The Covid-19 pandemic has turned many lives into minor versions of the movie Groundhog Day, but for a few who are unwilling, or unable, to live in suspended animation, continued travelling has proved challenging, bizarre, scary even.
When the crisis began, wayfaring translator Bruce Humes found himself close to the epicentre. “I was in Taiwan, working on a translation of a book about the Mogao Caves, in Dunhuang, on the Silk Road,” he explains.
Humes grew nervous as his 90-day visa-free status neared expiry, with the virus spreading around the world, but Taipei moved fast.
“Measures were quickly introduced and well publicised. All tourists were given automatic 30-day extensions and the government welcomed tourists to quickly apply for a change of status to student visas or work permits. Two friends applied for the latter and obtained them easily.”
Humes was granted several 30-day extensions to his visa. But when the government announced these renewals would end after an applicant had been in Taiwan for 180 days – a policy that ultimately wasn’t enforced – Humes, a polyglot keen to master Turkish, headed for Istanbul.