The next stop on my COVID-19 tour is taking me to Macedonia, as long as Spain doesn’t go into another lockdown or my flights are cancelled for a third time. Being a travel writer in 2020 is challenging to say the least, but still marginally better than being a music festival reporter.

Macedonia along with Albania are two undiscovered gems of Europe so I will be spending the next six months exploring these countries as safely as possible. Macedonia has a number of national parks with beautiful hikes along with the most famous lake of the Balkans so expect lots of socially distanced outside coverage. When the weather starts to turn cooler, I’ll be heading to the Albanian Riviera.

Like most of international plans, my mother had a number of follow-up questions:

Isn’t International Travel Risky Right Now?
There is a risk, and given the choice I would consider staying in Malaga. The Spanish government has been more than generous by extending the normal tourist visa by an additional 90 days to mid-September which means that I have to leave.

Also, I’m like 95% sure this country is heading into another lockdown.

But What About {Insert Various Visa Scheme}?
Believe me, I’ve looked into all of them, and the good news is that if I ever want to return to Spain for a longer period of time, there are more options than I ever dreamed of. But for right now, most of these options don’t seem to be feasible.

Why Don’t You Return to the United States?
I wrote about my decision to not return back to the US at the start of the lockdown. At the time, I believed that the US response to the virus was one of the worst in the world. Six months later, it has become a master class in how to fuck up a pandemic response.

Aren’t Flights Dangerous?
Flying might actually be the safest way to leave Spain. Most flights in Europe are only a couple hours, and because of COVID-19 not many people are flying. Like any industry hit by a crisis, the airline industry is working extra hard to convince people to travel again with upgraded cleaning procedures and reduced capacity flights.

Why Macedonia?
Our catastrophic response to the virus has turned the US passport, formerly one of the best travel documents in the world, into one of the worst. The southwestern Balkans (Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Montenegro) is one of the few regions in Europe currently allowing US citizens entry. Between changing flights, entry restrictions, reliability of data, and personal preferences, I settled on Macedonia, a country I really enjoyed visiting three years ago.

What’s the Situation in Macedonia?
According to current data, Macedonia is reporting less than 1500 cases over the previous two weeks. That’s 68.5 cases per 100,000 in the previous 14 days. In comparison, the US is at 167 and Spain at 261. Albania currently has similar numbers to Macedonia. I also have first hand accounts that they are taking the virus seriously enough to require (not recommend) masks in most situations.

Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?
Yes, mom.