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'Covid followed on his heels': how Belarus visited the USA and other closed countries during the pandemic

Belarus Nikita Smirnov is only 23, but he already has 30 countries behind him, he plans to travel the whole world. And even the pandemic hasn't changed this guy's plans. In 2020, he traveled almost all over Belarus, spent two months in America, visited Mexico, Hungary, Turkey, Poland and shared his impressions with KYKY... Further - a story from his words.

Photo: Shutterstock

"You can swear with the tax office and look at the dusty office, or you can - at the ocean"

“If before the pandemic I traveled at least once a month, now I leave the country about once every three months - this is how I recuperate. The budget for each trip is approximately $ 600. And I always try to travel light: with one backpack over my shoulders and a camera - I love to shoot beauty. I always fly on low-cost flights through Vilnius or Riga and mark the points I have been able to visit. This gives a more accurate calculation. After all, if you have been to Moscow, it does not mean that you have seen Russia. So it is with other countries. So far I have traveled 45% of Europe and 11% of the world.

Parents instilled a taste for travel - they never sat still. The first conscious trip was when I was seven: I went with my parents to Vienna. I remember how I started shouting on the plane: “We are falling! We are falling! " Although the plane didn't even take off (laughs). I remember this trip very much.

I was born in Minsk, but my life has passed in two countries: Belarus and Latvia. When it came time to enter, I chose a Belarusian university and entered the BSEU. Now I am engaged in optimization of business processes and consulting and work remotely. I have complete freedom of movement, and I spend all the money I earn on travel. And I don't like to plan for a long time - I buy tickets spontaneously, finding the best prices.

Such a schedule does not interfere with work, rather, on the contrary. I remember that I was in Mexico in January 2021, and at that time I just had to submit my annual reports. I worked and looked at the ocean. For many, this is a distraction, but for me it is a thrill. You can argue with the tax office and look at the dusty office, or you can look at the ocean. And this is a completely different perception - morally, you still rest. As for communication while traveling, I have no problems with the language. I have been fond of cybersport for a long time - it improves my English a lot: in the game I constantly have to communicate with native speakers. Therefore, I have not had a language clamp for a long time.

"Covid followed me on the heels"

In March 2020, I planned a trip to the States - I made a visa, but two days before departure, Trump closed the borders due to COVID-19. The trip had to be canceled. I was upset, but decided not to give up. At this time, there were not many places to go because of the pandemic - Europe also began to close. As a result, I decided not to invent anything and investigate Belarus. The journey began at the end of March and ended at the beginning of June 2020. It turned out that there are so many amazing places and architectural monuments in our country! It is a pity that many of them are in a deplorable state today: either they are destroyed, or they are simply disfigured by painting them with oil paint and inserting plastic windows. It is painful to see, because such objects are our history.

The chalk quarries near Volkovysk made a great impression, they are also called the Belarusian Maldives. In 2020, the location was closed for mass tourism, but in 2021 it is officially planned to open for visits. Also, my friends and I tried to get into the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but because of the covid, this could not be done. But I managed to visit Khoiniki, which is also an atmospheric place.

It is interesting that in March people were wary of travelers: some hotels did not even want to check in us - they were so afraid of infection. But literally a month later, everyone seemed to have forgotten about the epidemiological situation. They stopped asking us about anything - they settled in without any questions.

Of course, we observed the mask mode, but the covid seemed to be following us on our heels. For example, a week after our visit to the monastery in Zhirovichi, an epidemic began there. The monastery was closed to the public. And there were many such situations, but I was not afraid to get infected - I have antibodies. By the way, in October 2019 I flew on a business trip to Shanghai, after which an epidemic began in China. But I have nothing to do with it (laughs).

On the subject: How often citizens of post-Soviet countries are denied American visas

How to get into the USA with closed borders

At the end of August, the borders were finally closed for travelers, but I still, by inertia, looked for tickets to different directions. And by chance I saw a flight to the United States in transit through Istanbul. My joy knew no bounds! I dialed the US Embassy and was told that there are no restrictions if you fly through Turkey. If I knew this in March ... It turns out that Trump imposed restrictions only on flights from Europe, and it was possible to fly through Istanbul. I quickly bought tickets Minsk - Istanbul - Chicago and in the last days of August I was already on the plane. I was terribly glad that with a tightly closed Europe I managed to leave the country.

In Istanbul, life did not stop in August 2020: the establishments were open, there was an active nightlife, as if they had not heard of covid there. So I was lucky with the trip - I had a great rest: I wandered around the city, looked at the architecture. It was only later that they began to introduce severe restrictions and mask mode.

On September 1, 2020, I flew to the United States, but before I could say hello, Chicago, I went through full customs control and interrogation by the border guard.

It turns out that if there is a big political upheaval in your home country, this is a serious reason for illegal emigration.

Therefore, they checked everything with me, up to the correspondence on the phone. The main thing in such a situation is not to lie. It was easy and pleasant for me to tell the truth: I love my country, and wherever I am, I want to return only to Belarus. So I passed the test and ended up in Chicago.

In early September, strict quarantine measures were already introduced in the United States, and the cities seemed to have died out. Chicago, Washington, New York ... You come to Times Square and think: I got there exactly? In the photo and video, this place looked completely different. New York is a bustle of cars. But, on the other hand, few people managed to see big cities dead.

The Brighton Beach area in New York, where the Russian diaspora settled, made a vivid impression. This part of New York today is more reminiscent of Odessa in the 80s and 90s. - time seems to have stopped there. And the Americans themselves say that the Russians who emigrated to America in the 80s and 90s still remained to live in that time and in that nonexistent country. In Brighton, even shops haven't changed their signs for decades.

By the way, traveling to America was my first solo experience. But this was one of the best travels. Before that, I was always looking for companions, but thanks to [blogger, ex-host of the Eagle and Tails program Anton] Ptushkin for the inspiration for a new experience. When you are alone, you can not adjust to anyone and wander aimlessly around the city in headphones, look at rare people, architecture. On a day, I wound 40 kilometers on foot and constantly wrote down emotions and impressions. I remember crossing the Brooklyn Bridge ...

Perhaps someday I will have my own travel blog.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

In total, I spent a month in the United States, traveling to different cities: Chicago - Detroit - small towns of Michigan - Niagara Falls - New York - Philadelphia - Washington. Then I had to go back to Minsk on business, but a few weeks later I returned to the States for another month. This time I visited Detroit, Cancun, opened the ski season near Michigan, and toured many other small towns.

The USA is a country of contrasts. There are places where houses cost several million dollars, and there are places where people ride horses more often than cars. Believe it or not, there are places in America where contactless payments are impossible, so it's better to have cash.

I was also terribly proud that the whole world had finally learned about Belarusians. There was no need to explain where the country I came from was.

I decided to end the trip in Mexico - from the USA it was possible to get there without any problems without a PCR test and quarantine. So I saw one of the seven wonders of the world - the cultural and political center of the Maya Chichen Itzu in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

In total, I spent two months in America and spent $ 2400, including accommodation and flights. Tickets Minsk - Istanbul - Chicago - Detroit - Chicago - Istanbul - Minsk cost $ 450. And Minsk - Istanbul - Chicago - Detroit - Chicago - Budapest - $ 700. Why is Budapest the destination? My parents live there now - I decided to stay with them, and then returned to Minsk through Poland. "


Nikita continues to travel. His plans include Karelia, the Faroe Islands, Japan and New Zealand. The young man is sure that traveling and enjoying life can and should be done under any circumstances. And here is Nikita's recommendation to those who want to leave, but because of the pandemic do not know where: “I would recommend Portugal. Ryanair today flies to Faro, Porto and Lisbon. If you want to lie on the beach and enjoy the ocean - you are in Faro. If you walk among the rocks, you can go to Lisbon, rent a car and drive to the north of the country to Porto. The budget of such a trip, together with the flight and accommodation for 5 days, will be about 400 euros. I wish all travelers an easy journey, fewer difficulties with borders and only pleasant impressions. "

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