When news of the coronavirus began to circulate in January 2020, many Brazilians had been traveling on vacation or traveling the world for months, if not years. With little information and growing fear, they had to decide whether to return to Brazil or stay on the road.
In the midst of repatriation flights, some have assessed, by comparing data from where they were to that of the country of origin, that it was worth continuing their travels. Priscilla Bittencourt, 34, and Henrique Almeida, 36, were in India in December 2019 when the first cases in China emerged. Since they thought it would be a one-time thing, they followed the script. They traveled to Thailand in late February and arrived in Cambodia in early March – the WHO declared the situation a pandemic on the 11th of this month.
The first stop in Cambodia was in Siem Reap (318 km from the capital Phnom Pehn), one of the main national tourist spots due to its temple complex. “It was a different visit, because it is usually very crowded, with many Chinese tourists. It had a promotional price, and it was already possible to feel the effects of the pandemic, ”recalls Henrique. The thud came when they arrived in the capital. “People wore masks and watched, with suspicious eyes, because we were strangers.
As they had been on the road since May 2018, the entrepreneurs had already planned to visit family and friends in Brazil in August of last year and purchased round-trip tickets – in the end, the airline has canceled tickets. It was also possible to reverse a flight organized by the Brazilian Embassy in Thailand. However, betting that the health crisis would subside in the second half of the year and that they could resume their journey through Southeast Asia, the couple opted to stay.
There they met other Brazilians, with whom they remained isolated on an island until June. Then, they spent six months on the mainland and since December, they have been roaming the Cambodian islands. Now, after a year in the country, the two have gone to the United States.
On the road since February 2019, travelers Larissa Chilanti, 30, and Charles Marsillac, 32, were also in Asia when the coronavirus made headlines. While the yoga teacher planned to continue in India, the designer and video editor preferred to cross borders before it all got worse.
“I was worried, I thought it could be a more problematic country, due to the lack of hygiene and basic care.” Among the destinations evaluated, they chose Thailand, due to the country’s healthcare system.
They followed the news from Brazil and, comparing with the low death and case rates in Thailand, they doubted their return. Despite this, they were still in contact with the Brazilian Embassy regarding the repatriation flights. The first information was that the return would cost 10,000 reais per person, which was a large part of their savings. When the possibility of a free flight presented itself, the couple had already given up on their return. The Thai visa, originally from three months, has been extended to six. Later, the delay increased, but Larissa and Charles had already made arrangements to move to another country and travel to Turkey. From there, as the options were few, they went to England.
In London, they tried to stay as keepers of the house and animals whose owners are not in town. In January, UK borders were closed in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, which thwarted residents’ travel plans. The couple ran out of options to continue in the country and returned to Brazil in February. “We have been very privileged to continue to travel during this time,” says Larissa.
Rafael Dallacqua, 34, returned to the country in May 2020, after two years of travel. He had been in Saudi Arabia for a month when a lockdown was declared in early March.
According to the initial announcement, the airports would be closed for 15 days. The economist then decided to wait for this deadline to cross by land to the United Arab Emirates, but the borders remained closed after two weeks. “If I had known that the situation would be like this, I would not have waited, I would have tried to leave in a hurry, bought a ticket for any other country that had not declared a lockout or had returned to Brazil . “
Back on a flight with Brazilians who were in the Middle East, he still hoped things would improve in a few months and he could resume his trip around the world. The scenario followed the same, and he gave up, because it is “a trip with less contact with people and several restrictions”.
The pandemic also surprised journalist Marina Pedroso, 28, who was starting her trip to Africa when the health crisis erupted. She arrived in South Africa in December 2019 and, after visiting Mozambique, went on a three-week safari and expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
While on tour, he ended up logging out, as his cell phone was out of service the whole time. The thumping sound came when he received a signal. “Australia on fire, locust invasion in Africa, snowstorm in Europe and this virus.” At the hostel, he befriended a Chinese woman and living with her showed the severity of the pandemic. “His return flight had been canceled and no other country was willing to give him a visa. She was stuck in Tanzania – and she hadn’t even been to China in recent months. “
At the end of February last year, Marina visited Kenya, and about 20 days later there was a warning of the first case of the coronavirus in the country. As she was involved in a social project and awaited donations from Brazil, she was unable to cross the border until a lockdown was imposed. Fortunately, an Indian he had met found himself stranded in his home country and loaned out his apartment on the coast.
While plane tickets to Brazil cost around R $ 20,000, the 20-day Kenyan visa was being extended. In total, he spent nine months in the country. Comparing figures from Covid Africa and Brazil, he felt it was safer to stay there. With no prospect of repatriation, he went to Ethiopia. The day after purchasing the ticket, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a bombing of Tigray province, on the border with Eritrea. A month later, Marina traveled to Egypt, where she has been since December.
The Brazilian has already understood that in order to continue on the road, she must adapt her plans – or let them go completely. “There is no way to stay traveling, you have to know the policies of each country, the level of openness.”
Despite the continuation of the trip, Marina also faced grief, indirectly linked to Covid-19. She was going to meet a friend she had made on the road, also the Brazilian Rachel Varoto, who did not show up. When they spoke, he found the knowledge was not going well. A few days later, I learned of Raquel’s death.
She had malaria, but the doctors thought it was Covid and were afraid to see the traveler.
“I had the privilege of spending two months near the sea. At the same time, that does not mean that it is easy, those who continue to travel do not disrespect the measures. There are protocols to follow, PCR tests, quarantines. “