Take, for example, the couple Tal and Yaron Bin, who have been working and living in different parts of the world for the past year and a half. They flew from Israel about a month ago to Belgrade, and now they are sharing the experience.
The couple between are what is defined as “digital nomads”. People whose occupation is primarily online, thus enabling them to work from anywhere on the planet.
“At the beginning of the year we lived in Cape Town, and in mid-March we planned to continue to Portugal,” the two say. “But a few days before the flight the corona situation in Europe worsened and we had to re-evaluate. We changed all the plans at the last minute.” The change in plans included a return to Israel. “The decision to cancel the plans and return to Israel was not easy, but we felt it was the right decision – to move the corona period in the familiar and protected place. But what we thought would be a temporary period, extended to more than three months in Israel. It was a great opportunity to reunite with families and friends in Israel. “At a certain point, the urge to continue our journey in the world increased. The existential fear of the corona virus dwarfed our need to travel.”
Their need to travel met mainly closed borders and a low flight schedule from Ben Gurion Airport. We were disappointed to find that in light of the increase in the number of people infected in Israel, the countries to which we planned to travel, we closed their gates to Israeli passport holders. At this point we realized we could not be picky and looked for which countries would agree to accept us. We found one country that opened its gates to us, without the need for isolation, and without the corona – Serbia tests. ”
After the destination was chosen, the two set out on a journey. “From a brief inquiry on the Internet and in groups of digital nomads on Facebook, we realized that Belgrade could be an attractive destination for us, and that we could live there for a while, as long as we made the journey through the airports and did not go back. We were looking for a pleasant city. And some nice cafes, and Belgrade answers just that. After all we work from the internet and we have no limit to a specific destination. So, from today to tomorrow, we booked the next flight to Belgrade via Athens. We realized that every day is critical, because policies can change at any moment. “There is a chance that we will encounter a refusal from the airline or that one of the flights will be canceled, so until we left the airport in Belgrade, we were not safe.”
Visiting an airport these days is an experience unlike anything we were used to until the outbreak of the crisis. The shops are mostly closed and so are the restaurants and cafes. The spaces are orphaned from man. The couple also say that “the airports are empty, there are no queues and the flights are not full”, so they define the flight experience as “excellent. The conditions are even better than on normal days. The only downside was that we could not raise a glass at the airport before the flight.” “Because everything is closed.”
And so, a month ago, the two landed in Belgrade. “We live in an Airbnb apartment in the Dorchol neighborhood, close to Belgrade Fortress and the main pedestrian zone. The cost of living here is almost the same as in Thailand, a cup of coffee costs about seven shekels and beer in a restaurant costs about 10 shekels. An apartment for a couple in a good location costs about 800 euros a month.” And the cost of living? “Shopping at the supermarket is about half the price of the same shopping basket in Israel.”
In Belgrade they are not bothered by the fact that the government is having a hard time finding a projector, from the zig zag in the guidelines or even another locksmith floating in the air. “After three weeks in Belgrade we welcome the decision. Getting to a place where there is no hysteria around the corona has done us good. While there is awareness here, it is mandatory to put masks indoors, there are disinfection stations everywhere and no gatherings, but at the same time life goes on.
“People are in parks, hanging out in the many cafes in the city, going to the gyms, the shops and museums are also open. Access here to Corona is much more convenient for us – the understanding that it is important to adhere to certain hygiene rules but also that time is precious and life should go on. But we have no problem with that, because in any case our lifestyle looks more like that of a local than a tourist; we work from home or from a cafe, exercise, take walks in the park and enjoy daily life in the city. About two weeks ago there was talk of a closure in Belgrade for only one weekend. But the residents went out to demonstrate in front of the Senate building and the closure was lifted. ”
And what next?
“As long as there is no closure we intend to stay in Belgrade, continue to other cities in Serbia and later maybe even skip to neighboring countries like Montenegro and Croatia, of course it all depends on the border situation. And like everyone, we hope the corona will end and more countries open their gates.”
And what about the obligation of isolation that will be required of you upon your return to Israel?
“We are not afraid of isolation back to Israel because we plan to be outside Israel at least until October. We take into account that we may have to go into isolation in October, but we already did that when we returned from South Africa and that is not a problem, we even learned to enjoy it.”