Travel, work and a pandemic

Years ago I saw a Dutch commercial about a guy working on a tropical beach with his laptop. That looked amazing and I knew I wanted to do that one day. And I did, but it wasn’t the same as what I saw on the commercial! 

That is why I want to clear a few things up about remote working. It really depends on the kind of work you do. Paul and I are both online teachers. That means we work with ZOOM calls and can’t really work when we want, because we work with scheduled appointments. That means, working on a beach with a coconut drink in our hand is not a suitable working environment for us.

Finding the right balance

As with a lot of things, you have to invest a lot of time, sweat, and even tears before you can pick the fruits of your labor. Resulting in sometimes not enjoying our travels anymore, because we had no time to explore and enjoy. In the beginning of our career, we worked 7 days a week and didn’t have a lot of time off. Traveling during the pandemic also didn’t make this part easier. In the beginning we lost the balance completely and were working too much, but we are learning to balance our time better, by taking an extra day off and actually doing fun things on our days off.

Traveling during a pandemic

Now this was a huge challenge. When the news came to us about a new virus (this was in December 2019), we were in Da Nang, Vietnam. Not taking it too seriously, because when you read stories like this, most of the time it blows over. (but not this time!) So, we enjoyed our stay here for a few weeks more, and flew to Borneo. Looking forward to days in the jungle and exploring this beautiful part of the world. 

Paul wanted to take things easy and go to the jungle a bit later into our stay, but I had a feeling that we should do it right away, and I was right. Literally 1 day after our trip to the jungle, we were in lockdown! For 4 months!

The upside of being stuck in Borneo: Gorgeous sunsets! The view from our balcony was amazing and we spent many evenings watching the sunset!

While in Borneo, we knew we wanted to go back to Europe. The virus was still very unknown, and because of that we wanted to be closer to our families. In June 2020 we managed to arrange flights to Italy with Qatar Airlines. This was after overstaying our visas, and a few canceled flights. It was the first country in Europe to let people ‘third countries’ back in, but the journey was everything but a smooth ride. 

Part 1 of our journey to Europe

It started in Borneo. We had to go to the Immigration Office to explain why we overstayed our visa. They had us wait for 2 hours, made a note in our passports, and gave us the okay to leave. Arriving at Kuala Lumpur Airport (which was almost empty!), we had to wait for many hours, until our flight left. When check-in started, the lady at the desk told us we couldn’t take this flight because of regulations in Qatar. Oh no! That is not what we wanted to hear! We had all the correct paperwork! What now? I explained to her that we did our research and we knew we were allowed to fly to Rome, through Qatar. She made a few phone calls and finally told us we could board. With only 15 minutes left to board (KL airport is big!), we had to run! And we made it! But pfew, what a stressful start of our long journey back to Europe!

Part 2 

Qatar was crazy! So many people! Not strange, because it was one of the few (maybe the only) airports in the world functioning as a transfer hub. We were waiting for our flight to Rome. After a while the line started moving and one of the ground stewards asked me if I was part of a family. I said yes and pointed to Paul. We had to come with him. He put us in front of a desk, printed out boarding passes and upgraded us to Business Class! What a nice surprise. First time for both of us, and we made the most of it!

We had champagne, caviar (I don’t like fish, but I ate it!), and very comfortable seating!

Part 3 

Last stop: Rome! Again anything but a smooth ride. We had to sit in an Immigration Office, explaining the purpose of our travels, showing all the necessary paperwork. After an hour, we were cleared and had to quarantine ourselves for 2 weeks. Because Brexit hadn’t happened yet, we spent the rest of the year in Italy and Spain. 

Brexit

Later that year another problem occured: Brexit. Paul is British and I am Dutch. This caused an extra layer of difficulty for our travels, because he can’t stay longer than 90 days out of the 180 days in the EU. That is why after Spain we decided to fly to Serbia. From there it was easier to travel around by car in and out the EU.

To be honest, I don’t think we would have traveled to this part of Europe if we had a choice. But we are happy we did. Serbia, the coast of Montenegro, North-Macedonia, and Croatia are all worth visiting! Currently we are staying in Kosovo. To be honest, there is not much to do here, so unfortunately we would not come back.

Did you experience any travel difficulties during Covid-19? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

14 thoughts on “Travel, work and a pandemic

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