The coronavirus in Spain: lockdown Diaries Day 32

The coronavirus in Spain: lockdown Diaries Day 32The coronavirus in Spain: lockdown Diaries Day 32

Tuesday Apr 14, 2020.

It was exactly a month ago that the lockdown started in Spain. On March 13 the government declared a State of Alarm, the next day we started the lockdown.

Since then our only outings have been to the grocery store which is 3 minutes down the street. We usually do a big shopping, which lasts us about 5 days. So, based on that, we’ve probably left the house 5 or 6 times over the last 32 days, each time for an average of about 30 minutes.

Spain has the strictest lockdown measures in Europe. Most countries allow people to go out for exercise. Not here. I think being constantly indoors is the hardest part of the lockdown (I’ll write more on our personal situation further below).

Since my last lockdown diary on March 31st (day 18), the lockdown – which was supposed to end April 12th – was extended to April 26. We’re 99% sure that the lockdown will be extended into May.

But we’re getting closer to the end. The latest numbers here are 172,541 infected and 18,056 dead, but the number of dying on a daily basis is getting lower (567 in the last 24 hours) as is the number getting infected every day. Yesterday, after 2 weeks off, non-essential workers were allowed back to work. The construction site outside our window is now busy with cranes and construction workers. We actually like it, despite them waking us up at 8am. It’s proof that there’s life out there (which hasn’t been obvious. Streets have been eerily quiet). With some people going back to work, we hear that police are giving out millions of masks around the country, usually at train, metro and bus stations. All good signs.

BIG NEWS. Last week I wrote about how the Coronavirus will change the way we all travel. The last few days have given us glimpses of changes to come. Over the weekend French president Macron was talking about closing the external borders of the Schengen Area and the Schengen Associated States until September. It’s not yet a done deal but I’m expecting it – or something similar – will be adopted. It would mean that Europe would effectively be shut to foreigners from outside Europe for the whole summer. So if you’re still thinking of a European vacation this year I’d suggest you change your plans.

I also find it interesting reading news on how different countries are/will proceed once lockdown ends. Austria today started allowing small stores to open. They’ll be looking to gradually open up larger stores with time. Germany is due to re-open in 5 days and they’ve started talking about upcoming changes on the news. Masks for example will be mandatory in public spaces. They’ll be limits on public gatherings. Border controls will be relaxed and stores, school and restaurants will re-open.

That’s all good news.

France and Italy will only re-open in May. Spain, as I say, is due to re-open April 26 but I’m sure we will be extended to May as well.

It’ll be interesting to see what policies all will be put in place because they’ll all have an impact on movement/travel for at least the short term. I’m also curious to see if internal borders between countries in the Schengen get back to normal. Right now many countries have strict border controls with other Schengen member states (see here for more details). Macron has already said that maintaining these borders might bring the death of Schengen and to the borderless Europe we’ve known the last 25 years.

Overseas, The US now is leading the world in both infections and deaths. The UK will lead Europe in the same statistics within 1-2 weeks and its leader was the first to be hospitalized. A few people told me they were offended a few weeks back when I mentioned that leadership in both countries were handling the situation badly. I would suggest that instead of being offended, people should read the news. I don’t make up this stuff.


The coronavirus in Spain: lockdown Diaries Day 32


Our personal situation going on a month in lockdown…

For us the hardest thing has been not been able to go outdoors. We have a nice, spacious apartment with everything we need – but no balcony. We have several windows facing a courtyard but don’t get any direct sunlight. So we’re light deprived. It’s maybe why our hours are so screwed up. Despite really trying to sleep regular hours we’re finding ourselves falling asleep around 6 am and waking up around 1 pm. We can’t fall asleep when we want to and when awake we’re always feeling tired. We’re completely screwed up.

I wonder if other people are having a problem with their scheduling under lockdown?

But compared to a lot of people we have it good. I can’t imagine owning a restaurant, bar or store right now, being a cash-strapped bar/restaurant worker suddenly without a job, or being in lockdown in a small apartment with 5 family members. There’s a lot of people going through really difficult times.

One of the things that’s really helped us travelling full-time for almost 6 years now has been all the time spent together. Many times that’s been in really tight quarters (in Japan we stayed 7 weeks in rooms the size of closets). So for us being in lockdown together isn’t an issue. I mention that because with most of the world in lockdown there’s been a huge spike in domestic violence all over.

Most readers know we came to Spain with the idea of finding ourselves a base and working towards permanent residency
Before coming to Spain I wrote a post on that and on the places that we were considering as a possible base.

It’s funny that we saw all the cities listed in that post and then got locked down in the last one on the list. In fact, we’ve barely explored Leon – we had one full day here before the lockdown came into effect.

But the coronavirus has made a few things clearer for us, on the other hand it’s also confused a few things.

  • We knew that we had to work on getting a base, that we can’t be travelling full-time forever. First of all, we’re not getting any younger. Secondly, we want to put down roots somewhere. I think getting locked down in an apartment that’s not our own, in a city we don’t know, has cemented our decision towards getting a long-term base.
  • Full-time travel, although at times challenging, has been great over the last 6 years. It’s obvious now – at least for the short-term – that maintaining that lifestyle would be much more complicated with what’s going on around the world.
  • After having visited all 6 places on that list, one city stood out as a potential base. Now, with the Coronavirus, we’re re-evaluating that. I’m thinking now that I’d prefer a smaller city closer to nature. I’m being a bit vague but we’re still going through conflicting feelings. I’ll expand on our most likely future base when things get back to normal and we actually get back to working towards making a base in Spain a possibility…


Blogging & travel.

A bit of a shock today when we saw that Lonely Planet is closing its main offices. Lonely Planet was THE original guidebook. I had a huge shelf of their guide books at home (they’re all now in storage in Zagreb) and I know they inspired many of my travel dreams. Having them close most of their operations is sobering.

I’ve mentioned in a prior post that the Coronavirus is hitting everyone hard, including travel bloggers. Most of us have lost about 75% of traffic. For a lot of fellow bloggers blogging was their livelihood and what money they did make supported their travel lifestyle. Many didn’t have much money to start with. Now, with advertising and affiliate income basically dead, many will be forced to find alternatives in a bad economy.

I’ve had issues with the blogger world as I’ve written about before here. Honestly, I don’t mind if the travel blogging world gets weeded down. I’ve met people over the last few years who‘ve readily admitted that they don’t have a passion for blogging. They got into it because they saw a possibility of making money while not stuck 9-5 behind a desk. The result is a lot of shit content and a lot of pandering to travel boards, hotels and tour companies.

I’d like to see travel blogging go back to people who genuinely have a passion for travel and who write honestly. The current economic difficulties might not totally solve that – some of the guiltiest parties are the big blogs who got into it for the right reasons but with time gave in to money – but I’m hoping it clears the brush of the multitudes of young bloggers who get into it for the wrong reasons.

Anyway, just some thoughts…


Almost forgot: here’s the latest on the “lockdown beard”. 32 days of growth…

lockdown beard day 32


past diaries:

Lockdown diary Tuesday March 17 (day 4)

Lockdown diary Tuesday March 24 (day 11)

Lockdown diary Tuesday March 31 (day 18)

Related: How will the Coronavirus change the way we travel? 

Thanks for reading. Stay safe and wash you hands!


  1. Hi Frank

    Very good post that touches on various interesting topics.

    I’ve been following your stay in Leon from the beginning. I hope that this situation will not last much longer, however for the time being the most important is to stay safe and healthy.

    I was ill with the coronavirus for two weeks back in March and it’s not fun, believe me. I was lucky because I only had relatively mild symptoms, but it could’ve gone the other way too. That’s why this virus is dangerous, you can’t know what will happen to you if you get it.

    As for the offended people, please don’t pay attention. You were right, although I can only talk about the UK, where I am at the moment. Initially, the government did nothing to limit the spread of the virus and they still seem very incompetent. Anyway, let’s not get involved in this discussion at the moment, it’s still far too early for conclusions, we will the results of their policies after the epidemic.

    Also, I believe that it will be easy for all of us to make new travel plans, although as you correctly point out, we will see if, when and how we will be able to travel in the future.

    Keep safe!


    1. Thanks for the comment Vitko. Sorry to hear that you had it back in March but glad you got better. People can’t just assume it’ll be older people, lots of younger people have fallen sick as well.

      I agree, I’ve been trying not to point fingers because we’re in the thick of it. But it’s clear some countries have done well and others not…One day, when this hopefully all ends, a lot of leaders will have a lot to answer for.

      All the best Vitko.

  2. Every time (seriously) I start to feel a little stir crazy I think of the two of you in your apartment with no balcony, and Donna in Seville, and I remember how fortunate we are in that we have a backyard, and we can go out for long walks. If we couldn’t leave the house I’m pretty sure we’d lose our minds.

    I share your thoughts on weeding out the bloggers. I think that’s going to just be inevitable for so many as the hosting/domain fees come due.

    Offended by your assessment of what’s happening in the US? Ha! You nailed it with the harsh realities of the incompetence of a “president” who totally failed in this crisis and who is now promoting violence against Democratic governors as a diversion to his failings.

    You two are amazing, hang in there. I have a suspicion as to where you’re going to settle. 😉

    1. Thanks for the comment Patti. Yes, we’re in agreement with everything. And I’m trying hard not to rant on Trump, this shouldn’t be when people point fingers…but when a president blames everyone else makes it really hard to stay impartial.

  3. I continue to enjoy your blog a ton. Even in these non-travel times, I check back regularly and often get sidetracked with your older content.

    Not sure if you’d want to do this as there must be some reason it’s not already here – maybe a link to your first post and let me start from the beginning?

    It’s a great time to be an armchair traveller.

    Thanks Frank! Stay safe.


    1. Thank you very much Colleen!

      I do have links in the related posts but you’re right, maybe I should include them within the post in order. I think I’ll do that.

      What’s the situation like in Kyiv Colleen?

  4. Frank, fascinating to have another peep inside your lockdown lives in Spain. Today it has been 3 weeks since the UK lockdown started and we are up for hearing a government review this evening, although we don’t think much will change and things will continue as they are for the time being. I can totally understand why now, more than ever you both want to have a more permanent home. I feel for the many people who don’t have a place to call home at such a difficult time. Loving the face masks, very “in Vogue”. Keep these diaries coming, it is great to hear how things are developing there for you guys.

    1. Thanks for the comment Gilda. I’m sure you are happy and relieved to have made it home from SEA during all this.
      Stay safe!

  5. Don’t know when or how long I’ve been following you but to reiterate others comments I respect your perspective.

    We were traveling the world during the same time you were (from August, 2011 thru May, 2019) and settled down in England in June, 2019, here in East Anglia. Timing is everything and thankfully we’re hunkered down with the ability to go out to exercise and we have a garden to enjoy–especially after spending time getting it in shape.

    I am married to a Brit but am a USA citizen. Thankfully, we are not in the states now with their handling of the virus under the current Administration (enough about politics except it was a primary reason for leaving). We started my visa process in December, 2018 to live in England and, after much voluminous documentation and with the help of paying an attorney for expediency and accuracy, was approved entry in May, 2019.

    I know your thoughts on Croatia and we loved it. My grandfather was born in Gorjani, Yugoslavia (now Croatia, near Novi Sad in Serbia). I went as far as getting his birth certificate properly authorized and “stamped” by the appropriate officials with the thought of living in Croatia but ultimately being in possession of an EU passport. Bottom line is Croatia requires you to answer 15 of a total of 150 questions regarding its history, leaders, etc. IN CROATIAN! Needless to say, if I was going to learn a language it would not be Croatian! Therefore, moving anywhere in Croatia proved impossible. We loved Split and Rovinj in Istria. We’ve traveled up and down the country and been there three times and will undoubtedly return. By the way, estoy aprendiendo espanol.

    With an EU passport, we could have lived in most countries in Europe. My first choice was San Sebastian, Spain. We’ve been there twice and love it. However, it is expensive, chilly and the closest international airport is Bilboa, an hour away. It does not meet your requirements.

    Thankfully, with my visa in hand, and settled and a lot of dumb luck, I think one of two things may happen. Travel will forever be changed with countries exercising more controls on numbers of visitors or the world will have a short memory and things will return to normal as we knew it. With Brexit still looming, there were going to be changes for Brits regardless.

    With a little luck, perhaps hotels, airbnb accommodations, restaurants and travel will become more affordable. We were due to go to Holland to see the tulips and the Loire Valley for a wine tour in May but both are cancelled. Friends from Portland, Kamloops and Palm Springs were scheduled to visit us and have all cancelled. We’ll probably stay close to home for the foreseeable future to see how this all sorts itself out which should be interesting to observe.

    I’ve been coming to England since the 70’s and have traveled around most of the country. Our considerations when we were deciding on a permanent home were transportation, good produce, proximity to airport, health, climate, accessibility to the continent, affordability and a few others. We settled on Norfolk because it IS off the tourist radar map even though it has an immense history and major routes in England go N & S. We originally looked in Norwich (population 140,000+) but were hard pressed to find bungalows big enough so we looked around the area and are happily anchored 9 miles away in a small market town (population 14,000+) with many busses taking us into “the city.” Again, dumb luck to be in a smaller town during this pandemic.

    Today, we hear about our future regarding continued isolation to help the NHS but I think we’re looking at another three weeks. It’s like being in a sci-fi, Steven King novel, but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. We will survive and come out the other end better than ever (I hope!)

    During the lockdown, one project we’re working on is combing through 13,000+ pictures from our travels and documenting same. Daunting and overwhelming but fun to rehash and refresh our many experiences– mostly good. Never dawned on us to monetize our travels like so many others have done but I know it’s a lot of work having the stamina to keep a blog going. I’m not that techie to know how to do it either. We started on blogspot–The Adventures of Twinks and Sparky but never kept it up. Not sure if it could/should be reactivated.

    Good luck Frank and Lissette with your permanent move. Await your continued blogs and stay safe and healthy. BTW, generally speaking, I’m not a fan of beards but am a Frida Kahlo fan as on Lissette’s mask.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Jann, very interesting.

      You’ve probably read about our Croatian adventures and on deciding that it wouldn’t be our future base. Well, your comment is spot on in that respect. You would think that they would try to attract expats and foreign investment but they haven’t made it very friendly in that respect.
      Despite things not going according to plan so far in Spain, we realized that we’ve made the right decision. Spain is civilized. Trains are great, health care good, language is not a factor. These things are important to us. So while we fell in love with Croatia (and we haven’t encountered a place here were we fell in love with as we did with Split) we’re taking the “logical” decisons this time around. We still don’t know how everything will work out so we’re keeping fingers crossed that the process will be as it was…but many things up in the air.

      Lissette couldn’t believe when our host gave her a Frida mask. She also loved Frida.

      Stay save and thank you for the wonderful comment Jann. So interesting hearing people’s different experiences.

  6. Hi,
    As for the masks: I rather like yours more than lissette’s (looks a bit threatening, as in “do not dare get close to me”). Hope you both are released from this “prison” of a lockdown very soon. Here in the US even without mandatory lockdown, just a stay home request, which we are doing voluntarily, is stressful. Particularly for me, the sanitising and cleaning everything constantly (did I say that already before?). The group trip I was supposed to join in June scheduled it now in an email for mid October. With your input about future traveling and the issue in Europe, do you think that October will be safe and OK?
    Is your friend that’s stuck in Iraqi Kurdistan from Czech Republic? couldn’t she get help from her government? that is sure a terrible place to be stuck at.
    Keep posting your great stories. Health to both!

    1. Hi Sara,
      Thank you for the mask comment, someone else compared mine to a diaper 🙂 So I’m putting you down in the column as preferring mine.

      The “sanitising and cleaning”. Totally agree with how stressful it is. We come back from the store and Lissette will tell me “ok, take off your gloves and mask”. Then she douses me with rubbing alcohol. Then we bring the groceries in the kitchen and put them on the “dirty table”. Then it’s sorted, cleaned, making sure to clean hands and not touch the face. Oh wait, I touched the cereal box and then the fridge handle….
      A million things and honestly, how will anyone maintain that?? Lissette is keeping us according to the rules but honestly I don’t think most of us men would take the inituative to take all these steps…

      Mid-October? I’m not sure Sara. Let’s hope there’s not a 2nd wave in the Autumn. You’ve probably read about the Spanish flu in 1918 – The 1st wave was just a warmup for the 2nd wave which killed millions. I don’t think we’ll have those kind of deaths because the world is a different place now but there is still the potential of it coming back and shutting everything down again…

      Yes, she’s from the Czech republic. I really don’t know much about her situation or Czech repatriation policy. But I would imagine she must be the only Czech person stuck there. But she seems upbeat and I’m sure people being hospitable…

      Stay safe Sara!

  7. Hi Guys, I’ve basically written the year off and building a narrow gauge model railroad (click my name to see the site) to keep myself busy. Bits are hard to come by and the mail has slowed way down here in Limeyland, but I’m getting there bit by bit. The bug has begun to slow down in the UK, but not peaked yet.

    Probably good that some of the so called travel bloggers go down. A bunch never even leave home, they just pretend and grab images from sites on the web. Everyone I relate to that does travel is locked down too, in various parts of the globe.The one thing I see happening and not too sure I like it, is more dependency on digital devices and wonder where that will lead to. More restrictions?

    1. Had a look at your post Ted. That’s very technical! But that’s a great hobby that will keep you busy.
      Many years ago I made myself a model airplane on my dresser. I had all my model planes (which I wrote about here) and wanted a place to park them. I was a university student so didn’t have much money. I built the base out of wood, got some wiring and fake grass at the hobby store, built a terminal out of cardboard. When it was all done I had a lighted runway and terminal with lights. Looking back I’m maybe lucky I didn’t burn down the apartment 🙂 But I loved it and spent a lot of time on it.
      So I’m kind of envious that you have a hobby and the space for it.

      It’s true what you say about some bloggers not even travelling. What usually gives it away are images linked back to Flikr. In my book, if you don’t have your own photos then you probably haven’t even been to the place you’re writing about.
      Sorry, not sure what you mean about digital devices. You mean like tracking? I know the Chinese used it heavily during the virus. I read an article somewhere basically saying that Asians accept “Big brother” surveillance but Europeans don’t because of privacy laws…and that we might have to give up some of our “Western liberties” going forward if we’re going to want to travel.
      Argg. Don’t you wish we could time-travel back to the 80’s Ted?

  8. I’ve been watching the world news closely and have been relieved to see the number of deaths and confirmed infections declining in Spain. It is hard to believe that all of this massive upheaval has taken place over just a few weeks. My fingers are crossed that this is a sign that the virus is under control in your area and that you’ll be allowed outside soon for megadoses of sunlight, vitamin D and a chance to explore Leon. I’m sure too, that Lissette will finally get her wish for the beardless, pre-Corona version of you. 🙂 The lockdown here in Portugal has been extended to May 1 and even when the restrictions are eased and it is lifted entirely, I think people here will be cautious about large gatherings for a long time and the preference will be to see friends in small numbers. A large part of Portugal’s economic recovery since 2008 has been intertwined with tourism and this summer will be hard and even devastating for many of the small businesses in the Algarve and elsewhere. I don’t know that we’ll ever see a return to pre-virus normal, especially regarding international travel (what a shock about Lonely Planet) and I know that I will be more cautious regarding my health when thinking about future travels. Interestingly, I’ve run across a couple of news items in the last few days regarding speculation that the Schengen visa agreement might up for debate because of the closure of the borders to slow the spread of Covid-19 and the threat of future pandemics. Hopefully, this is just idle speculation and what-ifs. Keep well — the end of the lockdown is in sight!

    1. Ha! The beardless, pre-Corona version of me. Yes, Lissette gets itchy just looking at me. But on the other hand she’s not letting me shave it off because I made a commitment to it as long as the lockdown continues. We’re curious to just how much it’ll grow.
      I’m saving a lot on razors though Anita!
      There was a European commission official yesterday saying that economies reliant on tourism will really suffer. It’s obvious, but when you hear officials talking about it it kind of sinks in even more how hard this will be for a lot of people.
      Yes, I’m keeping an eye out for articles on the Schengen Visa agreement. Another reason to get residency! You did well having done it a few years ago Anita.

  9. Cool masks guys! Totally agree if Covid-19 helps clean up the travel blogging world, it’ll be welcomed. Too much edited photographs and sponsor links, not enough honest writing like yours. We used to have a blog when we were living in Shanghai 15 years ago. We focused on real experiences and enjoyed exchanges with our readers. When we decided to do the slow travel again last year, we debated if we should start blogging again and decided not to because we felt this particular space is too crowded already.
    As for daily routines during the lockdown, we are grateful that we are allowed to exercise outdoors here in the UK and have been doing so every morning for a 2-hour walk/jog in the forest next door. Hope Spain will at least relax the exercise rule soon so that you can go outside and regain a normal schedule. Stay strong!

    1. Thanks for the comment guys. Yes, there are tons of blogs out there but not that many by 50+ full-time travellers. I think there’s a market there. The problem is always finding similar travellers, having to filter out the other stuff. But I would encourage you, if it’s something you enjoy, to blog.
      I don’t think Spain will relax the exercise rule. One day lockdown will end and everyone will rush outside – and then run back in because the sun’s going to hurt.
      It’s going to be an adjustment getting back to regular life once all of this is “over” (in quotation marks because I think we’ll have a new normal once the worst has passed).

  10. a bit shocked to hear about Lonely Planet, but I guess that it was probably somewhat inevitable. Who knows what the future holds for the travel industry from here?

    1. I’m sure the print business has suffered and they’ve done a bad job on their website. In a way they just haven’t adapted. But it’s sad to see the end of something like Lonely Planet, it represents something to a lot of people (and it’s Australian right? So I’m sure it means something to you).

  11. Hi Frank, thanks for your post, very informative and interesting as usual. To be honest not sure how you both can cope with being inside for so long. Sure hope you have A/C for when the Spanish heat hits.
    Luckily we live in an area with open spaces and trails and are allowed out as long as we keep distance. I have a big beautiful doodle that I take for a 2-3 hour walk every day, he’s starting to get fed up I think. He used to beg me for walks but now when he hears the leash rattle he takes off . Love both your masks, we are close to having them mandatory here as well, but like TP and sanitizer the hogs have bought them all Up. Take care , hope for your sakes this resolves soon ! Cheers

    1. Poor dog. Hiding under the bed because of too much dog walking 🙂 That’s cute.
      Beautiful Vancouver, we had hoped to make it there on our upcoming trip but I’m not sure what the situation will be…
      Take care Dawson and don’t break your dog.

  12. I look forward very much to your blogs. You tell it as it is. We were supposed to have been spending a month in Malaysia and Bali in March/April. Thankfully we cancelled right before lockdown. I’ve been following closely your research into a Spanish base and can’t wait to see where you choose. We are in the US and can get out for exercise which has been a godsend.

    1. You did well Mary. We had some blogger friends who were in Thailand/Vietnam and just barely made it out in time. There’s worst places to be for sure (I’d like to finally make it to Bali) but I don’t think I’d want to get stuck long term in either for a long time.
      We have a favorite host in Prague – she’s a journalist – and of all places she’s stuck in lockdown in Iraqi Kurdistan. Can you imagine?!

  13. Hey Frank,

    Nice masks..

    I will say, Lissette’s looks FIERCE!!
    Yours kinda looks like a diaper.

    Stay safe,

    1. HA! That’s funny.
      The marks were given to us by our sweet Airbnb host. I didn’t think mine looked like a diaper but since your comment I’m looking at it with new eyes…You might be right 🙂

  14. thanks so much. I was just wondering the other day how you guys were doing. I really appreciate hearing your perspective on lock down in Spain and Europe. And looking forward to hearing how you work out the next chapter in your travels. I also really appreciate your honest blogging. I have followed it for a number of years.

    1. Thank you so much Jan. We’re still not sure how it’ll work out and if the visa process will be business as usual…I guess we’ll find out when everything is back up and running.
      Much appreciate you taking the time to comment.

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