For many of us digital nomads, COVID-19 has transformed our dream-like reality into a bit of nightmare. I say this not to spark fear, but to share the challenges of this lifestyle. Granted, everyone is struggling right now. Everyone is affected. This is an unprecedented global event, the likes of which I’ve never experienced in my lifetime.
With borders shutting down quickly and flights being canceled left and right, digital nomads face unique challenges. Let’s remember we also have unique strengths.
If you are able to stay where you are, do it. Self-quarantine. You might be worried about your family back home – I know I am. Contact and travel is what is spreading the virus most. You could contract the virus during travel and pass it on to your loved ones. And if they contract COVID-19, they will need isolation – meaning you shouldn’t be physically with them anyway.
Hopefully you have a kitchen and can lay in supplies for a few weeks to stay where you are. While we know this virus may overwhelm health systems, if you’re relatively healthy, odds are you’ll hopefully be among the 80+ percent who have a mild case and don’t need hospitalization.
Make sure you check with your health insurance company and understand what your benefits are and what is covered.
But for many of us, it’s not as simple as stay put, self-quarantine, don’t go anywhere, don’t move. Many of us don’t have a home base, or a kitchen where we are. We often travel on visas that don’t last very long, so we change countries when our visa ends. Many countries now are only allowing citizens to enter and are denying visas. So if your visa is running out…what do you do? The options are becoming more and more limited, and traveling anywhere isn’t advisable. Know your options.
If you have travel insurance, you may be eligible for an evacuation – check with them. Leaving might not make the most sense, but should you stay somewhere illegally? That’s not a question I can answer for you. Hopefully the countries locking down their borders will offer visa extensions and amnesty to over-stayers, but you could be risking fines or jailtime. Make sure you know the risks.
Pay attention. Follow official updates from the country you are in. Register with your embassy.
And don’t forget, you are better equipped to handle this than most. You already work remotely, and though this pandemic is destroying jobs, those are skills that don’t go away. You’re tough, entrepreneurial, versatile, and adaptable. You are strong. And we will get through this.