Marooned in a crisis: How the world simply forgot about thousands of stranded travelers in the midst of Covid-19.

Everyone seems all too eager to condemn people who´ve been caught traveling in the wake of the escalating Corona Virus pandemic.

Some of the colorful commentary I´ve heard includes things like:

“Serves them right for traveling.”

“I hope they get the virus.”

“They should be thrown in jail.”

And the list goes on.

However, what most people don´t realize is not everyone just suddenly jumped on the bandwagon of cheap flights and discounted hotel fares in the early days of Covid-19.  In fact, there are thousands of long term travelers who haven´t lived in their home country for years and make a living while being a global nomad.

Not everyone hit the road in the middle of a pandemic.

Sadly, many of them are currently stranded in countries that have grown increasingly hostile to the presence of foreigners.

Back in January, few governments and even less people understood the extent to which this virus would dissolve the clock-work like order of our world. For many who live, work and volunteer in remote areas (especially in developing countries), access to news feeds and the Internet is limited at best.

Only within the last few weeks has the scope of the crisis become clear, which triggered an inevitable tidal wave of desperate vagabonds flooding into their nation´s embassies worldwide.

Though to the horror of many, the window of opportunity to return to their countries of origin had already closed.

With most nation´s borders snapping shut faster than a hurricane shutter in a storm, the result is a population of displaced foreigners who exist somewhere in the limbo of this pandemic. In the best case scenarios, they are being treated with a sort of benign neglect when trying to buy essential items necessary to survive the increasingly aggressive quarantine measures being implemented.

Empty streets under quarantine stretch into an unknown horizon.

However in the worst situations, I´ve heard stories of vendors refusing to sell any foreigners food or supplies, while others have been evicted from their hostels and Airbnbs, due to the stigma circulating that the virus is being spread mostly by foreign travelers.

In India, a Canadian couple was pelted with rocks outside the gates of their own embassy while being shouted at by an angry mob to “go home”.

As you can imagine, many are trying like hell to do exactly that.

Because in the face of the worst global catastrophe of this century, lost and displaced human beings are being treated worse than stray dogs in places where only weeks before, they were welcomed with open arms.

Many places that normally welcome travelers have become hostile now that they´re stuck there. (Ruins of Chan Chan, Peru)

The reality these brave pilgrims are facing at the moment looks pretty grim.

With weeks of quarantine measures ahead of us, it could be a long time before these sidelined adventurers see any semblance of sanity return to the streets of their host countries.

Or embrace their loved ones again.

On the other end of this spectrum of shipwrecked wanderers are those who decided to dig in their heels as the Corona Virus drama began to unfold. I spoke with a friend of mine, who is a long term traveler, in the early days of the outbreak (he´s Polish and living in Thailand at the moment). He was on the fence about returning home and for a very good reason: All the experts were telling people not to travel due to the risk of exposing more people.

Imagine being stranded with nothing but hungry park pidgeons for company.

So that´s exactly what he and a number of others did. They stayed where they were.

I´m sure many would love nothing more than to rush home to their families during these challenging times, but some chose instead to listen to the experts and “go to ground” as strangers in a strange land while facing an increasingly uncertain future.

Having spent years as both a long term traveler and an expat living abroad, I applaud their difficult choice and hope humanity shows them the kindness they deserve in the difficult days to come.

Society quickly forgets that not everyone living outside the 9-5 life is an irresponsible “spring-breaker” just flitting about the globe carefree during a crisis. So I ask that you withhold any harsh judgements about anyone you hear being stuck over seas while traveling.

They may have been abroad for months or even years before Covid-19 reared its ugly head.

Until next time, wash your hands and dream of the day we may all keep wandering freely!