I woke at 5 a.m., drew the drapes to my cabin balcony, and gasped. Overnight, we had sailed up the west side of the Weddell peninsula to Paradise Harbour, Antarctica. Named by ancient whalers for its protected anchorage, the cove could not have had a more appropriate moniker. The sea was a vast sheet of polished silver. In the ethereal dawn light, it reflected mirror images of jagged black mountains jutting from snow-carpeted flanks. Intermittent patches of sea ice drifted by, glistening pearls cast upon the water. Moments later, a fiery sun crested the mountains, burst through dull grey clouds, and turned the sky to cerulean. The sea deepened to the bluest blue I have ever seen, an indescribable shade hovering somewhere between ultramarine and lapis lazuli. This was not the kind of weather I had expected in Antarctica.
After a carb-laden breakfast, designed to provide extra energy against the polar cold, I struggled into cumbersome layers of protective clothing. Bundled up like the Abominable Snowman, I waddled down the gangway, gingerly made my way down the ship’s metal stairway, and stepped into a rubber Zodiac. Ten guests, one captain, and one guide, we motored away from the ship and into a sea littered with chunks of sea ice. The nose of our boat nudged aside pieces gigantic and tiny, ranging from brilliant white to deep blue, transparent to opaque. Read More
Recently, the Prime Minister of Thailand imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. throughout the country. He added that a 24-hour curfew was under consideration if the number of infected cases didn’t begin to drop below 100 per day. No one knew what that meant. Would we be required to stay inside our homes 24 hours per day? Could we still go for a walk if we practiced physical distancing? Even more importantly, could we still pick up groceries? With rumors flying and no concrete information available, I decided to play it safe. I raced to the grocery store the very next morning to stock up.
I wasn’t the only one who was alarmed. The store was crammed with shoppers, all of whom had the same idea. I raced around, filling my cart with fresh-baked bread for the freezer, pasta, more rice (I probably now have a two-year supply), and most importantly, stacks of packs of sliced cheese. Though I don’t often use paper towels, I threw in a double-roll pack, just in case, and then eyeballed the toilet paper. I’m down to a roll and a half at home, but in three years, I’ve only bought one package of toilet paper. The only reason I ever use toilet paper is to blow my nose. And as you can see by the above photo, there’s no lack of toilet paper on our shelves. Read More
Yesterday I participated in a Webinar organized by Tony and Leanne Argyle of Travatical Magazine that included panelists Ian Usher from House Sitting Magazine and Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith from To Travel Too. The four of us had a fascinating discussion about travel in a Post-COVID world. We tackled questions such as whether or not people will want to travel when the pandemic is under control, which industries are likely to benefit and which may suffer, and what effect this situation may have on the way people will travel.
The Argyles are based in Australia, so the event was difficult for my followers in the Western hemisphere to attend live, as it was broadcast in the middle of their night. However, I’m happy to announce that the full webinar, Travel in a Post-COVID World, was recorded live and is now available on YouTube.
Many thanks to Tony and Leanne for inviting me to be part of this event. I believe they will soon be hosting a second webinar with panelists from the U.S., which will be held at a more palatable hour for Americans and Canadians. To be kept abreast of future panel discussions and interviews, visit the Travatical website and sign up to receive their free magazine.
Most of my followers know that I’ve temporarily stopped publishing travel stories during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, while there may be less interest in my reading about my travel experiences at the moment, I suspect many of us are wondering about the future of travel after COVID-19. Right now, it feels like we’ll never leave town again, much less travel the globe. But at some point this nightmare will come to an end and life will begin to return to normal.
So, what shape will travel take in this new world? What will change for the better and what will change for the worse? Will the travel landscape be sharply different from the one that existed before or will it still be plagued with massive crowds of tourists jockeying to capture that iconic Instagram image?
I’ll be joining an online panel of experienced travel bloggers and experts live this Sunday, April 12, to discuss these very points. I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not even sure I have an informed opinion regarding some of these questions, but I do think it will make for a fascinating discussion! The panel will be broadcast live from Queensland, Australia, at at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. Sydney, 3 p.m. Thailand, 9 a.m. UK, 4 a.m. on the east coast of the U.S., 3 a.m. in the Midwest, and 1 a.m. on the west coast of the U.S.).
There’s a controversy brewing here in Thailand. In a nutshell, Thais are becoming increasingly upset about farang (Caucasian foreigners) who refuse to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 outbreak. For Thais, the decision to wear a mask is easy. Thai culture (and that of most Asian cultures), places the good of society above the good of the individual. As a result, it’s common to see people across Asia wearing a mask when they are sick; they take extra precautions because they don’t want to infect others.
Farang are less likely to wear a face mask. Western culture is more individualistic in nature, with less regard for the good of the whole. We tend to regard masks as a means of self-protection rather than a measure to protect others. Not only has wearing masks never been common in western culture, doing anything that covers up our faces makes many westerners uncomfortable.
Conflicting information coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. and the World Health Organization has further confused the issue. The WHO website currently advises that if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. They recommend wearing a mask only if you are coughing or sneezing. The CDC website states, “CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators (face masks) outside of workplace settings (in the community).” Scientists, medical professionals, and researchers have all said that masks do not protect against getting COVID-19 and, in some cases, may increase the risk because people tend to touch their faces more when wearing an ill-fitting mask. Read More
For the past 13+ years I’ve traveled the world to bring my readers stories about far-flung places. Eight of those years were spent traveling with no home base, just me and my suitcase, going from country to country and city to city. As many of my readers know, about three years ago I decided I wanted a permanent home base again. Frankly, I was tired of lugging around everything I owned. I settled down in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is located in the north of the country. Since then, I’ve continued to travel 4-5 months per year and returned home to rest whenever I’m not traveling. A month ago, that came to a crashing halt. Overnight, I was faced with the prospect of living overseas during the COVID-19 outbreak.
My travel plan for this spring was to spend April in Spain, then go on to Switzerland and perhaps to the island of Crete before returning to Thailand for the rest of the summer. This fall I was thinking about a trip to Mongolia and Bhutan, and a return visit to Nepal to visit my adopted family there. Obviously, none of that is going to happen. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve cancelled my spring travels and realize I may also not be able to travel this fall either. Americans residing or traveling overseas were faced with a decision: “do I stay or do I go?” A couple of weeks ago the State Department issued an alert, advising all Americans to return home or risk staying overseas indefinitely. Since my only home is in Thailand the decision was quite easy for me. This is as good a place as any to hunker down. Read More