Covid 19 officially altered my travel plans in March 2020, but I had no idea what was about to unravel from this unknown pandemic. Would I have to go home? Could I just hide out in a forest until it blew over? Would vanlife be over for good after just two months on the road? Many people probably assume I've never had to deal with a lockdown during this pandemic, but truth be told, I was locked down for seven weeks initially in Spain, which had one of the strictest lockdowns last year, before many other European countries followed suit, and another one again a year later although much less strict.
Whilst in Spain in March 2020, I kept an eye on the restrictions and made some vague plans of what to do once I could freely move around again, but too ended up changing. You see, before this, I had made it to Sagres, the bottom of Portugal, when the police ordered all campers and holiday makers to leave and return home, but I knew if I went home, I probably would end up getting stranded on the island indefinitely, which I tried to avoid. Instead, I stayed with friends and when news came that restrictions were easing, I planned to move around Spain a bit to explore, and maybe even go back to Portugal, however, these countries still seemed rather strict and the border between them was still closed, so I needed to plan differently. My idea to travel South quickly changed to North- way North.
From Scandinavia I continued to Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Greece where I spent the winter, just in time for another lockdown. Luckily in the Peloponnese region of Greece, the numbers were relatively low, and there was a vast amount of wild land to park up and be safe. The locals were very tolerant and friendly and for the most part, the police left you alone.
2- World famous beaches and sites were isolated which gave me a once in a life time experience
3- Lockdowns helped people bond and form community vanlife groups
4- Locals were extremely friendly (in most places) given the situation
5- Roads were relatively empty or little traffic at least
6- Life was as normal in certain countries, when others were in strict lockdown (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway)
2- In Greece for instance, travelling was only allowed for essential reasons and in written form (no one ever checked us in 6 months though)
3- Planning your next step was difficult as the rules changed constantly
4- PCR tests became mandatory for many places and travelling onwards had to be planned carefully (more so in 2021 than 2020)
5- Many countries closed their borders fully, making it tricky to get from A to B
6- The option just to 'go home' was no longer an option without breaking travel rules, paying for mandatory hotel quarantines etc.
Its worth knowing that sometimes you can have everything organized and no one will check your documents and just wave you through and then sometimes you may have read that nothing is required but you could be questioned and asked for documents on the spot. Nothing can be planned but I have learned just to have everything in order just in case- Its better to be safe than sorry. (Or refused entry or fined)
The good thing is that as I write this in Bulgaria in June 2021, many EU countries are relaxing their restrictions and welcoming tourists back for the summer. Vaccines are being widely distributed which is allowing more freedom, but I would not suggest getting this just for freedom, when a simple negative test will do and as long as a vaccine passport allows a negative test option, then that will be my ongoing plan.
Travelling during a pandemic has not been hard at all despite the rules and what the media talks about, but without seeing for yourself, It may seem daunting. 2020/2021 so far has been a crazy ride, travel wise, but for me, I am lucky enough to say that the pandemic allowed me to travel more than I had even intended back in Jan 2020. Just like following the sun, I ended up travelling to countries with the most relaxed rules, just like many others, and It has turned out to be a safe and fun adventure.