I’ve been traveling the world non-stop since 2016. During that time, I’ve seen a lot, but nothing comes remotely close to the events of the past couple weeks.
I don’t usually write many personal posts because I don’t see this as a blog about me. I much prefer creating content that helps you travel the world.
But since so many of you have asked how I am, I wanted to check in with a quick update on what’s happening in my life during this pandemic.
I Have Spent Most My Time Screaming at People to Stop Traveling
For the past week, I’ve been spending most of my time frantically telling anyone who will listen to stop traveling, to find a base, and to hunker down for World War III.
Last Thursday morning I wrote a post titled “What to Do About Your Travel Plans Right Now.”
In that post, I warned of an impeding global travel shutdown and gave specific advice to people on what to do, including this:
If you are anywhere but home, you need to decide if you should stay where you are (potentially for a month or more), or if it is better to go home or somewhere else. If the latter, DO IT IN THE NEXT 72 HOURS. You may not have the opportunity to do so after. This especially applies for international travel, but a domestic travel shutdown in many countries isn’t out of the question at this point either.
It’s crazy to think Thursday was only 5 days ago, and how much has happened since then, but at the time many people were still preparing for upcoming trips or in the middle of travel.
Many people responded to my post to ridicule me, suggesting I was over-reacting, needlessly scaring people, or engaging in “travel shaming.”
But many more people listened and took immediate action. Dozens of people reached out to me to ask for help with sorting out difficult decisions about whether to stay where they, try to get home, or try to go somewhere else.
I spent hours on the phone and writing emails and direct messages, trying to help folks work out what to do.
But as Thursday progressed I remained utterly shocked at the fact that so many other bloggers and influencers were STILL promoting travel even as it became increasingly obvious it was a bad idea.
So on Friday I quickly organized over 90 travel bloggers to write an open letter begging people to stop international recreational travel.
The letter was controversial.
Many bloggers declined to sign, some again saying I was “travel shaming” and sparking panic. They all rely on travel for their incomes (as do I!), and I probably alienated a few of them by being so aggressive.
I feel it is my duty as a travel blogger to give the best advice I can to my audience – even if it’s not the best thing for my bottom line.
And I was super concerned that people could get stranded around the world during a pandemic because they didn’t act soon enough, so I really felt morally compelled to speak up.
Sadly, that global travel shutdown I warned about obviously did happen, and happened fast. Today, virtually every country in the world has significant restrictions on incoming travelers.
I’ve also been heartened by the many people who told me that my advice helped them act more quickly during this crisis.
Everything about this pandemic is breaking my heart right now, but at least when this is all over I’ll be able to hold my head high knowing I did my best for those who follow me for travel advice.
To Stay in Argentina or Go “Home”?
So, in the midst of all of that travel advice-giving, I also had my own personal decision to make really quickly:
Should I stay here in Argentina or go home to Colorado?
That decision came to a head Sunday, when Argentina announced it was closing its borders and the US Embassy told us to either get out first thing Monday morning or plan to stay here for a month or more.
Before this pandemic, my plan had been to stay in Buenos Aires until May, go home to Denver for my sister’s wedding in early June, and then take a trip to create content in Nova Scotia and a few of our other Readers’ Choice Award Winners on the Eastern Seaboard.
My first inclination was to stay in Argentina, but then as I started thinking about it, I got more and more nervous.
Sure, I’m about as experienced a traveler as they come, but being in a foreign country during a global crisis of this scale is scary and comes with its own set of risks.
I worried a lot about the prospect of trying to get healthcare in a system I don’t understand, or about what would happen in Argentina’s already-precarious economy was sent into depression by this crisis.
Plus, what would all this do to the crime and safety situation here? I’ve felt pretty safe to date in Buenos Aires, but who knows if that will hold over the next few months.
And, to top it off, the digital nomad travel insurance provider I use sent an email basically saying that coverage for coronavirus would end in any country subject to a Level 3 advisory by the CDC. As of now, that doesn’t include Argentina, but it could change any day.
On the other hand I watched what was happening in the United States, where the virus has been spreading rapidly.
The Trump administration was acting far too slowly to contain the spread of the virus and I became increasingly convinced that the USA was inevitably going to go the way of Italy. A few days later, that looks even more likely.
By contrast, in Argentina the government has been acting relatively swiftly and strongly.
A week ago Argentina started requiring travelers from Europe and the USA to quarantine themselves upon arrival, then they shut down all borders to the country Sunday night. They also cancelled events a full week ago. Recently they have closed the schools, urged citizens to stay home, and significantly reduced transportation.
The Argentina government has also been running a massive public relations campaign to get health information out about the virus. You can’t go online, watch TV, or drive down the highway without seeing the ads and signs everywhere encouraging people to report symptoms, wash their hands, and stay 1 meter apart.
Heck, I’ve even noticed the government running ads on Travel Lemming through our third party ad provider.
The Argentinian is reportedly still mulling a 10-day lock-down where everyone would be forced to stay at home.
And, importantly, Argentina has done all this much earlier in the progression of the pandemic here than other countries.
As I write this, the official count is only 68 confirmed cases in Argentina (by contrast, the USA has almost 6,000 cases and Italy has 31,000).
The government here seems to have understood more quickly than many that extreme social-distancing measures are an effective way to combat the coronavirus. To be fair, it also had the benefit of going last – of being able to watch how this played out in other countries where the virus spread first. But so did the USA, and it basically sat on its heels.
If we are lucky, maybe Argentina has acted swiftly enough and will go the route of Taiwan and Japan, countries that have mostly evaded the worst of the pandemic, instead of becoming like the USA or Europe.
So when I was thinking about what to do and whether to return home, it was hard to ignore one sobering reality:
When it comes to protecting my health and safety, right now I have more confidence in a foreign government than in my own.
Plus, there are other things to to consider.
First, I have my own massive apartment here in Buenos Aires. It’s a comfortable space, with an adjoining large outdoor roof that gives me an opportunity to get outside even during a lockdown.
In the US, by contrast, I would have to live with either friends or family in a space that is not my own.
The US is also expensive, and right now I’m really hurting financially. Travel Lemming has been my sole source of income for awhile now. With the crash of the global tourism market plus some technical issues I was already having, in two months it has gone from a solid, stable business to a requiring a cash injection just to cover carrying costs.
All of which means I can’t afford to be burning cash right now.
Argentina is relatively affordable, so staying here means more runway as I live off my dwindling savings.
I am a little worried about what happens if my travel insurance is voided. But the thing is that even in the US, my healthcare policy has a $10,000 deductible and the cost of care is much higher – so the reality is that getting hospitalized anywhere is going to cost me unfortunately.
Also, even if this thing lasts for awhile, the Argentina visa policy for US citizens is pretty permissive. I have 40 or so days left on my current passport stamp, and it’s relatively easy to extend that by another 90.
Plus, I was already planning to stay in Argentina for another two months. I have lots of friends here – both other digital nomads and locals.
I have done major work improving my Spanish these past few months, and I’m now at a conversational level of proficiency.
That language proficiency makes me feel MUCH better right now, as I can understand what is happening around me and I know I can communicate in a time of crisis.
So, given all that, I opted to ride this out in Argentina … at least for the next month or so.
I can’t say I’m 100% confident with the decision, but given the information I was working with at the time I think it was the best one.
It was a close call, but at the end of the day, what really sealed the deal for me was the horrifying possibility that me traveling could help spread the virus to others. I don’t want to be a burden on the world right now, and I just think it’s best to stay put and stay out of the way right now.
What’s Next for Me?
That’s the question …
Honestly, I don’t have a complete answer.
In the short term, my plan is to hunker down and totally isolate myself in Buenos Aires while we see what happens.
I have a great apartment. I stocked up on food and essentials. I have some basic at-home exercise equipment. And I have a great support network around me if I need anything.
Most importantly, I am perfectly safe, secure, and healthy.
Please don’t worry about me.
Now, that doesn’t mean it’s all roses of course.
I’m going to have to some hard choices about what to do in light of my recent lost income. Probably I need to find a job, but it’s not exactly like this job market is the best in the history of the world.
But that’s a medium-to-long term problem. For now I have enough savings to subsist for at least a few months.
And I’m an industrious person, so I’m sure I’ll figure something out. Again, don’t worry about me.
What’s Next for Travel Lemming?
Here again, I’m not 100% sure.
The blog is reliant on ranking on Google for traffic, which in turns generates ad and affiliate income.
But since no one is searching for travel guides these days, that means traffic is way down (and income down even further) and will stay that way until this crisis is over.
Even when the crisis is over, it will take some time until people are comfortable enough to travel again.
With that said, I am still committed to keeping the blog going.
In the coming weeks, I’ll do what I can to create content to help you through this crisis.
Some ideas I have include writing about how travel insurance comes into play, books and movies about travel to help pass the time indoors, and how you can start planning flexible future trips now without actually committing to anything.
If you have any other ideas for content that would be helpful to you right now, please let me know!
That’s it for this update!
To stay up to date on the latest happenings in my life – and also get access to lots of extra bonus content to help you travel (you know, when the time comes to do that again anyway), sign up below this post to join my email newsletter.
Stay safe. Stay cool. Stay home.
Cheers from Buenos Aires,
Nate from Travel Lemming