In this episode, we’ll share a bit of what’s been going on behind the scenes with us. In mid-May, we learned that we’d have to leave our short-term accommodation in Salt Lake City, Utah. Where to go next? Was house sitting a possibility? Would we have to fly?! All the questions! We’ll share a little life update and what the future holds for us as nomad house sitters.
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- Why we had to leave our past situation in Utah
- Where we decided to go and why
- Essential travel safety considerations: to fly or not to fly?
- If we’re house sitting currently
- What things look like us going forward as nomads
- What we’re excited about right now and for the future
- Some predictions for the future of travel and covid-19 in the U.S.
- and a lot more!
Links + Resources Mentioned
- Episode 2: Locked Down While Traveling? Pandemic Update #1
- Episode 6: The State of House Sitting in 2020
- @AlternativeTravelers (us on Instagram)
- n95 anti pollution masks (sold through Iconoclad, the local store we got our masks at in Salt Lake City)
These transcripts have been automatically generated and then edited by us, so please excuse any typos, missed capitalization, weird phrasing, etc. Humans talk very differently than they write, as we’ve learned! There are just topics that just lend themselves better to conversations rather than blog posts, but we also want the podcast to be accessible to all.
Hit the green “plus” button below or hit download to access the full transcript.
Sam: Hi and welcome back to the Alternative Travelers Podcast! So today we're gonna do a little update episode about what's been going on with us, what it's been like to travel during a pandemic, and why we had to travel.
So first off, where were we and where are we now, Veren?
Veren: We were in Salt Lake City. A house sit was coming towards the end when the whole pandemic and shut down happened, so we had to very quickly figure out accommodation. The house sit that we had lined up after was cancelled of course, so it is a bit of a scramble. Eventually we found something temporary and it was a mutually beneficial situation that worked for a couple of months. The Airbnb that we were renting, the owner eventually wanted to make it available for other patrons.
At the time, Salt Lake City was opening back up. They're learning now that was a mistake. They were ahead of the curve, but they screwed up because now there are more cases there. Anyways long story short, we didn't really have any other real options of where else to go. We talked more about this in an earlier episode which we can link.
Sam: Yeah, so we have been in this basement Airbnb for a couple of months and as tourism started to pick back up over there, the guy wanted to rent it out at the normal rate because he had been giving us a really good deal on staying there. So anyway, we realized that house sitting was still and largely still is not a thing. We have an episode where we talk about the state of house sitting.
We’ll be doing another episode in the future talking about what we think house sitting will be like for the foreseeable future. But basically when we had to leave that situation, there were no real house sits. We talked to some people about house sitting for them, but none of them panned out.
So I had come up with a plan C to come to Buffalo. I mentioned it on Instagram (@AlternativeTravelers) that we were looking for places in Buffalo. I think it seemed kind of random, but actually I lived in Buffalo for 10 years. I kind of grew up mostly here from like ages 8 to 18. I lived in a small town about 20 minutes outside of the city of Buffalo.
So just to orient you real quick, Buffalo is on the opposite end of the state from New York City, which is like a seven and a half hour drive. States are huge.
I know that for our European listeners, it's so hard to comprehend that because when we were living in Spain, people were like, “What? seven and a half hours and you're still in the same state?” But yeah, Buffalo is like literally on the other edge of the state of New York and my mom's family is from here.
So because I grew up here, I still have a community and I still have family, so it just seemed like a logical place to potentially hunker down for a while. Even though usually we head back to New York City, we didn't really want to do that right now which is kind of self-explanatory as to why. But Veren if you want to elaborate?
Veren: For those of you maybe living under a rock, New York City's been one of the premier hot spots and it just didn't seem to make any sense to go there. Not just out of a public health safety reason, but honestly what makes the place so fun and amazing is the way it existed before the pandemic. So why go to New York just to be locked down? That was a very important secondary reason. If we want to be able to thrive and do our own thing and we don't have to be there...why would we? There's a lot of people who don't really have the choice of going somewhere else. We fortunately did.
But we had to leave where we were, so it made sense to go back to New York for many reasons. We had communities in place, also we're insured in the state of New York. When you have health insurance in the US, you're insured in a particular state. You can get out of state coverage, but it complicates things and it usually just covers emergencies. And so with how there hasn't been any real kind of unified national response in the US unfortunately for this public health issue crisis, we figured it made the most sense to try to wait for things to calm down a bit and then make our way back to New York.
So New York City was a potential option we were considering. But things are just so up in the air there, it's hard to feel secure about going there. I feel like that would be another temporary spot before we figure out another move, so when we really looked at all the pros and cons more and more, Buffalo was making much much much more sense.
And also we can't just go to any city. We need a city that's walkable because we don't have a car. We don't plan on getting the car nor do I think we could afford to have a car.
Sam: Yeah, we just don't like the experience of having to always get in a car. We've house sat in places where we always need to get in a car - lent to us by the homeowners - to get anywhere. We both felt pretty trapped in those scenarios, because we're used to being able to just walk out of the house and go to things. Even though we both grew up largely in smaller towns, we're very used to walking around and getting to things without having to always get in the car. So that's always been super important to us
We had a variety of places to stay in New York City, thanks to our community there. That was super nice to know and we really appreciate that. But like Veren said, that it would still be a temporary situation because eventually people would come back to their empty rooms and we would have to find another place. With everything that we're looking at and that we're seeing, it seems like this is gonna be a very up and down thing for a while.
I know everyone, especially for people that travel a lot and full-time travelers like us, a lot of people are really like antsy to just get back out there traveling again. But from what we're seeing here in the US with states that have opened up too soon, such as Utah, now there's like another wave, another surge. I think we all need to be prepared for that to be happening for some time until there are real measures in place.
It became very clear that, being nomads right now, trying to rely on house sitting was just not a possibility. I know I keep going back to that. So basically, we decided to come to Buffalo. Then we had to try to find a place to stay, which was a whole up and down thing. Something would come through, then something would fall through, but eventually we got a place. Then it became “how are we gonna get here” because just to again put the geographical distance and perspective - that’s 1900 miles. I looked it up and it would have been like five to six days of driving seven to eight hours a day to get from Salt Lake City to Buffalo.
I thought about it for a second but then you did some research, Veren, what did you find out about driving long distances right now?
Veren: Well everyone is scared of flying, understandably, but there's a lot of misunderstanding about the risk of transmitting and contracting covid on a plane. Outbreaks don't happen on planes. Planes are a way to get something from one side of the world to another and then afterwards the outbreak happens.
We still don't want to travel more than we need to. When we looked at things and I did some research, it actually made more sense to fly. If we want to minimize our interactions with other people who potentially have the virus and assume that we might have it. Again, until we know for sure, you have to pretend that you might be a carrier and that other people are carriers. It didn't actually seem any safer to drive, because if you have to drive a long time, that means you're checking into more hotels, you're doing more rest stops, any area that’s indoors, that's gonna get tons of traffic. If you can manage to do a trip in a couple hours in a car that makes sense.
But to do a 8+ hour trip instead of maybe an hour flight, that actually isn't necessarily any safer. I was reading up a lot about it because it felt like a lot of people assumed just because you're in a car somehow you're safer. That's not necessarily true, especially for long-haul trips. So when we looked at everything it made the most sense in terms of safety.
There are no real outbreaks that happen on planes. Now does that mean you should travel? No. We still don't believe anyone should be doing any non-essential travel right now, but we had to get somewhere else. We couldn't afford to stay in Salt Lake City, nor did it have any real advantage.
I think we would have been at a disadvantage staying there. So we had to weigh everything out and it made sense to get back to New York and to do that was flying.
Sam: Yeah, I know actually quite a number of nomads who were kind of in the similar position as us. They found temporary accommodation and then after a couple months they had to find a new place. I knew a number of people who ended up traveling around the same time that we did.
So that's definitely one of the trade-offs of being nomadic. In our temporary accommodation, we never felt like we could chill out, because it was always a revolving fear of if we're gonna be able to say another month.
So now that things have not stabilized, but it's clear that it's gonna be going on for a while, we just wanted to get back to our home state. As Veren said, health care, but also so many other programs and stuff that is available to us being in our home state. Everything is still so statewide here.
Veren: There are just certain advantages to being at home and in the community that can seem kind of obvious but then also things people take for granted if you're not a full-time traveler. For example, food. You can't really stock up on food if you don't know you're gonna be somewhere long. We can't afford to be frivolous, so we can't just buy whatever we want and then leave half of it when it's time to go.
Part of what we do is budget travel. So being able to move to a place where it would be more on our terms and we can essentially stay here as long as we want. We've worked out an arrangement with the landlady about how much notice she needs. We didn't have to do a full year lease, which was longer than we would have wanted to do. But we also wanted the freedom to be able to choose that we're staying here as long as we want within a timeframe under a year.
We didn't have that back in Salt Lake City. So there are tons of things that you take for granted that come with having a place that's your own, with your own space.
Given the public health crisis right now, we think the safest bet is for us to have our own place under our own control. We don't want to just sit and wait; we want to still be able to thrive as best we can. So looking at all our options, it just made the most sense to come here and then stay put, which is what we're doing.
Sam: Yeah, I think we had a conversation where the guy said, “I can't travel right now. I feel like this is just a lost year.” I was just like, “I'm sorry you feel that way, but that's a really awful way to look at it.” Basically - if you're in a position to, and obviously for a lot of people, things are really fucking hard right now, working on the front lines - but for the people that aren't, I think it's an opportunity to shift things in the ways that you can and look at things in a different way.
Yeah, so anyway, I definitely wanted to make sure we shared what it was like to travel during the pandemic. I know a lot of people are curious about that especially as things start to potentially start to open up and people start to entertain these ideas.
Like Veren said, we just don't think people should be flying if you don't need to. And I really want to continue to advocate for local and regional travel because I know that we definitely would not have gotten on a plane if we didn't feel like that was the best option for us relocating. But going somewhere on a vacation right now, I just don't feel like it's smart.
Veren: Yeah, I think some people might be curious about the experience itself. The plane that we went on was about two-thirds full. There was a good number of people at the airports, but we took our precautions and I made sure at every stage, I washed my hands.
We have N95 masks that we got in Utah, in Salt Lake specifically. They have a pollution issue there, so a lot of people use those as commuter masks when they bike.
Sam: Yeah, and I think it's important to say that they're not the disposable N95 masks, because when a lot of people think N95, they think of the medical disposable masks. So these ones are bike commuter masks, that are reusable. You can replace the filters inside, but the mask itself is totally reusable.
Yeah, I posted a picture on Instagram and a couple of people were like “oh my god, Veren looks like Bane from Batman.” So to give you a visual, that's what it looks like. A lot of people actually here in Buffalo have asked us where we got them. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm gonna look and see where they're available online, so I’ll link them in the show notes if that's something you're interested in.
Veren: But yeah more or less we took all the precautions that we could. Businesses were doing the same, the airports were more or less doing the same, encouraging everyone to social distance. So far, so good. Maybe we're both asymptomatic and got something before, but when we've had to come across people we make sure it's in open spaces. We had to furnish our apartment, but because we travel full time, we didn't have furniture obviously. So we had to do a lot of running around, grabbing some second-hand stuff from friends and family and from thrift stores.
It all worked out in the end, and we had a lot of contact with people that we know that are immunosuppressed and we took all the precautions. So far so good. Now I don't think that means let's start throwing a 20-person backyard party at your house, but I think it's important to understand the differences between high risk, low risk, and medium risk. On some level we're gonna have to engage with those day to day. It's important to know where you fall in terms of the demographics that are high risk and what level of risk an activity has.
That's the best way we're gonna mitigate something. It’s not gonna be something that you can avoid. It's something that's very context-sensitive, but overall it really wasn't so bad.
Veren: Yeah so the best flight that we found was an overnight flight, so we had an overnight layover in Denver. There were no no direct flights from Salt Lake to Buffalo. Both of our flights were pretty packed actually.
I was really surprised. The first one was like I would say even 85% full potentially. I mean, it was really crowded. I was really annoyed about that at first. Frontier is one of the US's few budget airlines, so it's kind of like Ryanair in that you pay for everything. But it was still half as much as any other flight.
So we got an airport hotel and I was bugged because the free airport hotel shuttle was shut down because of Covid. I wanted to add that, because in case people are traveling, I think one thing that you need to be aware of is that a lot of services and stuff are not operating as they normally are. We got this airport hotel but everything was pretty much shut down. No breakfast, no pool, no gym. Whatever, we didn't really care about those things, we just needed a place to sleep.
But I was bugged about the free airport shuttle being shut down. Whatever, it happens. What was also interesting is that we got upgraded two times in our trip. In the hotel, we got upgraded to a king suite for free, so that was cool. We had a literal little living room with a couch and stuff for the same price. That was nice because we actually had some friends in Denver, so we met up with them real quick. They brought us coffee which I was so appreciative of because I was like, “oh no, I'm gonna have to have instant hotel coffee!”
They brought us some nice cold brews, so I was very pleased. Yeah, so we got upgraded with that and then once we arrived in Buffalo, we had rented a car for a few days. Like Veren mentioned, we had to furnish the apartment and we were gonna be running all over the place picking up furniture. So I rented the cheapest car available, a compact car. Not in anticipation of picking up furniture, because we were gonna be using someone else's pickup truck so we weren't planning on using the car for transporting furniture - but to get to places.
Anyway, we needed a car for the first few days and we got upgraded with the car too. That was actually busy too. The rental car place at the airport was packed. We waited like half an hour to get the rental car. They were short staffed because of the pandemic.
They were like out of all compact cars so we got upgraded for free to an Audi SUV. It was big enough to fit furniture at that point. It ended up being so much better, we could fit a bunch of stuff in there. It was a really nice car. Again, we don't care about cars really, but it was still nice to drive for a few days. Veren’s rolling his eyes at me now, but I thought that it was interesting that we got upgraded in both times of our trip.
So we've really talked about what led us to this point and where we are now. So, I think the next part, to kind of wrap things up, would be what now. What now, Veren?
Veren: So I think for the most part, we're just going to hunker down. Our attitude is all about weathering the storm. The pandemic is going to be based on the whole government’s response, and unfortunately, it's not a unified effort. Everything's going to be going up and down and it doesn't matter how well your state is doing. If one of there are states not taking things seriously, they are still a potential vector for transmission.
There's an analogy someone used somewhere, this scientist or expert talking about transmission. It’s like pissing in the corner of the pool to avoid getting the pee on everyone else. But it's a pool. The pee is just gonna make its way across. Yes, it's a gross analogy, but I think it's apt.
You know, it'd be like someone if you're in a house with a smoker, and they go and smoke in another room. You're gonna eventually still smell that smoke. And if you understand how this virus works, you have to recognize that. There needs to be a real communal effort and as long as we have a series of communities, regions, and areas that aren't doing that, I think we're gonna see an up and down thing for quite a while.
So we wanna weather the storm, but at the same time we want the conditions so that we can still thrive. We don't want to treat this as a “lost year.” We want to be in a situation where we can still keep doing what we like to keep doing: exercise regularly and eat well, have great leisure time, doing activities that we enjoy, and still be able to work on our passion project and our business which is Alternative Travelers.
We are still taking it very seriously. Our income has dropped a lot from it, but that doesn't mean it's time to stop. When we first started, we were making no income. So our attitude is that we liked doing it when it wasn't pulling in money. It definitely helped once it started to do that and allowed us to really embark on a lifestyle of full-time travel, and we want to keep doing that. We want to keep planting more seeds, watering those seeds, nurturing those plants as they grow, so to speak.
Eventually things are gonna get more stable and more open and we're gonna get to a situation where everyone's gonna be itching to travel, where we can do it more safely. Maybe a vaccine is finally around or some real contact tracing is in place, basically all the mechanisms and procedures in place to allow the world to go forward.
There is no going back for sure but the idea that we won't be traveling again on a scale that we did before..no way. We're definitely gonna be getting back to that and that's why we're excited to do a lot more local and regional travel right now.
We'll have more on that coming up soon. There's gonna be a lot of things we're still gonna be working on.
Sam: Yeah, I never in a bajillion years that I would be living in Buffalo again. When I graduated high school, I was like, “peace! Back to New York City.” I had been going there to visit my grandma, because my dad’s whole family is in New York City. So I had spent summers there.
I always wanted to move back to New York after graduating. I hated the weather in Buffalo. I hated driving. I never thought I would come back. But now we're living in the city of Buffalo, which I've never lived in myself.
The city has definitely gotten a lot cooler since I lived here. I'm super excited to be exploring it as an adult with Veren, and reconnecting with my community here. I have cousins here that I'm super excited to be reconnecting with, friends that I haven't seen in super long.
I really discounted the importance of older support systems, people who have known you for a really long time. We love making new friends and connecting with people that have the same overlapping interests and values but it's been really heartening to have everyone in my community in Buffalo come together to help us find a place and furnish it and everything.
So I'm excited to be here. I think a lot of nomads, if they're being smart, they're kind of doing the same thing as we are. I've talked to a lot of other people doing the same thing because it looks like we're in this for the long haul.
I don't feel any sense of, “Oh no,this is giving up full-time travel to be here!” Not at all. It's just another chapter. I think a lot of nomads tend to get identified with being a nomad that can't be living in one place. I'm like, well we're here for now, and we'll leave when it makes sense to. We're excited for this chapter. We have plants now, so that's cool. We’re getting to know the local area.
There's so much that we want to share with you guys because we really feel strongly about advocating for local travel. That’s always been something that we've talked about because it's better for the environment and there's so much to explore in our own backyards.
In New York State, there’s a lot of great things to explore. The funny thing is that Buffalo is on the border with Canada. You could literally see Canada across the water, but you can't go there because the bridge is closed, which is really bizarre. I grew up going to Canada all the time with family and friends there and stuff. But you can't go there now. So that's kind of strange to see no traffic going over that bridge. But again, there's so much to explore in our backyard and we hope we can inspire you to do the same wherever you are.
We're also going to continue with our alternative destinations series and different lesser known places that you might not have considered, for once travel starts to open up again. Like we've mentioned in previous episodes, domestic travel is going to definitely be the first point of departure when it becomes safe to kind of go beyond your little sphere.
Sam: So yeah, I think that kind of wraps it up. We just wanted to share what's going on with us, what travel looked like, what things are looking like for us in the future. I know a lot of people, both nomads and people who are interested in being nomads in the future, are like, “oh my gosh, what do you do during a pandemic!”
It’s just about weighing the pros and cons of different situations, making decisions to support yourself and your own peace of mind.
Veren: Yeah I'm all for that. I just want to reiterate that anyone who feels trapped because they define themselves by being able to travel or that's their lifestyle, maybe you need to challenge and confront that. Expand your concept of what travel is. Local, regional travel is great.
I love exploring new cities on foot. Even though we drove around a ton when we first got to Buffalo, I didn't really feel like I started seeing the city until I walked around. There's so much history, so many interesting old buildings, such interesting neighborhoods. I saw Canada across the water and read on some plaques about some interesting history and that was great. That was fun. So you better believe that, eventually on that alternative travel series, we're probably gonna talk about Buffalo. So it feels really good to be here.
Sam: Yeah. Alright so with that, we'll wrap it up. Again, we really want to know what you guys want to hear about. We just started this podcast and we wanted to really get your feedback and see what you want to hear and just roll with it.
We're into trying new things, like with this podcast. It's really been a great outlet for us to be just totally honest and direct with you guys. Wwe want to know what you want to hear about. So send us an email or message us on social media, I’m most active on Instagram (@alternativetravelers).
I hope you're staying safe wherever you are and we'll catch you next time.
Veren: Yeah and happy Father's Day!