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Roamer Roamer

ISSUE NO. 1

APRIL 2020

BACKPACKERS MAGAZINE

WITH AN ENVIRONMENTALLY CONCIOUS MIND


CONTACT US For sumbissions queries please email:

or

feihC-nI-rotidE ALIAL

helloroamermag@gmail.com Or follow us on Instagram and Twitter @roamermag

CONTENT 03 HELL IS US

Backpacking in times Coronavirus. Valeria is Thailand.

of in

08 BANGKOK'S WATER FESTIVAL

TThailand's spring tradition. Katie shares her experience.

WELCOME WELCOME Let's roam the world consciously together! Let's raise a glass to the first issue of Roamer magazine. Hip! Hip! I've been so excited to release this new baby out into the world and for you guys to finally read it. How did it all start? I hear you ask. The idea of wanting to start my own magazine started about five years ago. I'd seen a girl I followed on Twitter post something about wanting to start her own and so she reached out to her followers for content, to which I contributed, and then published it and shared it around. I thought it was a genius idea. Sadly her magazine only lasted two issues, but I thought 'wow, I really want to do something like this'. It wasn't until five years later that I finally figured out what I wanted my magazine to be about and so I came up with this backpackers magazine with an environmentally conscious mind. Sadly, with coronavirus circulating around the world and bringing all travel and adventure to a halt, guides and recommendations are not so wise to share at the moment. So I've tweaked the first issue to share stories and experiences both past and present to both inspire you to stay positive and to give you an insight into how the current climate has affected backpackers at the moment.

So, I hope you enjoy reading this one.

10 GETTING READY FOR SPRING

Jess shares her tips on how to stay inspired and plan your next eco adventure. 11 DISCOVERING IRELAND A unique way to celebrate St Patrick's Day. 15 STALKING TURTLES

Fernanda reviews a tourist attraction in Costa Rica, deamed unethical. 18 BACKPACKING WITH CORONAVIRUS

Andy and Daniele had to cut their trip short. 21 SUSTAINABLE TIPS Five reasons why toiletires are better backpacking.

solids when

CONTRIBUTORS Fernanda Ortega, Valeria Mongelli, Katie Askegaard, Jess Buchan, Andy & Daniele, Jess @bear_in_the_wild, Agnese Santoro


HELL IS US

Bangkok air at 7 am is already fiery. Arriving from the airport, I leave my backpack at the hostel and head to the Royal Palace. There is a park on my way, hosting an outdoor gym. A group of elderly  people just finished working out and is now having a rich breakfast. They offer me some, so I sit at  the table with them. They almost don’t speak English, but are nice and eager to communicate. They  ask me where I come from. When I say that I’m Italian, one of them starts screaming: “Covid-19!”.  Everyone laughs. I also do. However, I see a flash of perplexity in their eyes when I offer my hand to  shake. Later, I will learn than in Thailand handshake is an unusual greeting gesture. They prefer a  small bow, hands joined at the chest. Perplexity was due to this only, then. Or not?  A

few

hours

later,

a tuktuk  driver

immediately leaves when I answer “Italy” to the same question. I start to understand. Here I am the infecter. 

This post was originally published on March 12th (on Valeria's blog), that is before Thailand implemented public measures to contain COVID-19 outbreak. On March 21st, the Bangkok Governor announced that malls, restaurants, food halls and other public venues will be closed to prevent virus spreading. On March 26th, state of emergency was activated within the whole country. Any public and social gathering is now prohibited.


In Italy, before the massive coronavirus outbreak,

The China Grand Hotel is located on Yaowarat, the main

Covid-19 was considered as a “Chinese disease.”

artery of Chinatown. I go in and chat with one of the girls

A distant problem, an issue of people with insufficient

at the reception. She’s kind, but clearly annoyed by my

hygiene

Episodes

questions. She tells me that they still accept many

of discrimination against Chinese were registered

Chinese guests, but none of them comes from Covid-19

throughout the country.

affected regions. Besides that, as a precaution, they take

and

weird

eating

habits.

temperature of all guests upon their arrival. Hand In these days the virus is exploding across Europe.

sanitizer gel is exposed on the reception table.

Many cases are linked to people who travelled to Italy or were in contact with Italians. Hey bacteria-phobic

A few meters ahead is the Thian Fah Foundation Hospital,

Italians, what is it like to know that we are the

Bangkok’s oldest charitable society. It provides free

infectors now? And for me, what is it like to know that

medical care to the indigent. The shrine at the entrance is

here I am the one to look at with suspicion? 

quite crowded. Two nurses take visitors’ temperature; the “idoneous” ones get a green sticker and are allowed to

Thai Chinese community is the biggest outside China.

enter. There are large groups of Chinese tourists, burning

In Bangkok Chinese are 56,000. Here China is a threat

sticks of scented incense and bowing in front of

on the doorstep. However, there are only a few

the statue of Guan Yin, the Buddhist divinity of

reported cases of discrimination against Chinese

compassion.

during the coronavirus outbreak. Why? A way to answer this question may be a trip to Bangkok’s Chinatown. 


"IT'S IN THE AIR, THE SMOKE, THE COUGHS OF PASSERS-BY" Yaowarat is surrounded by a network of little roads hosting indoor and outdoor markets. They are full of people, mostly Chinese and Thai. There are no Westeners around. Apart from me, almost  everyone wears a mask. Respecting any security distance is impossible. I have never been  claustrophobic, but I feel suffocated. After spending around half an hour in this human tunnel, I go  back to  Yaowarat  to take a breath.  I am not very impressionable either. However, I feel like coronavirus is everywhere: in the air, the smoke, the coughs of passers-by. My nose is itching, but I don’t dare to scratch it.  The Chinatown Heritage Center is located within the temple of Golden Buddha, one of the most important of the city. It hosts a permanent exhibition on the history of Chinese community in  Bangkok. The first massive immigration to Thailand dates from 184042, when China lost the first Opium War against the English. Chinese arrived in Bangkok on improvised transports, escaping from  violence and misery. They did the most humble works. However, in a couple of generations, thanks  to the traditional Chinese entrepreneurial spirit, they became incredibly rich. As of today, a big part of Thai economy is in the hands of Chinese. 

There is a passage from the travel reportage A fortune teller told me by the Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani, which may help to understand the economic and social link between the Chinese community in Thailand and its hosting country. During its stay in Bangkok, Terzani writes: “Chinese were the owners of all the shops I saw from the car window, Chinese were the river ferrymen, the owners of the alimentary industries, the skyscraper constructors, the bankers, the  insurance agents, the speculators […].Coming from Southern China, as immigrants escaping from  war and famine, Chinese find themselves better in Thailand than in any other country of South-East Asia. […] Expert artisans, capable traders, Chinese quickly accumulated enormous wealth and slowly  stole the economic control of this city to its first inhabitants, Thai people […].”  Accordingly, Chinese integration in Thailand is economic before being cultural. Maybe this is the  reason why episodes of discrimination against Chinese have been so rare here. Thai are deeply  relying on “these descendants of the coolies, the traders, the poor who for decades crossed the Nan Yang, the South sea, looking for a better life.” And after all, while I am writing, collective perception of risk is changing faster than my fingers on  this keyboard. Today danger comes from the West rather than the East. Thailand has to be  suspicious towards us, white Westerners with pockets filled of strong currency, coming here for warm weather and cheap beer.  Hell is not others. Hell is us. 


During Italian plague epidemic in the 1600s, it was a popular belief that there were people, the untori (literally infectors), who diffused the virus by spreading poisonous substances in public places.  In the novel The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, Renzo, the novel main character, is thought to be an untore and chased by a furious crowd. He manages to escape by jumping on a wagon transporting  infected dead bodies. Wagon workers drive the crowd away by waving a piece of shirt that covered one of the bodies. Tonight  I have to catch a bus. I think of leaving my passport on the seat, well visible. I would sleep  much better if the seat next to mine was empty.

Valeria Mongelli

You can follow her on Instagram @valeria.mongelli Blog is www.backpackingatthetimes ofcoronavirus.wordpress.com


EDITOR'S LETTER Wherever you are, I hope you are all safe and staying positive. Let's take this as an experience - one where other aspects in our lives are valued. A challenge to thrive in different environments. Let's keep planning those trips, supporting small businesses and encouraging creativity.

keep keep

I am no expert, but one thing I know for sure is that it will pass. We don't know how long all this will take but we will overcome it. Things to remember during this time: - Stay active, embrace nature around you - Keep washing your hands - Stay away from the elderly and keep your distance from others - Check up on your friends and family - If you feel ill, stay indoors - Buy from small businesses and dont stock pile


BANGKOK SONGKRAN WATER FESTIVAL Heading to Bangkok to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year, is a travel experience worthy of a top spot on your bucket list. For three days starting April 13th, the streets transform into an epic water battle zone with kids and adults alike armed and ready with massive squirt guns, powerful hoses, and buckets of ice water. It’s truly the pinnacle of frivolity. Traditionally, shops close down and families come together to make new years resolutions, visit Wats (temples and monasteries), and cleanse their homes as well as their Buddha statues.  The water used to wash the Buddhas is collected and trickled over the elderly and children as a blessing to wash away bad luck and rid the person of past sin.   I went with three friends in April 2019 following our Westerdam contract, and it was one of those life experiences I didn’t know I needed until I was in the midst of it.

Our journey began on our tuktuk ride to Khao San Road, a backpacker haven and epicenter of Songkran chaos.   No one is off limits from the water fights, and as we zipped through  the back streets, passerbyers would hurl buckets of water at us and fellow motorists would shoot us down with powerful water guns.  Upon getting to the mouth of Khao San Road, we loaded up with some mid-range weapons and the fun began.    We linked arms, picked a victim, and shot him down ruthlessly.  Full wars broke out between us and other pods of hooligans, and sometimes we would even join forces to take out sly pedestrians who thought they could remain dry. After a couple hours of revamping and waiting for our toes to de-prune, we filled our weapons up as the sun went down and hit Silom road, the craziest wet zone of the city. It was World War III; four year olds were throwing pales of ice water and unashamed old men aimed right for the face with giant water guns.


Playful fighting would spontaneously morph into street dance parties then back into sniper mode once more. After having enough questionably clean water burning out eyes, we hopped into a tuktuk to RCA for more festivities.  Upon arrival, we saw a laser show to the right with blaring music and cheering. The entry fee was $60, a bit high for

four performers heading into unemployment, but it seemed like a worthwhile splurge. I’ll never forget the image of first walking in.   A DJ was blaring music with fire balls going off, lasers flashing, and waterfalls coming down.    Young people were moving to the beat with no cares in the world, most in some sort of intoxicated state.

I looked up and opened my arms wide in a moment of pure freedom as the recycled water pounded my face. It was an experience for the books. You owe it to yourself to experience Songkran.   Just be sure to have a waterproof bag. Katie Askegaard

You can follow them on Instagram @the.frugal.foodies Blog is www.thefrugalfoodies.com


THE ULTIMATE LIST TO GET READY FOR

SPRING SPRING By Jess Instagram- @bear_in_the_wild Spring - It’s a time for new beginnings, a time to refresh and renew, and happens to be one of my favorite times of year. Most places are waking up from winter, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming and the urge to roam is fierce. I know most of us are stuck at home right now, but what better time to start preparing our bodies, minds, and gear for hitting the trails when this all clears up. Below are my tips for preparing in those three areas and gearing up to get out and roam! ONE - Build up an ecobackpacking kit. - Make some easy swaps to reduce your plastic waste. I’ve swapped out plastic bags for @stasher silicone bags for snacks and food. - Invest in recycled gear. I picked some up at @pattagonia -Review proper procedure for going to the lou on trail. I learned that it is different for alpine and high desert environments from @katieboule. So #geteducated! TWO - Get that hiking bod ready. - Join an online workout group. I know a lot of influencers and

people on Instagram have been hosting free yoga, HIIT, and other workouts. Get in on one, you’ll thank yourself later! - Hit short trails in your area and get some fresh area, a safe distance away from others of course. Remembering to always be conscious and ask “what if” questions, especially when traveling alone in the outdoors. This is definitely not the time to have a sport-related injury as hospitals are full and the volunteers with SAR are being overwhelmed. THREE - Throw some positivity at your brain - Meditate, paint, chat with friends. Do something that makes you happy. - Look ahead and plan some trips for the future! I am planning a backpacking trip of the Wonderland trail this summer and hoping to do a couple of days backpacking through Olympic National Park on the coast before the end of Spring. What trips do you want to dream up for summer? So my backpacking friends - get with Spring and hit refresh and renew in your mind, body, and gear. Hope these tips help you get out there and roam (soon!).


Discovering County Clare

Jess Buchan www.ablondeandherpassport.wordpress.com and on find her on Instagram @ablondeandherpassport


The drive took about fifteen minutes through

windy,

stone-fenced

passing

green

paddocks

roads

with

fat

and happy cows. Nelly’s was both a cafe

and

good

restaurant

coffee

and

which

served

delicious

cakes!

We indulged in both and watched a few surfers freeze their butts off in the rather flat sea.

After we

refuelling

hit

the

the

windy

caffeine paths

tank,

again

in

search of the Cliffs of Moher. Gwen had

told

area, the the

us

which

hefty

local’s

a

we

‘secret’

means

parking

official

Euros,

of

you

and

entrance.

parked

backyard

in

with

can

entry For

pretty

parking dodge fee a

much

absolutely

busloads tourists.

at

few a no of

10/10

minute walk

to

recommend. the

cliffs

A

edge

10and

we were looking onto the dark blue Atlantic Ocean.

The Cliffs of Moher are named after

WITH ST PATRICK'S DAY BEING A FESTIVE TRADITION DURING THIS TIME, JESS DESCRIBES HER SHORT BREAK TO IRELAND. The last time I was in Ireland, it was for a very brief weekend for St Patty’s Day. I was there barely 48 hours and during that time was told to visit the Cliffs of Moher at least four times. So, with my return to the country of the leprechauns, I made the Cliffs of Moher a big must-see on the list.

We

had

Doolin

booked

for

two

a

cute

nights

little

farmhouse,

on AirBnb,

near

because

a)

the

we

town

of

wanted

to

explore this area quite thoroughly and b) we were a little sick of being in a different bed every night! Our lovely host Gwen took us in and let us make her home, our home which is always a lovely gesture.

She even went out of her way to cook us a roast dinner and give us loads of information about the area. We woke the next morning to that familiar pea soup fog and chilly weather. We had

a

slow

mornings and we

we’d

ready head

start,

to into

which

been

go,

it

the

was

having. was

a By

coffee

beachy

nice the

time

o’clock,

town

favourite coffee places, Nelly’s.

change

of

we so

from were

Gwen

Lahinch

to

the

early

organised suggested

one

of

her

an old fort which once stood on the southernmost point, Hog's Head.


"WE DEFINITELY HAD THE LUCK OF THE IRISH WITH US"

more

dramatic

cliff

faces

were

incredible

Co.

Clare

to

see

car

to

navigate

the

windy

we

proud of this natural wonder. We definitely had the

paddocks into the Burren.

of

the

Irish

with

us,

as

we

took

a

final

roads

once

again.

Consulting our heavily marked map (thanks Gwen!)

to see, and I finally understood why the Irish are so

luck

so

glimpse of the Cliffs of Moher and headed back to the

The

of

made

our

way

out

of

the

lush

green

farming

the

fog disappeared, and the sun began to shine down

The Burren is exactly the opposite of what I picture

on us.

when

I

Park is

think a

It was a beautiful, clear day – made even better as

landscape

our

what

‘secret’

tourists

we

spot saw

was

free

from

loitering

the

around

hundreds the

of

official

it

of

far we

lacks

Ireland. cry

had in

This harsh,

from been

the

the

driving

colour

rocky

National

chlorophyll-rich through.

green,

it

Though

makes

up

in

history and archaeological feats.

entrance. There were about five other people near Moher

There are over 90 megalithic tombs in the Burren.

seem like we’d stumbled upon something new and

This includes a Celtic high cross, several  ring forts

magnificent.

and the Poulnabrone  dolmen – a remarkable portal

us,

which

made

our

visit

to

the

Cliffs

of

rock While I could have stayed there all day, we had

tomb

which

dates

back

to

the

period between 4200 BC and 2900 BC.

Neolithic


"a side of Ireland that is little-known to tourists and full of hidden gems"

It was such an unusual discovery, I’m glad we had the

local

we

probably

knowledge

of

our

wouldn’t

host

have

Gwen

passed

because

this

area

otherwise. It’s honestly the best way to find out information on an area. By the time we left the Burren, it was past lunchtime,  so we stopped into a small cafe for a quick break before  continuing on.

We

continued

our

drive

until

we

reached

the

funnily named town of Lisdoonvarna. Normally we probably would have driven straight through this small

town,

however

the

decorated

streets

and

hundreds of camper vans caught our eye,  so we pulled

up

and

went

to

check

out, Lisdoonvarna  holds every

year

travel

to

where

a

popular

out.

As

Matchmaker

singles

Lisdoonvarna

Particularly

it

from

in

with

search

turns

festival

near

grey

it

and of

far

love.

nomads,

we

couldn’t help but laugh as we walked down the streets, passing old ladies dolled up to the nines and balding men straightening their bow ties. It was

adorable

and

slightly

weird.

Feeling

like

a

drink, we walked into one of the pubs plastered with menus, flyers and the odd “Single searching for love” poster and order some cider and settled in

to

do

a

bit

of

people

watching. As

the

sun

started to set, we left our pub in search for some dinner we when looked back and realised we had been

sitting

in

the

front

window

of

the

Matchmaker Bar. Why everyone would peer in as they

passed

quickly chasing

suddenly

off

in

us

and

case

made of

found

any

dinner

sense!

We

potential at

a

walked pursuits

small

pub

at

the edge of town, who didn’t seem involved with the festival.

It was a hilarious end to our huge day and by the time we made it back to Gwen’s, we were ready for

some

serious

shut-eye. It

was

so

nice

to explore a side of Ireland that is little-known to tourists and full of hidden gems.


STALKING TURTLES The reason I wanted to visit Costa Rica was its natural diversity, I’d seen pictures of its beautiful landscapes and read about its wildlife. And I was not disappointed for the most part, but my least favourite experience there had to do with one of its most famous natural attractions, the turtle sanctuary and ecological town of Tortuguero. Tortuguero is located on a sandbar on the Caribbean coast, in the province of Limón. The village is part of Tortuguero National Park and it’s difficult to access: you have to get to La Pavona by bus and then by boat to Tortuguero. There’s a Sea Turtle Conservancy research station there which runs different guided tours and expeditions to fund conservancy jobs and research. As soon as my friend and I arrived in Tortuguero, some guys from The Sea Turtle Conservancy approached us to offer us the “eco” tours they offered. We thanked them and walked on, but at the hostel we were told there was nothing to do in Tortuguero other than the activities offered by The Sea Turtle Conservancy. They had various activities— night-walks, canoeing, kayaking, wildlifewatching tours, turtle hatching expeditions, guided hikes —but we could only afford a cheap turtle-watching nightwalk. Three different species of turtles hatch in Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast: green turtles, eatherbacks and Carey turtles. I imagined we’d see baby turtles making their way to the sea, so I felt uneasy about the secretive night walk.


"THERE’S SOMETHING UNSETTLING ABOUT A GROUP OF TOURISTS STALKING A TURTLE" That night we met with four more people at the Visitor Centre and made our way to the beach with two guides, who explained we might not see any turtles at all. If we were lucky there would be a female turtle laying eggs at the beach. “Laying eggs?”, I thought, “that sounds kind of private”. As soon as we arrived at the beach, we were informed there was a turtle making its way to the shore. We followed the guide, who led the way with a red flashlight for, she explained, that colour doesn’t bother the turtles. And suddenly there she was, a giant turtle making its way from the ocean. She was walking slowly, apparently not noticing the small, loud crowd around her. As mesmerizing as it can be to see a leatherback turtle, I could not help feeling out of place. Was this eco-tourism? Stalking turtles? Things just got worse when the turtle started digging a hole to lay her eggs. Another group of tourists had arrived and now we were taking turns to watch the turtle, who

still seemed unaware of crowd and lanterns pointed at her. By this time my friend and I had decided to stay back. There’s something unsettling about a group of tourists stalking a turtle while she performs one of the most beautiful acts in nature. At the time I thought it might not be that bad if our money was destined to the conservation of the turtles, even if it meant contributing to the idea that the whole world and its wildlife exist purely for human enjoyment. But our next day in Tortuguero made me realise my naiveté. The next afternoon we went on a hike along a trail that runs parallel to the beach. Nearing the end of the public trail, we decided to walk along the beach to go back. This was the worst idea, for the beach was covered in litter and plastic bottles. In the distance we saw a guy standing very still. He signalled to us and I approached him. I could see something was wrong when I looked at his face. He was on the verge of tears, looking at the floor, so I looked too. Around us were dozens of dead baby turtles, coalblack, the size of a pinecone. The stranger said he’d seen some these turtles alive and had tried to lead them to the ocean, but he was not fast enough. The night before, one of the guides explained that only about half of the turtles make it to the sea. Some of them get confused because of the lights and go inland, some of them hatch in the day and can’t stand the heat, some of them can’t join the sea because of natural predators or humans. But the way turtles behave these days is not entirely “natural”, they’re too close to human settlements and research centres.


I still wonder what would be the best thing to do in these cases. Should we blame the Sea Turtle Conservancy for not organising beach clean-ups, for not helping these baby turtles? Would helping them be worse, an invasive practice? Should we let nature follow its way even if we think it cruel? Can nature still follow its own path, undisturbed? I believe not. I’m only sure part of the blame lies on people who, like me that day, support this kind of tourism. We want to see it all and know it all; we are not conformed with sunsets and hiking trails, we want to witness of every act of nature, even those that are not meant for our eyes or our lanterns.

"CAN NATURE STILL FOLLOW ITS OWN PATH, UNDISTURBED?" I had the feeling of interrupting something sacred that day and I have promised myself not to take part in any wildlife-related activities, unless I can be certain of not disturbing anybody. I have thought a lot about this experience, and every time I conclude that the blame lies not on any individual or organisation alone, but in the way we as a society interact with the world. However saddening and insightful this experience was, I must say that is not the way the rest of the trip was. In almost every place in Costa Rica we met wonderful communities that are very well informed and concerned with climate change. It is a wonderful country that, for the most part, respects its wildlife and natural resources in a way I wish mine could. They indeed honour their motto, “pura vida”.

Fernanda Ortega

You can follow her on Instagram @ferrnie Blog is www.flowersinthelibrary.com


BACKPACKING WITH CORONAVIRUS

However, we were much too excited about our future plans around the San Blas Islands from Panama to Colombia to really pay much attention. Our attitude at this point was - we were probably in the safest location in South America away from Europe and Asia. And that was true - there had been no confirmed cases in South America so there was nothing to worry about. However in the next two

by Andy and Daniele

weeks as we travelled from Santa Marta to Cartagena things rapidly changed. Coronavirus was now in South America…

Hitting pause on our high flying corporate careers was a tough call but after much deliberation, our roles filled and our houses rented we were ready for our big adventure. It was December 2019 and we were all set for 12 months off travelling - firstly South America then Asia and lastly Australia / New Zealand.

realised Coronavirus was much more serious than we both anticipated. Our journey had led us from Costa Rica to Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Argentinian

and

Chilean

side

only 10 confirmed cases in Colombia at that point we continued with our travels. We flew from Catagena to Panama in order to travel back to Colombia through the San Blas Islands. Having been on the road hiking for a number of weeks we were really excited for lazy

Imagine how much our hearts sunk when we suddenly

Aires,

Things were still worse at home, in the UK, and with

of

Patagonia

including Torres Del Paine National Park, Argentinian Lake district & wine country, Valparaiso and then up through Colombia. It was when we were in Medellin, Colombia that we started hearing cases had hit Europe.

days on the beach drinking rum. It was on the journey back from our briefing with San Blas Adventures that we got a text message from our guide Stephen asking us to return - the trip had been cancelled. I can’t tell you how crushed we were. The Kuna people - the indigenous tribe who inhabited the San Blas Islands were not willing to accept tourists. They operated their own borders and had made the decision to stop boats passing from Panama to Colombia (and vice versa). With no other option we looked at flights back to Cartagena.


Then

I

got

ill

the

next

day.

Confirming again that this wasn’t malaria

but

even

more

likely

symptoms of Coronavirus. Thankfully I had managed to get us food and more paracetamol before showing symptoms but how many people had I come into contact with along the way?

With

no

option

for

food

delivery and having no friends or family nearby we had no other choice. And oh my - I have never felt this

ill

before.

We

were

both

suffering from fevers, chills, deep muscle

aches,

headaches

and

dizziness. Fortunately we had no cough or shortness of breath but the dizziness was really debilitating. We didn't leave the apartment for a week.

Panic set in. There were 24 of us booked on the trip - a lot of us long term backpackers - conversation spiralled into what this meant for ongoing travel. We must’ve had an angel sat on our shoulder when we made the decision to spend more time in Cartagena and not rush to Peru. Shortly after stepping off the plane back to Colombia Andy got a raging fever. He was shaking with cold but then burning up and nearly passed out in baggage claim. We rushed to get him paracetamol and bunkered down in our hostel - thank god for private rooms. After reading about his symptoms we were convinced it was malaria given the lack of a dry cough and the fact we had several nasty insect bites in Minca so we visited a private doctor. The doctor confirmed it wasn’t malaria, which was a relief, but urged us to get tested for Coronavirus. However this was risky for us - we didn't know if they would separate us and quarantine Andy, leaving me on my own in a city I didn't know. We made the tough decision to self isolate in our airbnb and hope he got better in a week or two.

"WE DIDN'T KNOW IF THEY WOULD SEPARATE US AND QUARANTINE ANDY, LEAVING ME ON MY OWN" It came to our 6th day and we were both starting to feel mildly better. It was at this point things got scary - accommodation started cancelling on us. The airbnb we were meant to move to in two nights time cancelled on us followed by two hotels. We tried rebooking another airbnb for the weekend and this again cancelled on us - it appeared that all apartment blocks were banning tourists. Being locked away in an apartment with only netflix for entertainment we had no access to local news. These cancellations led us to twitter and this is where we discovered Cartagena was going into lock down.


A curfew was installed from 6pm and there was a 24

We left Colombia on Saturday 21st March 2020.

hour lock down during the weekends - this was when

Cartagena closed its airport 2 days later. With the news

rumours started circling that the international airport

that backpackers are stuck all over the world there is

was also closing.

no denying we made the right decision. However our hearts are heavy with lost adventures of Huarez,

Never in our lives had we felt fearful of going out but

Macchu Picchu and the Salt flats being big gaping

for the first time we feared the reaction of locals to

holes in our travelling experience. 12 months of

our white skin and backpacks. Tourists had been one

backpacking cut short to just 3 months but we are

of the main reasons for how this virus was spreading

eternally grateful we are for the time we had. We will

globally - would we bear the brunt of the blame?

remember our 100 days of travelling forever and

Fortunately

we

especially thankful for our health - beating our

encountered was nothing but kind to us. However, we

Coronavirus symptoms by the time we set foot back in

can definitely imagine becoming targets should the

the UK. When the borders open back up we will be

situation worsen.

running back into the arms of exploration, magical

we

were

lucky

-

everyone

sunsets and endless new experiences. Oh, how we will Big decision time - do we risk staying in Colombia for an undetermined amount of time, with the risk of having nowhere to stay and no viable options to leave, or do we go home now on one of the last flights? If accomodation hadn't been an issue I’m not sure we would've been so motivated to leave. There wasn't a long discussion - we had to go home. However just because we had made the decision didn't mean booking a flight was simple. Lots of flight options had 3 or 4 connections, long layovers and high cost. The most stressful part was making sure we could transit through certain countries - one flight option through Miami actually got cancelled because there was a transit/travel ban there. We managed

to

get

two

tickets

with

Air

Canada

transiting through Toronto in two days time. We breathed a small sign of relief - but it was at a high cost - £2,000 for both of us to fly back - with the sinking feeling of whether the flight would actually take off before being cancelled?! A flight cancellation wasn’t our only concern. Next was the fact that our flight was on a Saturday right in the middle of a 24 hour lockdown in the city. How would we get to the airport? With taxi drivers refusing to work we had no other choice but to abandon our check in with one hotel and race to another within walking distance to the airport.

never take them for granted ever again!

You can follow Andy & Daniele on Instagram @rememberwhenwewentto Blog is www.rwwwt.com


Sustainable Travel Tips 5 REASONS TO USE SOLID TOILETRIES WHEN BACKPACKING

Plastic free toiletries are a great way to reduce waste in your bathroom and be more eco-friendly, but I also find them incredible when travelling, especially when backpacking or travelling for extended period of time. The good news is that now you will be able to find almost any possible product package free, from soap and shampoo bars, to deodorants, to make up remover and even toothpaste. The ones in the photo are some products I tried from a popular zero waste shop last year, when I did Plastic Free July, and I couldn’t live without them anymore. Starting from the orange bar clockwise, they are: a soap bar, shampoo, conditioner, face oil, make-up remover, deodorant, body scrub and body butter in the middle. Not only they are packaging free, but they also have replaced micro plastics contained in some of the products with natural elements, such as rice grains, nuts shells, etc. THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE THE SWITCH SO HERE ARE FIVE:

ONE: YOU WILL BE MORE ECO-FRIENDLY AND REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT Unfortunately, being 100% green when you travel it’s almost impossible – only think about the damage we cause each time we fly somewhere! For this reason, I love doing all I can to reduce my carbon footprint in other ways, as much as possible. Using plastic free toiletries is a great way to reduce your waste and the amount of plastic you use.


TWO: THEY TAKE LESS SPACE IN YOUR BAG A shampoo bar takes way less space in your bag than a shampoo bottle. Before, when I was backpacking, I used to buy shampoo, body wash, deodorants, etc… directly in my destination, trying to buy the smallest bottle possible and then leaving it behind in my hostel almost every time, because I had no space. All the toiletries above fit in a very small Tupperware, that was easy to fit everywhere. When I’m travelling for shorter period of times, I just cut them and use an even smaller box to store them to save more space.

THREE: YOU WON’T HAVE ANY ISSUES LIQUIDS HAVE Liquids can be a nightmare! First of all, they can and sometimes will spill or leak in your bag. By using solid toiletries you would also avoid the problem of not being able to bring big liquids with you on a plane, so they are a perfect solution to carry-on limitations.

FOUR: THEY LAST LONGER Some people don’t use solid toiletries because they think they are too expensive, but if you really think about it, they last longer than liquid ones - a lot longer.

When I got my bars, about 7 months ago, I was told that they would last between 4 or 5 times longer than liquids toiletries. The shampoo bar lasted approximately 3.5 months vs 1 month for a shampoo bottle. The soap bar and body scrub lasted 4 months, and I still have the deodorant, the make-up remove, the body butter and the face oil. If you are on a long trip, by using solid toiletries you won't have to worry about running out, especially when visiting more remote places.


FIVE: THEY ARE USUALLY MADE OF NATURAL INGREDIENTS Finally, since companies producing this type of products follow a green living philosophy, solid toiletries are usually made from more natural ingredients which is good for two reasons. Firstly, for the health of your hair and skin: when travelling you probably have to wash your hair more or take more showers, particularly if you are very active and you like hiking swimming, etc. Natural ingredients are more gentle on your skin and hair and won't damage them as much. Moreover, you can wash yourself at campsites or other places where you know water goes directly into rivers or waterways, without having to worry that they will negatively impact wildlife. However, it is always important to check what ingredients they are made from and make sure this is safe to do so, as not all brands are 100% natural.

Agnese Santoro

You can follow her on Instagram @agnese_olivia Blog is www.travelnotesonline.com


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We are always looking for contributors to join Roamer magazine. If you have a story to share, a good hostel to review, an ethical activity to brag about or have anything else that you think should be included, we want to hear from you. If you've also been affected due to Covid-19 and have had to cancel your trips, stayed in a foreign country or are keeping inspired please get in touch. Please email helloroamermag@gmail.com for more information.

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Roamer Mag - Issue 1  

A free online backpackers magazine with a sustainably conscious mind.

Roamer Mag - Issue 1  

A free online backpackers magazine with a sustainably conscious mind.

Profile for roamermag
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