If you know our family then you are aware that we are full-time world nomads traveling with our toddler. We are also US Citizens however, we don’t live anywhere other than where are at any given moment.
Our 22-year-old daughter, Alex, now lives in Seattle and, our 18-year-old son Sam lives in another country.
Shawn, Sebastian and I were in Japan all of December and left on January 9th. At that time we hadn’t heard anything about the Coronavirus or Covid-19 in the news. Pandemic wasn’t a daily word – yet.
Our first stop, after leaving Japan, was Serbia where we stayed for a couple of weeks before making our way to several Central/Eastern European Countries. During this time we’d heard reports of the Coronavirus being in China, then Japan and Korea. We were a bit concerned for our son of course and just told him to make sure he washed his hands more and kept his distance from people whenever possible.
A few weeks later, all we started to see and hear were reports on the Coronavirus – The Coronapocalypse
Then Seattle was being HIT as was most of Europe, especially Italy. The concern we had wasn’t about getting sick now, it was about how it would affect Alex and Sam as well as how it would affect our travel.
At this point, the reports on the news were really expressing how this was not affecting anyone under 60 and that no children were getting it.
We also had plans to take a week-long trip to Seattle to visit Alex mid-May. She, and we, were excited and we figured out the best flights and everything. It was also at this time, when Seattle became the US Epicenter for the virus, that we realized that we might not be able to even come to the States or, once there, would we be able to leave again? We had to make the difficult decision to put that trip on hold. We were all sad but it was the best decision for all of us…especially seeing what is happening now.
We went about our travel plans and then came to Poland on February 26th. Our plan was to stay here for only a couple of weeks before heading to Germany and then to Italy.
Well, as soon as we made it to Warsaw on March 2nd, the virus spread faster and I started getting messages from the US Embassy in Warsaw as we are enrolled in the S.T.E.P.S. Program. And, if you are a traveler of any kind and take trips outside of the US, you MUST enroll and use this program! I wrote a post about the STEP Program to help you.
I posted this on YouTube, March 5th, 2020.
More and more reports of the Corona Virus spreading made us change our plans. We decided to skip Germany and Italy this go round and instead travel to Greece.
Shawn was turning 50 on March 22nd and wanted to be on a Greek island for his big day.
As the days grew closer, the panic spread around the world. We were scheduled to leave Poland, by Plane, on March 14th to Athens, Greece.
Italy was now on Lockdown. The United States was starting to see cases rise up and almost every country in the world was now talking of closing borders and doing lockdowns.
2 days before our flight Shawn wakes me, a bit panicked and stressed out. He couldn’t sleep well. He thought we were making a bad decision and didn’t want to get stuck on an island somewhere. Should we go to Greece and find a place to stay put or just stay here in Warsaw, where we already were, and just wait things out.
We could also fly back to the states but we didn’t want to go back there. We’d love to be with our daughter but we were hearing reports of crazy things like toilet paper hoarding, diapers being sold out everywhere, and just other insanity. That is NOT where we wanted to be.
So, we canceled our plans and found a new Airbnb to stay in Warsaw. Again, this was 2 nights before we were supposed to fly out. I found a place to stay and the next night (the night before we were supposed to check-in) we received a message that it was canceled due to a Quarantine from the Coronavirus. WTF?
I had to find a new place to stay – fast.
That same night we also got word that Poland would be instituting closure of all bars, Restaurants, (Except for take out), Stores, Malls, schools, etc. for 10 days and that as of March 15th there would be no International flights into or out of the country and that all borders by train and bus would be closed to anyone, not a Polish Citizen or with the proper paperwork.
Shawn and I feel really good about our decision to stay in Poland for several reasons but, honestly, the best reason is because of survival. The Polish can survive anything. Anyone recall World War 2? The Holocaust? Revolution? And so much more.
In all seriousness though, we feel quite safe in Warsaw. We are in a very metropolitan area and already are familiar with the grocery stores, how things work here and more.
So, now it is late at night on the 13th of March (Friday the 13th to be exact) and I’m now freaking out a bit hoping that the apartment I book and paid for (with no cancellation available) had a stove and everything we needed for a quarantine. Thankfully, when we arrived the next day it was perfect for us. It also has an amazing view of the Palace of Culture and Science.
I posted this video the day after we moved to our 2nd Airbnb in Warsaw. It was on Sunday, March 15th.
Today is March 27th, 2020. A LOT has happened in the past 2 weeks
Shawn is now 50 and we ordered Uber Eats TWICE that day. We had only done so once prior in the 3 weeks here in Poland. Not the way we’d imagined spending this milestone birthday but it was a great day nonetheless.
In just 2 weeks, most countries of the world have closed their borders or are finally doing so now. The United States is now knee-deep in the Coronavirus and is, as of last night, the country with the largest number of documented cases of Covid-19 in the entire world.
RESTRICTIONS IN POLAND
Poland has also put down more rules and declared a national lock-down and stay-at-home order for all citizens, and non-citizens within its borders. This means that Social Distancing is now required and if you are seen on the streets in a group of more than 2, Families are exceptions, then you could be fined.
MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS: On March 24, the Polish authorities announced new restrictions on public movement through at least April 11. All public gatherings, events, and reunions are banned. No gatherings of more than two people are allowed in public, except for family groups (for example: two parents and two children walking together would be allowed). Public transport will continue to operate, but no more than half of the available seats may be taken at any given time, i.e., if there are 70 seats on a bus, only 35 people may be on the bus at the same time. You may be fined up to 5,000 PLN for violating the restrictions on public movement and gatherings.
The following activities are exceptions to the restrictions on public movement:
· Commuting to and from work.
· Traveling to purchase goods or perform services connected to your employment.
· Essential activities of daily life, such as shopping for food and medicine (for your family or for others under quarantine), seeing a doctor, taking care of relatives, or walking your dog. The Health Ministry confirmed that activities like jogging, cycling, or walking are permitted. For all of these matters, you may only move in a group of up to 2 people and must maintain social distancing of 2 meters (approximately 6 feet).
· Religious events may include up to five people, but the government recommends participating in religious services online or via radio or TV.
· Previously announced restrictions regarding schools and shopping centers remain in effect. All large shopping centers are closed, except for supermarkets and pharmacies. Restaurants and bars are closed, except for delivery and take-out services. All entertainment and cultural venues, such as theaters and museums, and all schools and universities remain closed until further notice.
THE CORONAVIRUS IS EVERYWHERE
Covid-19 has now been confirmed in healthy people from infancy to those in their 40’s and has even ended up in hospitalizations. Now, almost half of all cases in the world are reporting that not just the Elderly are being hospitalized.
There are, as of today, 1,244 reported cases of Coronavirus in Poland with 16 deaths total. The US has 85,749 and 1,304 deaths. Worldwide, the number of total confirmed cases are at 549,430 with 24,872 deaths.
We are concerned for Sam and Alex but they are both surrounded by a great support system of friends and co-workers who are looking out for them.
I told both of them to make sure to take great care to truly social distance. We are doing the same, for them.
Here’s the thing. If they get sick… we can’t get to them. Sure, we can take the next plane to the states but then have to quarantine ourselves for 14 days and couldn’t go see Alex or help her, even if we wanted to.
Then there is Sam. We are not citizens of the country he is in right now so we can’t go to him if anything happens. Period.
And us. If something happens to us, neither of them can get to Poland because of the borders being closed to them.
I made it super clear that they, and we, have an obligation to one another and the rest of the world, to do our part and not spread the virus or catch it.
We also have another issue. Our Schengen Visa-Free time is up on April 28th. Want to know what that even means? Check out this post and video about Schengen Visa-free rules which explains it for dummies.
And…we also have a Schengen issue
I’ve been in contact with the US Embassy in Warsaw regarding the Polish Government’s stance on overstaying our visa-free time here. So far there is no definite word on what we need to do. There is a normal procedure that we’d be required to take in normal circumstances but during a pandemic, there is something called a force majeure that is enacted which basically means “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.”
The current ban is set to potentially lift in Poland on April 11th, the Saturday before Easter. In many parts of Europe, their bans are set until April 17th.
We are booked in our current Airbnb apartment until April 15th. We are waiting to see what happens in the coming weeks before booking here beyond that. In the meantime, we are trying to bake with Sebastian. Play Playdoh. Work. Play some more. Nap. Work. Watch the news.
We also appreciate how fortunate we are when we see and hear about so many others who are sick, dying, stuck abroad in a bad situation, etc.
Many of our friends who are travelers have gone back to their homelands to wait out the Coronavirus as many of their plans were upended by the virus. We’ve heard that Airbnb canceled many stays, car rental contracts were suspended and with all the flights being up in the air, or canceled and people being concerned with either not getting out or being quarantined if they don’t get out soon, they headed to their homelands.
When I say “Stuck”, we really aren’t stuck in the way you might think.
Shawn and I are so fortunate to be full-time travelers with options. Having no permanent home, in this situation, is actually a blessing. We were able to choose where we wanted to be for a quarantine. We have the means to afford to stay here. We already work remotely so it’s not affecting our personal business and, as of now, the Direct Sales company we work with as Independent Consultants, is considered and Essential business that can remain open. If our business closed then we would start to panic a bit.
We have no friends or family here (well, one friend Piotr) so it’s not like we have anyone to hang out with anyway so we are always isolated in a way being travelers.
Keeping a toddler busy while self distancing during a quarantine
A negative is that we don’t have many outlets for Sebastian. Being almost 2 1/2 he’s BUSY. He is used to going to a playground daily, in addition, to play areas in the mall and to the park and just getting a lot of exercise. Having few toys (we keep buying stuff from the grocery store), no backyard to play in and not being able to play at the playground have made him a bit whiny and grumpy. We let him jump on the bed and climb all over the couch here which is something he’s never allowed to do normally.
We did have the police called on us because apparently, we were too loud for our downstairs neighbor. The police came by and questioned us being travelers and how long our visas were and such…and then Sebastian pops out and says “What are you doing Mama?” and the police look at one another, smile and realize that HE is a noise maker. They were super nice and asked us to try to keep him a bit quieter if we could but they also recognized that it would be hard to do with everything closed for kids. THIS is why he is allowed to jump on the couch and bed now.
Other than this, we are just a bit bored with not having much to do other than going on walks and maybe for a little excitement ordering some Uber Eats.
What’s next for us?
While we love Poland (it really is a wonderful country with fantastic people and this is our 4th city visited), we are already chomping at the bit to go somewhere else when things are all clear.
We were out for a walk yesterday and thought of how much harder it would be to deal with the shutdowns if we were in SE Asia. Normally we don’t get a full apartment with a kitchen. At most, we end up with a stand-alone refrigerator and microwave. If everything closed down, like it has here, then we would be in a pretty sucky situation. We really lucked out being in this part of the world at this point in time.
Again, we are very lucky. We have lots of options currently. We are safe, healthy and have enough toilet paper in all our stores that if we start getting down to 1 or 2 rolls, we can easily stroll into the closest one and pick up as much as we need.
We hope you are all safe, healthy, have everything you need and are in a good place to ride this thing out. It could last a few more weeks or through Summer.
I will never forget that 2020 was the year Shawn turned 50; there was a worldwide Pandemic where Corona beer is now forever smeared; toilet paper was once almost extinct; all parents became home-school teachers; everyone wants to know who the Tiger King is and what those crazy memes are all about; any job can be done virtually; and all doors could be opened with feet, shoulders, and elbows.
What will you remember about this period in time and how the Coronavirus affected you?