Traveling Amidst a Pandemic, Painting of girl screaming, Russian painters, Photorealistic Painting

Traveling Amidst a Pandemic (Part 1)

March 7th, 2020, while I was waiting at the Russian embassy in Montreal for my visa that I realized how lucky I was to hop through Moscow on my way back to Shenzhen where I lived and work. Traveling amidst a pandemic is probably one of the most challenging things I ever faced.

I was distracting myself by listening the latest news on YouTube. All the talk was about the virus. It was why I had left China in the first place to head back home in Canada. As the world was coping with the upcoming wave that was about to strike, I was counting on being back in China, and its many changes. When my number finally came up, I was excited to pick up my passport. I had managed to get a tourist visa in little over 24h and didn’t expect it to be so easy to visit Russia. So it was with excitement that I had left the embassy that afternoon. Little did I know how Covid-19 would change my plans to go back to China.

I arrived in Moscow quite worry free after a simple flight and wearing a mask along the way. Not the most comfortable of travels, but not the worst. I was also very happy to reconnect with my sweetheart and explore the city that made her who she is. I’ve always had a lot of apprehension towards this city mainly influenced by mainstream and blockbuster movies. I was expecting the depression, the cold, the hard Russian life. Turns out that in March, the weather was milder than in Montreal… We set out to explore the city, navigating towards the typical touristic spots starting with the iconic Kremlin and the Red Square. Located right in the middle of Moscow by the river, the Kremlin is the most iconic representation that the western world has of Russia. While the building is imposing, it hides historical orthodox churches, royal jewelry and a beautiful park that is nice to wander through. You also get to see one of the Tsar Cannon, a large early modern artillery piece with detailed sculping and cannon balls the size of a beer barrel to say the least. It is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest bombard by caliber in the world. And while being fascinated by this massive armament, my only thought was whether it was just as dangerous to fire this cannon for the people operating it as for the people they were aiming at.

Discovering Moscow

We swiftly went through the Kremlin and found the exit opening straight on the famous Red Square. Hosting monuments like Lenin’s Mausoleum, GUM and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the square is vast and certainly a favorite for traveling Instagramers. I was surprised to find the Saint Basil’s Cathedral to be smaller than I imagined. In movies, the cathedral always came out as a massive building hovering over the square. But given the bright weather, it was simply a beautiful and colorful cathedral. And adjacent to the Red Square, you will find a massive shopping center. It was the first of the many shopping spots in Moscow where I soon came to realize that Downtown Moscow, for all its iconic landmarks, it’s simply surrounded by a ridiculous number of shops. I want to say shops and bars, but it’s mostly shops. The city is in now way as poor, it’s a concentration of wealth that one witnesses through the cars rolling down on the streets, the up-fashioned women and the brands they wear proudly. There are some bars as well and nice hidden gems, but if you come as a simple tourist, it’s hard to find them by yourself. Luckily, I was accompanied by a local, and quite beautiful one at that. So local we went after we checked off our list the touristy spots. I for one never was one for the main touristic attraction. Usually, I do visit them since they are world famous, but tend to stroll through quite fast, snap a memory of it and move on to living a bit more of the culture. I had but two weeks in front of me, so I wanted to make the best of it.

The People We Meet

Throughout the next couple of days, we went to a variety of jazz bars, coffee shops and beautiful parks despite the cold winter. But mainly, we also met up with friends over dinner and drinks, sharing in our lives. One such evening was quite interesting when close friends reunited together for the first time in a long time to reconnect and meet “me”. These girls come from different backgrounds and are overall very art oriented. From creating performances to acting in movies, they are always reaching out for the dreams of an artist. And one stood out more than the rest, not because of her artistic side, but more because of her personal introspective journey where she tries to better understand herself, but unfortunately, she does it through the readings of Freud… There’s nothing wrong with Freud, it’s definitely an interesting approach, but personal interpretations of it have little value when compared to someone that actually studied psychology and did a PhD. She started this series of abstract questions to understand everyone’s different personalities and gave her interpretation of it. It was amusing, but she failed to notice the look of some of her audience that had little interest in it and simply wanted to share in life’s latest adventures. Being an artist is not easy and, in many ways, some have to cope with the looming failure when you take such a path. So, I understand her strong desire to find herself and better understand herself to beginning with. The night died out with our wine glasses empty and fading laughter as each went back to their life.

Meanwhile, the news about the pandemic was spreading and with my flight being scheduled for March 30th to head back to China, I was starting to worry about what might happen if it didn’t take off at all. On March 28th it was all over the news: “Moscow is going under Quarantine. There will be no flights in or out of Russia.” I was stuck in Moscow and my two-week vacation turned into 6 months living in my suitcases. Was it bad?

Find out the next week!

Dragos Cacio
An experienced digital marketing director with a passion for marketing in the technology, travel, and gaming industries. Creative and innovative, he's an expert in creating marketing and advertising strategies to spearhead international market growth. Dragos is the embodiment of what a Digital Nomad stands for, which is freedom of mind and body.