We begin planning our travels for the coming year just after we land in the US at the end of September. By the time we’ve hashed out where exactly we’d like to spend the following April-September, it’s some time in October and Jonathan begins scouring the Airbnb listings.
This year we ran into a problem before Coronavirus spread into our consciousness. When we left Sicily at the end of September, 2017, we had been in Italy for five and a half months. When we went to make our European plans for 2020 we found the rules have changed! The Schengen area, 26 countries that include most of Europe apart from Ireland, the UK, and some of the former Yugoslavia have made it nearly impossible for US citizens, among others, to stay longer than 90 days. Though visitors are still allowed to stay for 180 days per year, each 90 day visit must be followed by 90 days outside the region. Should we want to spend more than three months in Europe, we would have to visit in two rounds separated by three months. While that would allow us to visit during lovely times of year, say March-May and September-November, skipping the hot and crowded months of June-August, it would require us to make two round trips to Europe rather than one. If you tack on the question of where we would live June-August, when our Peru house is in the depths of cold, misty, humid winter, you begin to see that the new rules have struck at the heart of our travel strategy.
The rule is so new that our travel agent wasn’t aware of it, and sold us tickets for five months stay in the Schengen Zone. When we discovered the tourist visa problem and complained, she countered that a discussion of the Schengen rules came up at almost every weekly meeting in her office. They are still feeling their way. She rearranged our flights and waived her fee.
What we decided to do was to explore more of the UK after our three months in Europe are up, giving us time to spend the month of July near Penzance in Cornwall, way down near Land’s End. There are gorgeous walks and lots to see. It’s hardly a sacrifice to give up Denmark for England. The following month we’ll be in Wales, another green and lovely region that probably will not be roasting during August. We would have liked to visit Sweden, but that will have to wait.
In September, we’ll try Croatia, a country that is trying to get into the Schengen group but won’t succeed until at least 2021 because of political infighting with member countries. That means we are eligible to stay in Croatia for 90 days without regard to where else we’ve been all summer. We reserved properties for each month, made our travel arrangements, rented cars and booked flights. Everything was in order.
Every day we hear of new infections, there are new cases in more countries, and the culmination was last week’s huge drop in the US stock market. We went out and bought paper masks and a bottle of hand santizer, having read that stores in the US and Amazon are already out. Peru isn’t worried and we got both.
Now we’re ready.
We aren’t changing any of our plans. Jonathan has been tracking the number of new cases of the virus, the total number of cases, and the death rates rather closely. What the graphs show as of today is that the Coronavirus is spreading much more slowly than it was a week ago. New cases world wide may level off this week and even start to decline. Though he has to track a few more days to see where the trends are going, unless something changes drastically, the outbreak is not a pandemic and won’t become one. By the time the virus has been tracked for six weeks, it will be tapering off. We are keeping all our plans in place, reasonably confident that by the date of our planned departure for Athens on April 1, 2020, air travel and tourism will be largely back to normal. Jonathan’s close following of the statistics has made the difference for us. Though the data is pretty scanty and models of disease transmission are surprisingly scarce (have these been supressed?) the trends right now suggest the virus is on its way out.
Let’s hope we’re right.