The Balkans as a convenient travel destination in the Covid-19 age
Veronika Ruzova

The Balkans as a convenient travel destination in the Covid-19 age

Veronika Ruzova, a heroine of our story, was ‘infected’ by the wanderlust long ago. However, she was able to make her dreams come true in the Covid-19 time only. For almost a year, Veronika Ruzova has been travelling around the Balkans and releasing everything to her YouTube channel.

- If it wasn’t for your videos, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible - to start travelling in the time when there are so many restrictions to travel. Was it a deliberate choice or a combination of circumstances?

- It all started with a combination of circumstances, which gradually grew into a conscious choice.

It was by the will of fate that I moved from the Moscow Region to live in Israel. At first, I enjoyed the opportunity to constantly be by the sea in a warm country. But gradually, I got tired of hot weather, and the ‘sea’ enthusiasm slowly faded out. I wanted to enjoy cool weather - at least below +30oC - and the snow, and I was eager to see some other places. So, I started travelling and visited the USA and Canada and I also began to travel around Europe. The wanderlust grew into the need for constant travelling around the world and I made preparations for this lifestyle - I found the opportunity to work remotely and chose a region for comfortable and budget travelling, which is important for me. Bulgaria turned out to be such a place as the air tickets from Israel to Sofia (before the Covid-19 pandemic) were inexpensive, the climate was fine, too, I was especially happy about the snow in winter in the mountains.

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When the pandemic broke out, I was in Bulgaria. Imagine that you are in a foreign country and you need to leave it in due time because of the visa restrictions. And you have nowhere to go as the borders are closed and there are no flights .... I applied to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and my departure was postponed for 3 months later.

This made it possible for me and all those tourists who were stuck in this foreign country to think about the situation and decide what steps to take. There were two options: to return to my homeland or continue my travel taking into account the prevailing circumstances and restrictions. I have chosen the second option, which I did not regret at all.

- In one of your videos you said that you even decided to settle in Bulgaria ...

- Yes, I did. Bulgaria has become a place of strength to me, the source of energy for my travels. There are excellent ski resorts in Bulgaria and I bought an apartment at one of them. This year turned out to be a very successful winter season with a lot of snow, and there were almost no tourists. It is an amazing experience to ski on a snow-covered run without fear of ‘skiing into’ someone!

Bulgaria is also attractive because it is very convenient to travel from here as there are several international airports in the country, an extensive network of bus and railway routes including a unique narrow-gauge railway, a trip along it is a memorable experience. It is easy to get from here by land transport to the neighbouring countries, which is very convenient, especially at a time when the air travel was practically stopped.

- But how to travel when there are so many Covid-19 restrictions everywhere?

- In the Balkans, everything is pretty simple. Here, the Covid-19 restrictions are not as tough as in Europe or Israel. Since I do not have an exact journey programme (and who has it now ...) I can adapt to the circumstances and easily change the destination if it is difficult to cross the border.

For example, from Bulgaria I wanted to go to Greece, but I was turned back at the border. At that moment, the rules had changed and only the EU citizens, which I am not, were allowed to cross into Greece. So, I had to completely change my plans and decided to go to Serbia. I crossed the border between Bulgaria and Serbia without any problems. I stayed in Serbia for three months, but not because of the Covid-19 problems, I just really liked this country. It is unlikely that I would have come to Serbia at the usual time. So, thanks to the chance I had, I discovered this part of the Balkans with friendly people, delicious food and stunning landscapes. I will definitely come back here more than once!

- Where else would you like to return?

- To Montenegro. I was there in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic - there were practically no tourists, attractions and sights that we could not visit previously because of the huge crowds of people turned out to be quiet and deserted. This gave me a real pleasure. But, unfortunately, the weather in the autumn was cool and rainy. This apparently affected my impression of the country as a whole, so I plan to return there again in a warmer time and get to know it better.

- Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?

- I am afraid, but I like to overcome my fears. Challenging myself is my credo. They say that fear is our strength and motivation to overcome difficulties. And if you succeed, you feel proud of yourself. This is exactly what I felt after my first long trip alone across the United States; I went there with minimum level of English, and at the same time, I used couchsurfing for the first time - a platform that allows travellers to move from one friend’s house to another sleeping in whatever spare space is available for free. I realized that all fears disappear if you overcome it and take the first step. This is true of many aspects of life. For example, I used to be very afraid to open up to people and talk about myself (I mean my Youtube channel), but now it is a part of my life and it even brings me pleasure. It’s great to share your experiences.

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- Do you have to take a lot of things with you?

- I travel with a backpack 40x30x20 cm. This is the standard size of a carry-on baggage on the airplanes. I had to use a small backpack because I did not know what type of transport I would have to use in my trip.

And since I am a budget traveller, I avoid extra expenses. You know, in the Balkans, even if you travel by bus, you can be charged extra for your luggage.

In summer, traveling light is not difficult, you take only what is most needed. In winter, of course, you will hardly be able to do with a small backpack.

- Where are you going now?

- I think that in today’s realities, more than ever, the quote is true, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. Therefore, I am not planning anything, but I know for sure that the next trip will be, and very soon!

- Your YouTube channel is called ‘Вероника секреты путешествий’ (Veronika - Secrets of Travel). What do you think is the main ‘secret’ of travel?

- The main ‘secret’ of travel - as well as the main ‘secret’ of life - lies in positive emotions and experiences. We should not waste our time for self-interested pursuit of material wealth but should just enjoy the simple things instead that do not cost anything but can enrich our soul and will stay with us forever!

Veronica visited the remote places of the Balkans and also gained a unique experience of preparing for her travels during such an extraordinary period, and she talks about this in her blogs: