The grim reality of traveling in 2020.
I am half-way through ’14 days of isolation’ in Skopje, North Macedonia.
Having been stuck in Kenya for almost four months, I took an evac flight from Nairobi to Belgrade via Amsterdam.
Since then I have been travelling slowly around the Balkans, wearing my mask and practising social distancing.
Of course, it’s not possible all of the time unless you live in a cave and grow your own food.
I knew the cases were on the rise and I upped the ante regarding social distancing but my luck ran out!
You do what you can but you cannot control what others do and eventually you will meet someone who was reckless or just unlucky.
There is nowhere you can hide. It will get you eventually.
I turned up in Skopje and a guy in my hostel had just been for a test as he was going to Greece via Bulgaria.
The next morning he checked out and went to pick up his test result before continuing.
At around 7 pm, the owner of the hostel came to inform me that the guy going to Greece had tested positive for Covid-19 and that I was required by law to isolate for 14 days.
Guilty by association.
The owner was angry with him for staying in a dorm room but I said, “You could be positive, I could be positive. Without taking a test, we just don’t know for sure.”
He said that there had been a handful of travellers this season who had taken the test before crossing certain borders but he was the first one who returned a positive result.
It just so happened that he had a few private rooms upstairs separate from the hostel. Even with a bit of a discount, the room charge still hurt!
But what could I do? I just had to suck it up.
Double bed, own bathroom, Wi-Fi, TV, and balcony but no place to prepare my food. Dang. I didn’t even have a kettle.
So the owner told the health department of my new location and they answered my question regarding the possibility of going to the shop to get supplies.
This was a firm, NO. I would have to order it through some food delivery service with which they would help me.
And, of course, I knew about the likelihood of random checks. I had enough problems — I didn’t need problems with the local authorities, as well.
Rather ominously I was given the number I should call if I developed any symptoms.
I imagined that the days were going to be long and boring, but actually they aren’t too bad. At least not yet.
One way that I stayed sane in Kenya was by creating mini-projects, primarily on my blog. I wrote heaps, read a few eBooks, started cooking.
This time around I had plenty of editing to do.
This 14-day isolation was same same but different. I was bound to my room. At least I knew it was for only two weeks and not a never-ending wait like in Kenya, but for someone who likes doing stuff not being able to go out was soul-destroying.
I practised some deep breathing techniques as seen on YouTube by Wim Hof.
This is the reality you face when you live on the road; always in a country that is not your own and something like this happens.
How I wish I had stayed more nights in Prilep.
I worried too about what would happen if I developed symptoms. What would I do? Would I make the call? Or just hide here hoping I was strong enough? And if not?
And seeing as the guy was positive, did this automatically mean I was too? I had kept my distance from him but how much does it spread in a room over a night? He wasn’t showing any symptoms and if the primary way it transmits is through breathing in infected water droplets, he wasn’t sneezing either.
Noticeable parts of the first week:
Day 2: I had a bit of a panic attack. My heart started racing. Too much cola probably. I was also wearing my lightweight duvet jacket inside, as I had the door to my balcony wide open, and it was a bit chilly and I got all sweaty. Was it Covid or the mind playing tricks? It’s natural to think the worst, isn’t it?
Am glad I had a friend to call. Thanks, Sarah.
Day 3: The Health Department called me up, doing their job, making sure I knew the rules of isolation etc and on showing signs of symptoms I was to call them and that I would then be tested, and if I needed to be hospitalised it was all covered under their health service. What a relief!
And apparently, after the 14 days I am free to go. Just like that. Though I am required by law to mask up when I am around others. No worries there. I’ll be wearing double masks.
So I carry on sitting it out.
I always have at least one worry! Hoping that Skopje doesn’t go into lockdown before my days in isolation are up. Now that really would be a disaster.