Although we sort of started our Jolly Hobos journey in 2019 with a month in Japan and some time in Calgary, 2020 is really the first year of our full time travel adventures.
2020 was all planned out from Jan 1 to Dec 31 with all flights booked, Airbnb booked and everything in between. We considered Mexico our first "true" destination in our slow travels. We arrived into San Miguel de Allende in early December for a 12 weeks' stay. Everything went great and we had a wonderful time there.
During our second month in Mexico we started to hear the stories emerging from China about the Novel Coronavirus, and of course made the obligatory jokes about not drinking Corona beer.
By the time we left Mexico on the leap year day (Feb 29) the Coronavirus was starting to get a bit more serious and was seen spreading around the world. Some countries were starting to ban flights and borders were looking to tighten up.
At that stage our next destination was looking pretty good, not many case were reported so we felt comfortable about our travels to - Spain!
We arrived in Seville at the beginning of March and enjoyed two weeks of sunshine and tapas bars. The streets were vibrant, and the shops, restaurants and bars all heaving with people - life was grand!
Then it all came tumbling in. On that Saturday everything simply stopped - no people in the streets, shops, restaurants and bars all shuttered - Spain was in lock down. We were sequestered away in our little apartment, only allowed out once a day to do grocery shopping.
The prospect of being locked in a small apartment with no sunshine was not appealing. We decided to say goodbye to Seville earlier and move on to our next destination - Croatia. However after three separate flight cancellations, we were only able to make it to England as Croatia shut its borders.
The day after we settled into this quiet cozy apartment, UK went into lock down. Lucky for us, different to the rules of the Spanish, here we were allowed outdoors to exercise every day. That has been a savior of our mental health and waist lines as since then we have been walking at least 10km/day in our local forests.
Thibet Woods in Bracknell Forest
Despite the initial relief we felt after "escaping" Spain, soon we got anxious as to when/whether we could get to Croatia and if we could continue with our travel plans. Every announcement from the EU brought on hope or anxiety, optimism or pessimism about our ability to start to travel again. It was like flipping coins each day.
Then one day around mid May we saw hope - desperate for tourists to come back, Croatia announced that EU tourists were allowed in. Immediately we booked the first flight over, but only got cancelled one week later. Being optimists, we booked another flight straight away, this time with Croatia Airlines, thinking they would certainly take us there. We even wrote to the Croatian border police to get the permission to enter the country just to make sure.
Finally relaxed and even happy, we didn't realise another blow awaited us. "I'm sorry, but you are not permitted to travel" was not what we had expected to hear at the boarding gate. But the flight manager (first leg London to Frankfurt) told us that Germany was not permitting any transit for tourists. After much pleading, we were still denied boarding.
Luckily our comfortable sanctuary apartment was still available, and we were able to head straight back "home".
Being anxious to keep the journey going (or because we are hopelessly optimistic) we have booked a flight for June 15th - this time direct London to Split!
Our first year of full time travel sure hasn't started off how we planned. But we keep reminding ourselves that how lucky we have been to weather the storm as we did, and that neither us nor any of our families have been infected by COVID-19.
Read more here to see how we are thinking about travel planning in the era of COVID-19
The impacts of this on travel are going to be huge and probably fairly long lasting. Airlines will reduce the number of routes they fly, pricing will likely go up as a result, locals will be wary of visitors in many places. We hope that the need for tourism dollars will drive a relatively quick turn around to open borders, and hope to be able to continue our journey soon.
Well, we did it! As of last night (15 June), the Jolly Hobos are calling Split home!
Prior to the flight, we were fairly confident that this time around should be our lucky time (5th time lucky?). However, we were not quite right.
When we got to the Wizz Air check-in desk and showed them our passports, the check-in agent immediately asked us to stay aside and wait for their manager to confirm if we would be allowed to fly - they were not sure if anyone with a non-EU passport would be allowed. Armed with the permission-to-entry confirmation email from the Croatia Border Police, we tried to show the agent that we were definitely allowed into the country. But the agent didn't want to listen, simply telling us that we needed to wait until her manager received a confirmation email back from their liaison. So we waited and waited, anxiously and enviously watching other passengers check in without any issue.
An hour later, still no word. Desperate to be proactive, we called the Croatia Border administration and spoke with a gentleman there asking for advice. He was very nice and willing to speak with the airport check-in manager on our behalf to advise them that we would be allowed to enter Croatia. Under our repeat plea, the agent reluctantly called her manager to pass on our request to speak to her. To our disappointment, the manager never showed up. We couldn't do anything else but thanked the gentleman and continued to wait.
Another 30 minutes later, super stressed now, we heard the agent phone rang and then were called over to the check-in desk. She apologised for keeping us waiting and immediately issued us the boarding passes - even with double insurance by hand writing on the passes "approved"!
So that was how we finally got through to the other side of freedom, after three months long waiting and four previous failed attempts.
Let the new adventures begin!