We’ve now officially been in a State of Emergency for a month here in Portugal (although, we self-isolated a couple of weeks before that).
And, while the world has been completely flipped on its head, we’ve somehow found our footing and a sense of calm during the chaos.
Currently, most of the world is at a standstill.
Wild animals are taking over cities.
Pets have their humans home with them fulltime.
Kids aren’t in school.
Couples and families are spending 100% of the day together.
Jobs have been lost.
Lives have been lost.
When has this ever happened all at once?! Certainly not during my lifetime. So naturally, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.
It’s been really interesting to witness the stages that Nick and I have been going through. When I read back on the last update that I wrote, it’s amazing how much has changed in just one month.
Maybe you can relate?
In this article, not only am I sharing what Nick and I have been up to, and how we’re feeling about all of this, but you’ll hear from fellow travellers and digital nomads who are currently abroad as well. They’re in lockdown in places like Colombia, Grenada, Thailand, India and more.
Stage 1: Fear and Panic
In the beginning, for us, there was a lot of fear, panic, and uncertainty — most of which was put on us by third parties.
The Canadian Government called back all citizens. You must return home.
Flights were cancelled.
Borders were closed.
Insurance companies stopped coverage.
Freedoms were being taken away right before our eyes.
A lot of scary words were thrown around — pandemic, lockdown, isolation, quarantine, stranded, cancelled, unemployed, virus, death toll…
Our 90-day allowance in the Schengen Zone would expire in 1 month, and we weren’t sure what would happen when that date rolled around (overstaying can result in fines, and problems returning to the Schengen zone again in the future).
Travelling anywhere during this time would be hectic, stressful and potentially dangerous to our health and the health of others.
What should we do?!
We decided to stay put in Portugal and hoped that the rest would figure itself out.
Stage 2: Stress and Frustration
As the days went by, and the coronavirus started to rear its ugly head in Canada and Grenada, we were getting more concerned about the health and well being of our loved ones in both of our home countries.
I had heard nothing back from the immigration office here in Portugal regarding extending our Schengen stay.
Our expat insurance company was insisting that since it’s a Global Pandemic and because we decided not to return to Canada, that we were no longer covered under our current policy.
Even though we have “expat” insurance (not “travel” insurance) that was purchased well before any of this happened, and were on the road months before anyone was even talking about Coronavirus.
Businesswise, our website traffic was abysmal and our income dropped over night.
No one was searching for travel-related things — but rather, panicking and looking up ways to make hand sanitizer and face masks at home, or how to make meals out of nothing.
People were worried about what would happen to their jobs and livelihood, so it’s no surprise that they weren’t spending money on our online courses and products during a time of financial uncertainty.
Advertising spends were almost zero meaning our ad revenue was lower than it had been since we activated ads on this blog. We lost a couple of clients who paid us a set monthly fee, affiliate sales were way down (again, no one was booking tours or hotels), and sadly, we too had to (temporarily) let some of our team go.
Receiving a 65% drop in website traffic, which ultimately translated to an income drop, was definitely stressful.
But, this is the norm right now for many people around the world, and we’re confident that things will pick up again.
Stage 3: Calm and Clarity
Finally, we came through the fear, panic, stress and frustration stages.
…all within just a couple of weeks!
Currently, for the past week or so, we’ve found ourselves in a place of calm and gratitude.
Everything has worked itself out so far in our lives, as it always seems to.
Our Airbnb host let us know that, due to the pandemic, he had cancellations and we could extend our stay — months if we needed.
Staying in the same apartment that we had been in for the past 4 weeks is comforting during a period of turbulence.
After much back and forth with our expat insurance provider, they sent us amended terms to the policy to include:
“…if you are already at that destination on the date a warning is issued, coverage will remain in effect until your policy expiry date.”
So, we’re still covered!
All of the uncertainty surrounding overstaying our legal allowance in the Schengen Zone was answered as well.
The immigration offices here announced that all documents relating to the stay of foreigners in Portugal will be automatically extended until June 30, and we received direct confirmation from the Canadian embassy in Lisbon via email as well.
Businesswise, while we’re still earning less than pre-pandemic days, things have already started to pick up, mostly in the remote and online work section of our website.
I think (similar to us), people have gone through the roller coaster of emotions and have found a place of clarity. It seems many are now ready to turn lemons into lemonade.
We’re now seeing many people utilizing this downtime to earn a side income, and start projects they didn’t have time for in the past — such as teaching English, taking a course, or starting a website.
Which is actually what we’re doing as well!
We have a couple of new websites on the go and feel really good about them. Nick is also adding weekly videos to our youtube channel and we have another idea in the works.
We’re feeling focused and more productive than ever.
Health and fitness-wise, we’re so grateful that here in Portugal we’re able to go outside to exercise. There’s a nice walk to a leafy green park that we do twice a day, and friends of ours invited us to workout online with them.
Being able to enjoy outdoor activities each day while remaining socially distanced has been a lifesaver (in many places right now, you’re not allowed outside to exercise. More on that below).
There’s a large selection of healthy (and not so healthy) food at the grocery stores, and shopping is a very relaxed, civil affair.
And actually, due to the cost of living being much lower here, we’re spending 75% less than we were on groceries in Grenada.
High-quality Portuguese wine is available for €2.50/bottle (no seriously, it’s really good wine!). If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we are red wine lovers, so this is a nice bonus during isolation.
I believe we definitely made the right choice in staying in Portugal.
Digital Nomads and Full-Time Travellers Abroad
When the governments were calling back their citizens, many travellers and digital nomads were unsure of what to do.
We hold Canadian passports, but we aren’t residents of that country — we don’t have a home there, no healthcare coverage anymore, etc.
Grenada has been our home, but during all of this, they closed their borders.
We know so many people who are in similar positions as us — they don’t have a set “home” and temporarily live in different countries around the world, or they continuously travel.
We know a few couples who hold a different passport than their significant other, so they’d have to split up if they were to return to their country of citizenship right now. So that’s (obviously) not an option.
It’s been interesting to hear from our friends, followers, and fellow digital nomads about their current situations. Here are some of their stories from around the globe.
A Filipina and British National Couple in Mexico
“We are currently located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and they have only started implementing quarantine laws. You’re no longer allowed to go to the beaches and wearing face masks is now mandatory.
Some grocery stores only allow one family member inside and have staff disinfecting the carts as you go in.
We decided to stay in Mexico as both Tom and I hold different passports.
My visa for the UK had expired and he couldn’t fly to the Philippines either. Mexico gives 6-month tourist visas so it isn’t a huge problem for a lot of people. We haven’t heard if they are doing extensions just yet.”
A Canadian and An American in Hungary
Fellow bloggers, digital nomads and friends Sarah and Nathan say:
“We landed in Budapest after fleeing Sicily when the country went into lockdown thinking we’d just be here a week. Then the whole world shut down and we had to decide where to go.
“Home” wasn’t an option as we’re nomadic, plus we’re from different countries (Canada and USA) and the borders were closed. The best plan seemed to be to stay put so we found a nice apartment to ride it out.
We’re allowed out for essentials and for exercise but as we’re in the city center the nearest green space is a 30-minute walk away.
Basically, we stay home other than to grocery shop on Tuesdays and to go for a 2-hour walk on Thursday. Luckily wine is cheap and there’s Wolt food delivery for the occasional pizza!
We’ll be making an appointment at the immigration office to extend our stay in Hungary, but for now, we have more than a month left on our Schengen stay.”
An American in The Philippines
Our good friend Justin lives in the Philippines, and this is what’s going on there right now.
“I’m currently on the island of Negros Oriental in the Philippines and have been since before lockdown. Supposedly our city, Dumaguete, had the first Coronavirus death outside of China, so officials acted much faster than the west and locked us down.
All travel to and from the island was stopped, both flights and ferries, and eventually, we were ordered into mandatory home curfew on April 3rd.
The navy did come around to take out tourists that were stuck and wanted to go home, but I decided to stay, for various reasons.
The first reason is that I’m married to a Filipina, and although we can travel most of the world together, she hasn’t yet received a green card or tourist visa for the States.
The other reasons are that no place is really safe, and at the time, my home country of the USA was not taking it seriously and I figured it would get much worse there. I was right.
Now we are in home lockdown, and we get a color-coded day pass that says when we can go outside, for food only.
Each pass allows for 2 specific days per week, during the hours of 8am to 1pm. It’s a pretty small window but as there are no cases here now, it’s working.
There have been no rushes on grocery stores (the only businesses open), and they have plenty of food and toilet paper available.
When the lockdown was about to happen I went to immigration to extend my visa, and they said that people that overstay their visas because of the travel ban won’t receive penalties or charges.
They said to just stay home and visas would be sorted later. Which is great.”
Americans in Colombia
“We had planned to leave Medellin on March 30th to take the boat trip to Panama through the San Blas Islands. Everything happened so fast – the islands closed, the borders closed, my Spanish school closed, and then suddenly everything shut down in Colombia.
We decided to stay instead of adding to the panic as we had already paid rent and we like it here.
The lockdown has been extended and gotten more intense, though. We can only leave the house one at a time (based on the last # of your ID) for essentials.
They are rotating the days people can go out to give people fair access to banks. This week we can each go out twice but next week only once.
Pretty much everything is closed here except grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Many restaurants are open but strictly for delivery.
We are not even allowed outside for exercise. A fellow nomad was recently fined 900,000 COP ($225) for being out in the park across from their apartment!
Apparently, they’re not going to make a big deal about overstaying visas — after all, there is nowhere to go! But we are very much in a “wait and see” situation at the moment.”
UK Citizens in India
Diane, one of our readers, has reported this from India:
“We are stranded in Goa, India. At first, the lockdown was terrible. It was implemented with four hours’ notice, given at 8:00 pm in the evening to come into effect at midnight.
All shops were already closed and so it wasn’t even possible for people to buy food to get them through the lockdown.
For the first few days, people were out looking for food and water, they had no choice. If the police caught anyone out, they were beating them with sticks.
After five days of that, the lockdown was relaxed enough to allow small shops to open, however, it was only the small shops, most of which carry only basic items such as rice and lentils, and they very quickly ran out of stock.
It’s better now. The stock supply line has been restored, shops are open again and the police have stopped beating people.
It’s still not easy though. Only one person per household is allowed out, there is no provision for exercise — essential shopping only.
The UK has started evacuation flights, finally, but they have approximately 30,000 people to evacuate from all over India, and the flights are prohibitively expensive.
Plus, there are not going to be enough seats for everyone so it looks like we could be stuck here for a while.
We were able to extend our tourist visas until April 30th. Hopefully, they will extend tourist visas again and we can wait it out until commercial flights resume.”
A Canadian in Thailand
One of our readers, and full-time traveller, made the decision to hunker-down in Thailand where he was when things broke out.
On Koh Samui island, the beaches, essential shops, and grocery stores are open. Bars and restaurants are closed, but takeaway is allowed. He can cycle and walk around. And, Thailand automatically extended foreign visas.
Americans in Costa Rica
Diane and David, house and pet sitters and readers of ours, found themselves in Costa Rica during the pandemic, here’s what they say:
“We were only supposed to be pet sitting/housesitting for 5 weeks, but now we’ll be here for 90 days — maximum of our visa.
Costa Rica has been a really good place to be during this time. They took Covid-19 seriously early on. We feel quite “safe” here and are not necessarily looking forward to returning to Arizona.
We’ve been able to go out and take walks. If we go to pass someone, each stays at least 6 feet from others as a courtesy. Everyone seems to be following the dictates.
Everything is closed except for food stores and pharmacies. Even the weekly farmers’ market was closed for 1-2 weeks, but now is open for two days instead of just one, with every other stall occupied. Admittance is monitored and foot traffic within is one-way.
Every store employee is continually cleaning things off. Hand sanitizer in spray bottles with paper towel on rolls everywhere. Most store employees wear masks and hospital-style gloves
Between now and the end of April they have cut driving by 20%; cars with license plates ending in “1 or 2” can’t drive on Monday, ending with “3 or 4” can’t drive on Tuesday, and so on.”
Australians in Grenada
Our close friends, bloggers and travellers, Vivien and Aaron, are currently in Grenada. Here’s their story:
“We’d just spent three days travelling from Australia to Grenada, arriving only two weeks before Coronavirus started affecting flights. Our plan was to be based around the Caribbean for the year anyway, so in our minds we were where we wanted to be.
At present, the island is in full lockdown mode.
No one is allowed to walk outside of their homes except for designated shopping days (2-3 days per week).
Last week, shopping times were separated into surnames. People from A-M could shop between 8am to 12pm and surnames N-Z from 12pm to 5pm.
Shopping rules have now changed to everyone going at once.
Petrol is limited to one day per week.
Except for one parish (state) you have to remain within your area as there are police barricades between them.
Everyone must be inside at home between 7pm and 7am.
There’s no socializing allowed of any kind, so we’ve been pretty restricted. Last week there was no sale of alcohol allowed on the island, but this week you’re allowed to purchase on shopping days and consume at home (without others).
It has been pretty intense, but at least we have a great little apartment with a view of the sea (even though we can’t go down to swim in it). We’ve been focusing on our blog, doing some gardening and staying connected via online chat platforms.
There has been talking of “easing” the restrictions next week. But we’re not sure what that will mean just yet.
In terms of extending visas, we are not sure that’s on the government’s radar just yet. At this point, there are no flights in or out of the country for the foreseeable future. So, no one is going anywhere, even if their visas have expired.”
Canadians in Portugal
Finally, what’s it like here for us Goats?!
The State of Emergency has been extended a further 2 weeks in Portugal (they can only extend in 2-week increments), to bring us to May 2, 2020.
The President is saying they will hopefully start opening up businesses slowly after this 2 week period is up.
Currently, we are allowed out for daily exercise, can go grocery shopping (any day of the week), and the weekly farmer’s market is open again.
We can visit the pharmacy, take public transportation, go to some bakeries and butchers, and order takeaway food directly from restaurants, or on apps such as Uber Eats.
We don’t need any passes to go outside, and we’re allowed out together.
No social gatherings allowed and no going out just because you feel like it — essential reasons such as exercise or food only.
Fingers crossed things open up soon! But for now, we’re thankful for the freedoms that we have.
So, there you have it. One month down, who knows how many more to go.
All I know is I’m so pleased with the way Portugal is handling things, and we feel safe, secure and happy here in Lisbon.
And, thankfully, Nick and I have found our groove during isolation.
We’re comfortable working online from home. We’ve been doing it for years, so it’s normal for us.
We’re completely used to being with each other 24/7, as that’s what we’ve always done since we quit our jobs and started travelling back in 2008.
But, I know that’s not the case for many people during these strange times. My best bit of advice is to just do what feels right for you, and what you need in each moment.
If you feel like sleeping in and watching Netflix some days, do it.
If you need some time away from your spouse and kids, go have a bath, or close the bedroom door and read a book.
If you feel like Spring cleaning your entire house, great.
If you want to research and plan for your next trip, go for it!
If you’d rather start a new side business, project, or creation, then that’s perfect too.
Whatever you’re doing, try to keep active and healthy as much as possible. If you’re not allowed outside, consider joining fitness classes or yoga classes on YouTube.
Mental, physical and emotional health is so important during this time. Check-in on others, help out where (and if) you can, and be kind to yourself.
As always, thank you for being a part of our Tribe!
We really enjoy sharing our story with you, and love hearing from you as well. So, please feel free to email or comment on this post.
Stay safe and well.
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