“Travelling during the Pandemic was the most difficult form of travel that has existed since modern times”. A dear member of SuperyachtOne, along with his whole family, travelled for over a year and half non-stop during Covid emergency. Here is his experience.
Images courtesy of © Family On The Run
At the beginning of the great pandemic, over two years ago, when the world was still quite happy and it was not known that shortly thereafter one of the most dramatic events of the last 100 years would take place, a dear member of SuperyachtOne, along with his whole family, had been planning for some time to realize his great dream – to travel around the world.
Jason is an American entrepreneur with international experience, and is married to Lenka, a talented professional photographer. With them, there are the little Mia and the young Alex, who at the time of their departure were respectively 7 and 10 years old.
Jason, Lenka, Alex e Mia left Florida in July 2020. They visited more than thirty Countries across four continents and have documented their incredible adventure with hundreds of thousands of photos and thousands of hours of video posted through a YouTube channel. A life journey that has completely changed their lifestyle, their priorities and ability to face everyday life with a surprising adaptability.
In the meantime, professional commitments must be respected together with the distance education of the children, which also took into account time zones.
We also met Jason and Lenka in the timeless city of Venice, when we felt like we were almost back to normal before dalling back into a new pandemic phase.
Their adventurous journey lasted two years with exciting challenges, waits, tiredness and the fear of being stuck for months in a place that was not their home. They have organized trips to remote areas of the Earth.
With so many questions and curiosities in mind, SuperyachtOne asked Jason and Lenka to tell us about the most significant places and emotions they felt along this journey and what they will bring forever in the book of their life together with their children. A true story that perhaps one day will become a film, in the meantime are memories and emotions that they will never forget for the rest of their lives. Here are their words.
The feeling of travelling during the covid pandemic was unlike any other feeling we have experienced before, and although had its own amazing positives, hopefully we never have to repeat again.
When the Pandemic first struck we were fearful, locked in, and waiting on developments. We were really doing our homework on the situation and reading early published studies. We had a choice. Stay locked-down which was affecting our children or go. Go and do the once in a lifetime experience of traveling the world non-stop for a year. This is the moment that Family on The Run was born.
When we first left Miami, there were no rules on travel, yet many. Our flight had 20 people on it on a jumbo transatlantic plane. Everything was in chaos, no information was available, and some very strange rules developed because of lack of coordinated policies.
We traveled on through Europe a bit, going to the Czech Republic to visit family and friends, and then off to Italy. It was in Italy we were lucky enough to see Ottaviano & Marisa in Venice, and life was back to normal! Or so we thought.
It was one day, I heard someone talking, they are implementing mask requirements in some regions of Italy. We thought this was over. We were hearing reports that the second wave was going to be worse than the first! Do we just stop, quit, give up? We know we didn’t want to be locked down again, especially in a foreign country, so perhaps this is where our unique experience really begins.
Due to the unpredictable nature of countries opening and closing, tightening, and loosening restrictions, our journey became more like a surfing a wave, taking us where it wanted to go.
As we sat in Italy watching more restrictions start to hit, we searched the map, where can we go that is still open and no issues? Greece!
After a few days visiting Athens and the Pantheon, we set sail to Mykonos, a truly dream destination. One of the advantages of travelling during the pandemic is prices. To say that the pandemic allowed us to be able to stay in places otherwise we may reconsider is an understatement.
Few days later, we hear someone talking about the Greek government may impose lockdowns on Monday. In 2 days? Where can we go that is open and free? Istanbul! After Turkey, we discovered using Kayaks travel restrictions map that Tanzania was open. No tests, no masks, no restrictions. After a very long flight with strict mask rules we touched down into Dar Es Salaam the capital.
After spending some time near the city we ventured off into the northern country side, to do what may arguably be the most important experience of our lifetimes. We left to go live with the Massai.
The first hour felt like a lot of uncomfortableness. We could barely speak to each other except through our guide. The children were touching our skin because they had never touched lighter skin before. This was the moment we knew this was real.
We wanted to interact with them, they wanted to with us, but neither side knew how. And then it happened. We can thank the universe all down to one plastic empty coca cola bottle, just like you’ve seen in a Hollywood movie. Jason started to kick it around and passed it to a Maasai child. He passed it back. Within minutes all the kids were playing with our kids, the Maasai adults watched with large smiles, and everyone realized we’re all just people! That ice breaker instantly worked. We woke up, milked animals, took them out, walked 6 hours for water, 4 hours for fire wood, slaughtered a goat for dinner, we were Maassai at this point. Interestingly they had no fear of covid at all, apparently the Maasai almost never get sick. Perhaps as humans when we live simply and pure with nature, the effect on our immune systems has real noticeable benefits! What really struck us the most was the humanity of these people. The warmest, kindest, friendliest, smartest, coolest humans we have ever come across.
After the Maasai visit we went on our first Safari. 3 Parks, 4 days, including the Serengeti & Ngorongoro, again another bucket list item began.
Heading off to our next two destinations of CapeTown South Africa, and Dubai, the experiences we had although incredible, were more quite normal. This was the first time either country were taking tourists in some time, and also lifting some restrictions.
Next destination really impacted us, because the pandemic impacted them, Sri Lanka.
We hired a driver who quickly became our friend and guide for the next 2 weeks. We travelled across the entire countryside, diving deep into local culture. What struck us immediately with the locals, was the surprise that we were tourists. From dealing with a lone terrorist bombing a few years back which derailed tourism, and then Covid, they hadn’t seen many tourists in years. We were a sign of hope to every Sri Lankan we met.
We were in Sri Lanka, and had to leave, but couldn’t go to Thailand yet. We looked and realized the “only option” we had was to kill 11 days in the Maldives. Needless to say our “survival” experience in Maldives turned out to be incredibly refreshing, and got the chance to snorkel with Whale Sharks for 1 hour non-stop, an unforgettable and emotional experience.
After Maldives, we had a stop in Singapore, where we experienced a 20-hour airport quarantine, and then Thailand, one of the strictest places in the world at that time. At the airport, we were quickly greeted by our quarantine hotel escort and were shuttled away to our home for the next 11 days. Upon check out, we stepped outside, and Thailand was ours. Immediately the first thing we noticed is, where were all the people? Since when is Bangkok empty? Quiet? Clean? Peaceful was not a word we ever thought we would attribute to Bangkok, but because they were still under restrictions not even workers were going to work, so it was empty.
After a week there, already cases were rising, and word was Bangkok was about to go in hard lock down again. In the south, life was relatively normal so we decided to visit the jungles of Khao Sok, which is Jason’s favorite place in the world.
We wanted to wait and see if other countries in Asia were going to open up, but the news was getting worse. After spending a couple months in the paradisical south, for “survival” and almost free rental apartments, the cases were still rising, and were starting to fear we would be locked down there too.
We discovered that Albania had literally no restrictions almost the entire pandemic, and the cases were still almost nothing. What was arriving in Albania like? No words can describe it. We had just went from the strictest rules, the strictest protocols, lockdowns, masks, quarantines, and now the next week we are strolling the promenade, no masks, eating our ice creams.
We fell in love with this country, a country that was one of the biggest surprises of our travels. The following month we decided to do a road trip through the Balkans. In a blur of a pace, we knocked down 10 countries in a month. Can you imagine driving every 3 days to a new location by car over 5 hours, then check in, shop for groceries, tour and shoot the city for the video, pack up, hop in the car, and on the road again. It was brutal, yes fantastic, but brutal. At this point the kids were really starting to not be happy with mommy and daddy.
After making it through Budapest, Slovakia, we finally arrived in Lenka’s home of the Czech Republic. It was a fantastic 1 month break to just slow down, see family and friends, and not be Family on the Run.
After Czech we had to make a choice. Lenka was leaning towards Colombia, but Jason had done some research, and by dumb luck, discovered a truly special place in the world. A place where probably not many children tourists have gone, a place where there are more polar bears than humans and located only several hundred miles from the north pole, we were going to Svalbard.
Stepping off the plane we were in something totally new. No trees, no plants, no green, it was rock, snow, ice, that’s it. We arrived in October which was just ahead of the winter, lucky for us. It was still 5 degrees Fahrenheit or minus -15 celcius that’s not too bad, it could be worse. Also, we arrived just ahead of the polar winter nights, where there is no day light for months. In fact, a strange fact that we witnessed was just in the 5 days while we were there, we would lose 4 hours of daylight during the day, something which takes many months in normal places. That’s how extreme the curvature of earth affects the light in the polar regions, wild!
The beauty of the polar ice and lighting is hard to describe. Light blues, white, splashed with some golden orange rays from the sun, just breathtaking. We actually never saw the sun while we were there, just some rays hitting the mountain tops, we were already too late in the year for any direct sunlight.
For activities we had some fun, most likely highlighted by our dog sled ride, where these huskies which we would grow to love, were responsible for our safety and getting us across the polar tundra back home.
After Svalbard we traveled “back down” to top of Norway still far into the artic circle.
We easily witnessed some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in the world, the northern lights.
Then we carried on from Norway, to northern Sweden, visiting Ice Hotels, walking across frozen lakes, and snowmobiling across some of the most beautiful forests in Lapland were becoming the norm.
We were in Sweden, and thought about a request the kids made, a while ago, they wanted to go to Santa’s Village in Finnish Lapland. We told them no, because the logistics were just too difficult, but after some discussions, we decided to surprise them.
After the far north, we travelled south, heading into Stockholm vising our best friend from Uganda, before heading into Denmark, Brussels and finally Paris. Paris was our last stop before heading back home to Czech. This was the official moment where our non-stop travels finally stopped.
We travelled for over a year and half non-stop during the entire pandemic.
What is like to travel non-stop around the world? It’s total freedom. You are living, experiencing, and not stressing how much you have left before you must return back home to work. Keep in mind, we worked the entire time during our travels, our kids had their online virtual schools, and got all straight As. But still, it’s different. to have the feeling of “hey where should we go this week? Paris? Colombia? South Africa?” like we are choosing a flavor of cereal in the grocery store is impossible to describe. Of course, there’s a flip side to that. After the constant travel, perhaps around the 1 year marker, because you can so easily do it, and do it all the time, it lost a little bit of the value and excitement. The special unique quality of travel which makes all of giddy and excited inside gets slightly diminished.
Travelling during the Pandemic was the most difficult form of travel that has existed since modern times.
Want to buy a ticket? Don’t buy it too early, it will get cancelled, or the country may close. Our personal favorites were the tickets we purchased for flights that never even existed and spending countless weeks trying to get refunds. The documentation for tests, or passes, government authorizations, quarantines, masks, limited flights, limited boats, all the information on the internet was wrong, made traveling during that time incredibly challenging.
The trade-off was we got to see places before tourism. We walked an empty Coliseum, and empty Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and trust us, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. We skipped the 1 hour cues for that perfect Instagram shot, and wandered as if it was ours. Streets were empty, places were cleaner, prices were cheaper. As we always told people, getting there will be more difficult, but once you are there, it will be worth it.
Sure, it was a double edged sword, because we could never truly relax. We had to constantly always being checking the data, the cases, who was opening, who was closing. By the end of our travels, we could almost accurately predict who was closing and opening next, just a surreal level of knowledge, we didn’t exactly ask for. We had countless flight cancellations, arguments with airport officials, all the inconveniences you could have ever expected, but we never gave up.
We travelled the following for data: 49,123 miles (about 2x around the world), 34 flights, 12 rental cars, 11 trains, countless ferries, and those were the ones we were actually able to do. Was this hard during the Pandemic? Yes, really hard. Was it all worth it? No question. We saw the world from a once in a lifetime perspective. We saw the world when it was ours.
YouTube channel: Family On The Run