Valeria and Lukas might be from Italy, but they speak German. No worries though, there are subtitles on their INSTAGRAM stories and English descriptions in posts. Check out their WEBSITE for more travel inspiration about their current and previous adventures.
@4x4panda.at | DRIVING PAN-AMERICAN HIGHWAY FROM SOUTH TO NORTH
Birgit and Klemens started their epic trip on New Year´s Eve 2019 / 2020 when their plane towards South America left Lisbon just a few minutes before midnight. Now, that sounds like the best start of a new calendar year, doesn´t it? 10 days later they picked up their awesome Puch G camper car in Montevideo, Uruguay, and set off on a journey to drive one of the most famous routes in the world, the Pan-American highway, from south to north. The initial plan was to first drive down to Ushuaia and then head back north, for as long and as far as their savings would last. The best case scenario would of course be, to end up in Alaska, but as they prefer to travel slower and experience more rather than just rushing through, they would also be satisfied if they had to end the trip after exploring “just” the South American part. In March 2020 they got stuck in Ushuaia, Argentina and have been in Tierra del Fuego exploring this side of the island ever since. Their attempts to cross the border to Chile have all been unsuccessful so far and this is the only way to get back to Argentinian mainland. Sounds like a very tricky part of the world to be stuck in right now. Still, they remain positive hoping they will be able to move soon and see at least more of Argentina. They were thinking to spend one or one and a half years for this trip, but since they are stuck for so long now, they might prolong it in order to see and explore more of this amazing continent.
As many Austrians I know, Birgit and Klemens are not an exception when it comes to being active out in the nature and doing lots of different sports. They certainly don´t just sit around in their car feeling sorry for themselves waiting for the pandemic to be over (although honestly, in their case I would totally understand this as well), but have skied, climbed, hiked and more. I bet they know the area better than anybody right now and it has been a real pleasure and an inspiration following their posts and stories on INSTAGRAM as well as their WEBSITE. Can´t wait to see more from them.
@onceuponasaga | TRAVELLING TO EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WITHOUT FLYING
Who hasn`t heard of Thor yet? Well if you really have not, it´s a about time you do. Thor is an extraordinary traveller behind the project called Once Upon a Saga, which started in October 2013 in Denmark, his home country, with a mission to visit every country in the world without flying in a single unbroken journey. In 2020 he should have returned to Denmark being the first person ever completing such a journey, had there not been for the pandemic. After visiting 194 out of the 203 countries, solely travelling on foot, by cargo ships, boats and public surface transport, he got stuck in Hong Kong. And he is still there, after almost a year now. Honestly though, how many of us would have given up by now? I sure know I would not blame him for quitting at this point and I´m beyond impressed by his determination to finish what he started. He still has 9 countries left to visit. Palau, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. I think we are all cheering for him and keeping our fingers crossed he makes it soon.
Personally, I am generally not a fan of travelling projects which include hopping the world, crossing every country off the “been to” list, flying all over the place at any cost and returning home in just a few months time. But Thor is doing something different and I´m convinced he´s doing it for all the right reasons. He is travelling slow, engaging with people he meets on the way and promotes each visited country in the most positive way he can. He is also a Goodwill Ambassador of the Danish Red Cross and is travelling on a low budget, at around 20$ per day. Besides, he was no newcomer in terms of travel before starting this trip, since he has seen most of the world and has lived in different countries during the last decades already. I´ll allow myself to borrow his favourite quote, which I think best describes his remarkable journey -“A stranger is a friend you´ve never met before!” So true. Thor is a huge inspiration and I just love his attitude towards life. Also, he is an excellent writer, while reading his blogs and stories my mind wanders off to faraway places in a second. Should there ever be a book to read from you Thor, I´d be the first in line. Meanwhile you can follow his steps on INSTAGRAM, WEBSITE, YOUTUBE.
@theoverlandies | TRAVELLING EUROPE LONG TERM
Lisa and Nino started this journey with their awesome LR Defender self-built camper in Germany mid October 2020 and are currently exploring the smallest Canary island, El Hierro. The road first took them through France, which was starting to face stricter lock downs at the time, to Spain where they spent a month in Andalusia and Murcia. Their initial wish was to proceed to Portugal and onwards to Morocco, but due to harsher travel restrictions in the area they decided to ship their car to the Canary islands instead. Although these famous Spanish islands are mostly associated with charter flights, hotel guests and individuals who rent apartments, they find especially the smaller, quieter islands a good sunny place to spend European winters with a camper car. Since they live in their Defender full time and work remotely while travelling, they basically have no time limits in terms of when they have to return to Germany. Considering the current situation they are also wisely staying flexible and spontaneous regarding their route plans. Their wish though, is to eventually drive up towards the north, to Scandinavia, and later on back south, possibly to Greece.
I´ve been following Lisa and Nino on INSTAGRAM even before they set off on this trip and love what they are doing business-wise as well. They developed and designed DIY poptop kits for LR Defenders and are selling them to everyone who wish to convert their Defender into a camper. Soon, they are also launching new products suitable for other brands – check out their SHOP and WEBSITE to find out more about their business and travels.
@macs_explore | TRAVELLING CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA FOR OVER 2 YEARS
Christina, Eric and their two teenage sons, Austin and Carson, have been slow travelling Central and South America since January 2019 when they sold their house in Idaho and left everything behind to spend a couple of years fulfilling this amazing travel dream as a family. They started their epic journey in Guatemala and continued through Belize, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Peru to Chile, where they got stuck for 5 months due to the pandemic. Surely, it was a tough decision whether to stay or fly back home once the lockdown was announced and to be honest, I don´t know what we would have done in their situation, but I´m happy and excited for them to continue their dream despite new arrangements and certain travel restrictions. Eventually they were able to change location and fly to Ecuador for a while, and yes, they even made it to the Galapagos islands. Currently they are in Brazil and they hope to visit Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia before returning to the US in summer 2021.
It has been a pleasure following them already before they set off on this trip, but even so much more the last two years. They have done so many great adventurous things and visited lots of off the beaten track places, as a mom myself I only wish to have so much special time together with our family one day. It might sound cheesy, but I´m truly a fan of this outdoorsy family! Also because they always keep it real, speaking openly and genuinely about the good as well as the bad and are an overall inspiration. While travelling, Christina and Eric both work online and the boys are doing school work remotely. Check out their INSTAGRAM and WEBSITE for more travel inspiration and useful tips for long-term travel, photography, sustainability, building a business and more. If you want to learn more about building and monetizing your Instagram so you can get paid to travel read more about Christina´s INSTA-SUCCESS online course [link].
@grizzlynbear.overland | OVERLAND JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
Steph and Leigh are an French/Australian couple, who made their dream a reality 4 years ago by quitting their jobs, leaving everything behind and setting off on a journey of a lifetime. And they have been on the road ever since! I´m officially jealous. With many years of off-road and overland travel experience in Australia and elsewhere prior to departure, they knew exactly what they need for this kind of trip. So of course, they got themselves a nice Land Rover Defender. They drive a 130 model with a Four Wheel Camper which gives them enough comfort for such a long journey, but still allows them to venture off the beaten path on roads less travelled. Their adventure started in Paris and has led them through over 30 countries, first to northern Africa, then to Eastern Europe, Central Asia and eventually Eastern Asia, where they got stuck in Japan for 11 months due to the pandemic. On the way they passed through many awesome parts of the world, including places like the Wakhan Corridor in Afganistan, which looked absolutely beyond adventurous. During this trip they had to change route plans a few times, either due to political situations, but lately mostly due to the pandemics. Their attempts to reach Australia from Japan have all been unsuccessful but therefore they now found a country which accepted them – Taiwan! Taiwan, as well as Japan, never imposed any strict lockdowns and restrictions, so they are quite free over there. They plan to stay a minimum of 12 months in total, then they will see where the road takes them.
It´s been exactly 2 years since Charlie and I bought our Defender and before buying it we were following a couple of overland travellers, mostly on Youtube. That´s when we discovered GrizzlyNbear and I can honestly say, they are one of my favourite channels still today. During our lockdowns here in Europe it feels even more refreshing and motivating to follow someone living their dreams. I´ve watched all of their YOUTUBE videos online and there´s really so much interesting and useful information on top of them being genuinely likeable, funny and to easy to watch. Not only do they love off the beaten track places, they are also enthusiastic rock climbers and overall outdoorsy people with a passion for adventure, unique experiences and cultural understanding, so it´s really a joy following them. Check out their INSTAGRAM for more travel inspiration.
@thespicytravegirl | FROM CHINA TO PERU, USA, PAKISTAN AND ISTANBUL
Arabela was in her second semester as an international student of undergraduate studies in China, when the pandemic hit in January 2020 and she had to abruptly pack up everything and leave the country. She then spent most of February in the Peruvian Amazon, went on to five months home quarantining in California and left for Pakistan on one of the first international flights into the country. She spent the next 6 months in Pakistan, first due to love with only one person but ended up falling in love with the entire country. In this time, she got to explore all parts of the country, from megacities to super remote and restricted areas as there was almost no lockdown at all and life seemed to be as usual as always. Due to visa and personal concerns, she now found her new temporary base in Istanbul, which has an excellent flight network besides being a great city. I can only imagine how difficult it is to have a long distance relationship right now, especially if you need to apply for visas on top of everything. Arabela plans to return to Pakistan in a few months, but otherwise has no fixed plans for the near future other than eventually continue her studies either in China, when the government will allow it, or in the US. I guess keeping things flexible is a wise decision in these unpredictable times.
Being only 19 years old and already so independent, Arabela is German – Peruvian by blood, has visited over 50 countries (mostly on her solo travels) and lived in some of them – I guess it is hard to be more international, right? I´ve been following her for a while now and really admire her for everything she´s doing. I´m sure there´s lots more to come. She´s sharing her everyday adventures on INSTAGRAM, but you can also find more travel related posts on her WEBSITE.
@camperden | TRAVELLING EUROPE LONG TERM WITH THEIR MOTORHOME
Nastja, Rok and their dog Šnofka, have been traveling Europe with their motorhome since the end of October 2020 and are currently somewhere near the city of Cadiz, Spain. On the way from Slovenia, their home country, to Spain, they only stopped in Monaco, then spent the last 3 months exploring hidden spots on Spain´s east and south coast, of course including visiting some of the more known cities such as Barcelona, Alicante, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Rondo, Cadiz and others. Time is no limit on their journey, so their trip will last as long as their savings allow it to. They say this kind of overland travel is a good choice right now since there are significantly less tourists and crowds everywhere, the locals in Spain are friendly to foreigners, and as campers they had no problems so far with crossing Spanish regional borders. The situation in this part of Europe is getting slightly worse though, so they gave up on entering Portugal and are heading towards the Atlantic coast through central Spain instead. Later on in the spring, they want to continue along the west coast of France and further north, to Scandinavia and the Baltic countries before eventually heading back to Slovenia via Eastern European countries.
I have been following Nastja and Rok since they left Slovenia last October and I have been ever enjoying watching their sunny impressions from the road ever since. There are many more awesome countries ahead of them and I hope now that the warmer months are approaching, the situation regarding crossing borders and travelling between EU countries will be easier. You can follow them on INSTAGRAM (for English speaking) and their WEBSITE (for Slovenian speaking only).
Ending this post with a huge thank you to each and everyone of you for participating and taking your time to answer my messages and questions. I sincerely hope you all get to continue your journeys without additional major disruptions. You have all been a true motivation and a joy to follow for many of us in the past year, while making our lockdowns less boring! Cheers 🙂