Spain after lockdown: looking forward to the “new normal”

Spain after lockdown: looking forward to the “new normal”Spain after lockdown: looking forward to the “new normal”

May 5, 2020 (day 53 of lockdown)

It’s becoming clearer and clearer to anyone in Europe that life after lockdown is going to be anything but “normal”. I’ve mentioned previously that Spain will be coming out of lockdown on Saturday (May 9). Over the last few weeks things have eased somewhat: last week children were allowed to go out for walks with parents, this week (since Saturday the 2nd) adults were allowed out 1 hour/day. After 6 weeks of being housebound, Lissette and I have finally been allowed to go out for walks (I’ll address that further below). Next week some businesses will be able to open and people will be able to be out (no more 1 hour/day limit).

The government came out with a plan on April 28 detailing 4 different stages of re-opening. Details here. Summing it up simply: everything will be very limited, and will ease slowly, until the end of June when we arrive at the “new normal”. Only then, at the end of June, will travel be allowed between Spain’s different provinces. Travel outside of Spanish borders? Well, nobody seems to know but people are saying September or October for foreigners wanting to come to Spain and Spaniards wanting to go anywhere outside of Spain.

I think the government here in Spain is being very responsible and very careful. I’ve mentioned it before – the Spanish lockdown laws have been the strictest in Europe and even now, after 7 weeks, the government is trying to extend the State of Alarm (the emergency power that give them the right to impose policies that it would not normally have the right to impose). But I have to admit it’s all getting very depressing. And I think it’s starting to sink in for a lot of people. And calling the future the “new normal” is also not the most inspiring use of words (eclipsed only in Portugal, where our friend Anita says they’ve moved on from their “state of Emergency” to a “state of Calamity”. WTF??).

In actually fact, the way Spain has dealt with the coronavirus is the polar opposite to the way the US has dealt with it. Here the focus has been on reducing infections and deaths and there’s no doubt it’s working: deaths have averaged below 200/day for the last week. The flip side is the economy. The economy here will take a huge hit having been shut down such a long time. On the other hand, in the US both the economy and infection/death rates are spiralling out of control. I guess the only good thing that will come out of this 1st wave of infections is that governments around the world will learn the blueprint for dealing with 2nd waves of the coronavirus (or other pandemics) in the future. Right now it seems clear that countries that shut down early and decisively will be coming out of this better…but sometimes I worry that once lockdown ends that infection rates/deaths will shoot up again. Then we’ll all wonder if the last 2 months of severe lockdown was worth it at all. Time will tell.

The last week has seen a slew of horrible economic data and of businesses trimming staff. In the US, an amazing 30 million people have filed for unemployment in the last 6 weeks. Depending on how unemployment rate is calculated, that means 16 -20% of the American population is unemployed (with the unofficial numbers being significantly higher). That’s incredible. It’s not much better anywhere in the world.

And it’s only getting started.

A couple of travel related news from the last few days: Warren Buffett has dumped all his airline stock. Virgin Atlantic is cutting 3,000 jobs. Trip Advisor is laying off 25% of their workforce

Probably the strangest thing most people will have noticed is that while the “real” economy is going to crap the stock markets had one of their best ever months in April (after a very bad March). Overall, markets are only down about 20% from February highs which, considering everything, is not so bad. The reason for that is the huge and unprecedented amount of buying of bonds and stock by central banks around the world. This Time article is very interesting.

You have to wonder though how long governments can save the markets and if/when the markets will reflect the real economy.



Meanwhile, here in Leon…

My “Chopped” challenge

Lissette had her birthday over the last few days. Her challenge to me: make a dessert using some “must-use” ingredients (inspired by the show “Chopped” where contestants are given ingredients and asked to come up with a dish).

My non-conventional ingredients: canned pineapple, raisins, rice cakes, hot sauce, and custard pudding. Not in the photo are some ingredients from the pantry: caramel candies and chocolate balls.

Note: we don’t have an oven, so no baking…


So what to do? I broke up the rice cakes into the custard to give it a bit of crunch, warmed up the mix with the raisins. In a pan, I melted down the chocolate and caramel and added hot sauce to give it a bit of a kick. I added small pieces of pineapple to the custard/raisin/rice cake mix.

The resulting dish: “Custard crunch with melted chocolate and caramel fondu a la Tabasco”


It didn’t get very good reviews from Lissette. And I don’t want to tell you what she said about the presentation…


Finally exploring Leon…and social distancing

Readers may recall that we came to Leon in mid-March and within a day here ended up in lockdown. So for 7 weeks we’ve been in lockdown in a city we haven’t seen. That’s why getting out and discovering parts of Leon this week has been great. We’re still limited: we’re allowed out for exercise for 1 hour a day between 6am – 10am or 8pm -11pm. We find going out and getting some sun really helps our mood.

But it’s also cast doubts on what’s going to happen once things go back to normal. You see blatant breaking of the social distancing rules, whether done out of ignorance or out of people just not caring. Groups of people standing in the middle of the sidewalk talking, people without masks not respecting space, people on either side of the sidewalk talking loudly towards each other (without masks) as you’re forced to walk between them. And that’s after 1 or 2 days. How lax will people get after a week or two? That’s why I have a few doubts about the “theory of social distancing”. Sounds great in theory but doesn’t really work if people don’t respect it…

Convent of San Marcos


Our plans ?????

There’s a lot of question marks there because honestly nobody knows.

We have a Spanish lawyer and had letters drawn up formally requesting an extension to our Schengen Visa (which expired about 10 days ago). The request is for 15 days after the State of Alarm expires, that’s the legal extension that the government is officially allowing. So that means that if the State of Alarm ends Saturday May 9th (as is it scheduled to), we may have to leave by latest May 24th. Of course the government is trying to extend the State of Alarm and it looks like it will be pushed through (we will know tomorrow).

The above is different than what we were led to believe (and what most people think) – which is that our 90 day Schengen Visa was frozen when Spain went into a State of Alarm. Based on that, we would have 44 days remaining on our Schengen Visa once the State of Alarm is lifted.

Again, nobody knows what rule will be applied including our lawyer. So basically we have to be ready for all eventualities including being told that the State of Alarm will be lifted this Saturday and that we have to get out of the country by May 24th.

Our options once the State of Alarm ends? We’ll have to go back to Canada and be in mandatory 14 day self-isolation.

Going back to Canada was the plan because we wanted to apply for our Spanish non-lucrative residence Visa. But with all that’s going on the Spanish Consulate in Montreal is not taking appointments for visas. When will they? We don’t know. Nobody knows.

We thought of maybe going somewhere else. The whole idea of going back to Canada was to apply for the non-lucrativo. But looking around, there don’t seem to be options because countries are not allowing foreigners in at the moment.

So it looks like, when the time comes, we’ll have to leave Spain and go back to Montreal. It doesn’t look like we have other options.

The other question is if/when we can come back to Spain? As I mentioned above, it sounds like that may be September or October. But again, who knows.

The last 6 years of full-time travel has been great. We’ve travelled the world with incredible flexibility, going almost anywhere at almost a moment’s notice. And we’ve saved money with our lifestyle. Now we’re seeing the other side of the double-edged sword: having to come “home” where we no longer have a home and being stuck there (Just to give you an idea: I’ve been back twice, for short stays, over the last 5 years. Lissette hasn’t been back to Montreal at all).

So if I sound drippy with this update you know why. We can take bad news. You can plan around bad news. But I think the worst thing is always not knowing and not having options.

Ps. Great. Today did a laundry and my brand new phone was in my pants pocket. It’s not working. Shit. I’m sticking it in rice for 24 hours, that’s what they tell you to do on the internet.


I’ll end with something that really made us smile this week. In fact we’ve watched a lot of dog videos on youtube over the last week, it always makes us feel better when down.


  1. Dear Frank,

    Happy to hear that you and Lisette are safe and adapting to this new normal. Before Covid my husband, Randy and I enjoyed a similar lifestyle with “no home anywhere” as you so aptly put it.

    We are in our early 70’s and traveled a little slower, spending a few months at a time in Portugal, doing the “Schengen Shuffle” into Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, etc. to comply with visa requirements, and flying home to the US and Canada to visit with grandchildren. We were exploring Portuguese residency to make the whole Schengen thing easier.

    Your blog has been a window into your lock-down in Spain. You raise some important issues that we have also been struggling with during this crazy time.

    Randy and I were in the US to take care of some health issues when all of this hit, we are still covered by health insurance in the US. Like you we are lucky that our regular Airbnb became available so we are comfortable but unsettled in an apartment not our own. Our unconventional lifestyle took a great deal of effort, everything from banking and voting to health insurance took more time and thought. Now we are ‘stranded’ in New Jersey, our former home state with a legal residence of a Florida mail service. Let’s face it, we are square pegs in the round holes of bureaucracy.

    So like you, here we sit. Comfortable but bored. Unable to even plan moving forward as we have no clue where or when that might be. Half of the time we want to grab our suitcases and take off, traveling everywhere we haven’t been and returning to some places that are no longer overrun by tourists. Other days the draw of a safe permanent home base is irresistible. We can’t wait to get back to Europe but want to be sure we can return to the US quickly if need be. But we are in New Jersey and know the only place in the world worse for us to be would be New York City.

    Please keep sharing your experiences. We are all going to have to figure out so much going forward. Many bloggers are out there that post pretty pictures and reviews of museums. Travel, especially full time or long term is more than seeing places. Long term travel will be even more complicated and will involve more research before deciding on an itinerary. You tackle the practical realities that cannot be found in a guidebook. That viewpoint will be needed even more in the next few years.

    Good luck and keep blogging but most of all stay safe.

    Take care.


    1. Hi Karen,
      Love hearing from people who live our lifestyle. Sometimes I feel we’re the few doing it and it’s great hearing other people our age or older doing the same thing. Really, we’ve had such a great life over the last 6 years and I think people like us are privileged to have been able to experience it. I’m feeling that particularly now – being limited and not being able to plan our next steps has been really hard.

      How long have you been travelling full-time? Any favorite places/bases we’ve missed?

      You’ve captured the issues perfectly in your comment. You’ve also captured the dilemma I guess we share. We want to have a base and this was the year to do that. But we’ve also wondered if we have to scrap our plans and just go…the issue is where? Our lives (I mean globally) as full-time travellers just got a whole lot more complicated. Our thinking right now is that we have to push through with our plans and have a base because I think living the full-time travelling lifestyle might be very difficult over the next few years. But who knows, maybe we’ll say screw it a month from now depending on what happens 🙂

      Thank you very much for your encouragement in the last paragraph. Very much appreciate and it’s nice to hear that some people out there relate.

      All the best and please keep in touch!


  2. Frank, not having a permanent home at a time like this really sucks, I feel for you guys. But you are both healthy, resilient, and very resourceful, you will find a solution. I am glad that you guys are finally able to go out and exercise. Here in the UK, the lockdown rules are also relaxing a little, we can exercise more than once per day and we are now allowed to meet one other person from outside our household, for outdoor activity. I will be meeting my sister for a bike ride later. We are taking things one day at the time and not making many future plans. Oops about your new phone… I hope sticking it into rice has worked?

    1. Thanks for the comment Gilda. I look forward to the date when I can go out and see my girlfriend 🙂 (but it’s ok, Lissette feels the same way too 😉 ).
      Yes, the rice trick worked! I have a fully functioning phone now. Thank god Lissette is a dork and knows all these tricks.

  3. who the hell knows where as a world we go from here??? I suspect hopes of a vaccine any time soon are unlikely to be rewarded. social distancing is going to be ignored everywhere once things return to whatever the new normal will be. second and third waves we are being told are inevitable. Personally I can’t see the point in making firm plans for travel because who knows what will be possible and when that will be. Here things are still in stage 3 lockdown. might be going back to stage 2 next week but we will see. and that’s with a very low infection rate, which is because i guess we acted earlier in our cycle than others. but also Australia was behind Italy and Spain. so we saw what had happened and moved. if we’d been even quicker, we’d probably be walking free right now with only international travel banned. I would say now end of the year for international travel. we’re likely to do a deal with New Zealand and create a ‘bubble’, so maybe by Sept we could go to NZ, but it’s all up in the air. It’s going to depend on how all countries cope with it. because the ban on travel from China only didnt help us not the US. so in the end it’s everyone. sigh. going to be a long LONG year 2020. Already has been.

  4. Hi Frank, hope your phone was saved by rice?? Good news that you guys are able to get out of the confinement a bit now! Speaking of options of where to go next, have you thought about coming to the UK and parking yourselves here until Europe is open again? (I think UK still has no border control at the moment, but I’m not sure about flights’ availability). You have been lucky to be able to travel freely in the last 6 years. Unfortunately for us, we only started our slow-travel last September and were looking forward to all the different exciting sceneries in Europe and Asia this year until we came to the big pause! We are still waiting in the UK, hoping that some countries in Europe will open their borders soon (Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Portugal…)

    1. I feel for you guys. That sucks.

      Well, we just had an extension of the State of Alarm here so we’ll be in Spain until at least the 1st week of June. By then, hopefully, things will be close to normal in Canada (Montreal is supposedly in lockdown until May 19). So we might end up on the same timeline as Canada which started lockdown I think 2-3 weeks after us. And with any luck they’ll still have the self-isolation in place and we’ll have to self-isolate for 2 weeks upon arrival…arggg! I just don’t think there’s any way around all that.

      You know what? The rice trick worked. Dried up my Samsung Galaxy and it’s working now. Amazing.

      Wish you guys the best and will keep my eyes open and let you know if I hear anything. Heard yesterday Croatia won’t let people in unless they get a PCR test for Covid in their home country no older than 24 hours prior to arrival in Croatia. Which I know sucks for you guys (you’re from NZ right? Can’t imagine you’ll be going back there just to get a Covid test, which I know you can now get in some airports. Honestly, they’re so stupid).

      1. Pleased to hear about the phone back to life! Hope the timing works out for you to travel back to Canada. 14 day self-isolation is not as bad as quarantine in a facility, especially if you have a balcony or garden. If we were going back to Australia, we would have to do the 14 day mandatory quarantine in an airport hotel room, no fresh air allowed apparently! I’ve read that EU is working on a coordinated plan to open the boarders. Hopefully they will come up with some practical measures that would suit the general public to travel again.

          1. Thanks for that Frank! We’ve heard the welcoming news as well and even got an email reply from the Croatian Border Police that we will be allowed into the country without any isolation as far as we practice social distancing. But like you said, the real problem now is no available flights! We’ve been searching today and found that the first available flight from London to Split will be on 1 June provided by Wizz Air. We are about to make the booking and keep our fingers crossed! Hope you guys are still enjoying Leon!

      2. I’m glad, at least, you’re able to get out for an hour each day and see a bit of Leon. I do so love the city. I can’t remember what day(s) it is held but there is a wonderful open air farmers’ market. Hopefully, you can find it.

        I highly suspect that at a minimum US citizens, who want/need to travel to Europe, will have to provide proof of vaccination. The country is SO far behind the 8 ball in this fight against the virus, and at this point it is moving backwards. The numbers are soaring.

        During the Michigan protests (bought and paid for) a woman held a large sign that read, “My liberty is worth more than your health.” That pretty much sums up life in the US.

        Enjoy your daily walks and I’m waiting (not so patiently) for that music video!

        1. Thanks Patti. From what I read, the market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday in Plaza Mayor. But with us still technically in lockdown quite sure it’s not going on these days…

          I cringe reading the news from the US. Funny enough read today that the US-Canada border will stay closed until June 21 for non-essential travel. I know Canadians do NOT want Americans coming over but you know we’ll face the wrath of Trump if our government keeps pushing it further and further down the road…

          Yes, saw some of those Michigan protesters. Worse thing is as you say Mr. T undermining his own governors for political purposes.

  5. The enforced timeout during the stay-at-home and lockdown orders has been a time of reflection for myself and many of my friends/fam and some have had to weigh to some hard choices. I understand totally why you would feel “drippy” about contemplating the uncertainty of what lies ahead. I remember well our own full-time travel days and the accompanying anticipation and challenge of travelling through new countries as well as coming to accept the hard truth that we’d need to find a base due to my husband’s health. Many of us are nomads at heart and the freedom of picking up and taking off for new places is a huge endorphin rush. The inability to make plans for the next few months is one of the great hardships that this pandemic has brought about. Also, I have a feeling that you (like me) see going back, however long the duration, versus going forward as a poor option. Who knows what the “new normal” will be or what travel will look like in the future? However, as a long time reader of your blog, I know that you and Lissette will exercise your skills of thinking outside the box and come up with a creative solution that will get you through this time of uncertainty. Don’t forget we have a future date to compare Portuguese and Spanish wines! P.S. Loved the dog video. I’m a big fan of cat videos myself! HeeHee! P.S.S. Your chops experiment was … interesting. HaHa!

    1. You understand perfectly Anita. Like you and Richard did, we’ll have to adjust. Just as we now look back to the 80’s and 90’s as great times in travel, I wonder if in a couple of years we’ll be looking back pre-2020 and thinking the same? I hope not. I guess what will change everything will be a vaccine.
      For sure one day we’ll be comparing wines. I think the priority right now is getting our visa done and then settling down. Then we’ll do a lot of regional travelling, including Portugal. We’re crossing our fingers that by the end of the year we’ll have a base somewhere in Spain.
      I was never a very inventive cook 🙂

  6. I feel you about having to come “home” with no home to go to. This is the first time we’ve had second thoughts about being homeless by choice. Finding a place to stay in the oh so expensive US, trying to figure out how long we are stuck here, buying kitchen stuff that will make our life so much easier while we are here but will eventually go right into a storage locker, etc. And, the all-consuming question of how long will we have to stay in the US? When will it be safe to travel and when will other countries allow Americans in given how badly the US is handling this crisis? We’ve booked a place in Minneapolis through the end of August but are already thinking we will be in the US much longer. And, don’t get me started on how people don’t practice social distancing when out and about…

    1. You guys exactly in the same boat. I have nothing to add to this reply, you guys understand perfectly what we’re going through.
      Best to both of you, we’ll eventually be able to travel again 🙂

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