It was a beautiful February day when I landed back in Cyprus for my regular visit. I had just arrived from Miami after spending the weekend at a successful investor conference and was prepared to settle back at home for 3 weeks before heading to Singapore for a quick business meeting then down to Bali for my god-sister’s wedding, followed by Dubai for Expo 2020 meetings before heading back over to the US. All flight, hotels, transport and meetings had been set well into the middle of May.
As I write this post, many of you are likely already laughing! I’m still in Cyprus, 4 months longer than my originally planned 3 weeks. To put this into context, just 2 years ago I had travelled for 320 days of the year and it has been over 15 years since I have been in 1 place for more than 3 weeks at a time.
I’ll take you back to Feb 26th, the first days we began to hear rumblings that the Covid-19 (now pandemic) was beginning to get serious. I originally dismissed this as “another flu” scare and that as a young, healthy adult I would continue my travel plans while others were scared into re-arranging their lives. Boy was I ever wrong! Day-by-day I could recall the panic dominating headlines and by Mar 10th or so, Covid-19 cases globally had spiked so fast that things were being cancelled everyday. NCAA tournament, the NBA, followed by the Olympics and the list went on. After much consideration amidst the uncertainty of when the next roll of toilet paper would be available or if there would ever be enough hand sanitizer for sale, I decided to make the tough decision to cancel the rest of my travel plans and meetings indefinitely.
It was a long 2 weeks getting hold of airlines, hotels and partners to undo all of the plans that had been confirmed for the past 3 months. As soon as I knew that I would be in Cyprus for at least another month to weather the lockdown, I immediately decided that I would make the best of this situation and take the opportunity to explore and learn about the island that I was calling my new home.
I approached the lockdown as a “pause” that the world provided in order for me to slow down and enjoy the things around me. Thankfully, my girlfriend was with me and the decision to stay became a very fun way for us to enjoy our home together. Initially we enjoyed the city, the restaurants and the shops that Cyprus offers. We like certain restaurants here and like to visit both Limassol and Nicosia on a weekly basis to keep things fun. We also caught up with our friends here and talked about how Covid-19 was affecting primarily Asia at the time. The big news started hitting close to home when we saw the huge outbreaks come from Fashion week in Milan, followed by the shutdowns in Paris. I think it was at this moment we finally realized that this was going to start affecting the entire world.
Week by week, the world unravelled around us, but as a small Mediterranean country, it seemed like we were somehow shielded from the unbelievable headlines we saw around the world. As a reference, we never experienced any toilet paper shortage, an inability to buy hand sanitizer or even face masks here. I joked with friends on social media that somehow, we struck the jackpot on our little island!
Looking back, I’m proud to say that I feel that we made all the right decisions at the right time for dealing with the lockdown. Keep in mind, many of the decisions, initially, were made with limited information while taking some risks and making educated bets. One of the examples was deciding to drive out to Paphos to purchase a set of city bikes from a cycling shop there. We drove out there, papers and ID’s in hand along with the required documents we had to fill out in order to leave our house and drove to Paphos for the day.
The end result is that we purchased our two bikes, passed all police checks and returned home safely (covid free) after meeting with the cycling shop owner with masks and sterilizing the bikes, the entire car and our hands with alcohol. On our way home, we stopped to eat lunch that we had brought with us so we could enjoy a picnic from our car!
Perhaps one of the funniest realizations we had after the fact was that we weren’t actually supposed to have left our city as that was one of the conditions of the initial lockdown!
After about 2-3 weeks of the initial lockdown, which required you to fill out a form that had your name, ID number, date and exact time you were leaving the house along with 1 of the 8 approved reasons for leaving, restrictions got tougher and you were now only allowed to leave your house a maximum of 1 time per day but a paper was no longer enough. Anybody under the age of 65 would have to text message a number and receive a timestamped approval before leaving. I remember clearly as the lockdowns started in a rolling close. First malls, barber shops and movie theatres. So while we couldn’t enjoy those, we went to explore all the boutique stores that could remain open. We were always careful to wear masks and use sanitizer and even went to the distance of disinfecting every piece of grocery at the door of our house before it went into our house!
What comes next are all the amazing areas of Cyprus we were able to discover during quarantine in a responsible way, keeping our social distance.
As a business owner here in Cyprus, I was given the opportunity to move around different areas of the island as long as you respected the rules and always carried your text message approval and your ID. Especially during the time when we were only allowed to leave once a day, we were stopped by police and checked about every other day. I am proud to report to you that we didn’t pay any fines as we followed the rules each time!
My lockdown experience in Cyprus has been a real pleasure and if you ask me if I would do it again; the answer is yes! The government was very organised and managed to keep the number of cases under 1000 with less than 20 deaths at the moment. I have been given the opportunity to reside on this island and explore its beauty during the pandemic and I just love it.
Here’s a collection of all the places and things we visited during quarantine. What made things even sweeter was that we got to see these sights, typically busy with tourists, completely on our own, and boy, the natural beauty is stunning!
When you can’t leave your house but you see an ice cream truck. Chase down time!
King prawns bigger than my entire fork from Almar Restaurant just before all restaurants closed.
View from Ammos Restaurant having Sushi the last day before all restaurants closed
Green juices, egg white & banana pancakes with mixed fruits and peanut butter.
Exploring Ayia Napa region with Santorini style churches
Snowball fight in the mountain in March!
Masks on for a quick bank visit
The city bikes we bought. We ended up using these almost everyday for the month we were only allowed out once per day. A leisurely bike ride down the beach helped us feel like we were never stuck.
Egg frittata with Caviar. You can see our chef skills slowly improving during the course of lockdown!
On our daily bike rides, we found 2 baby kittens that we loved! We visited them for about 4 days straight, bringing them food each day but on day 5 when we returned, they were gone 😭. Their food bowls were gone as well so we hope a family adopted them 😃
In honor of our cancelled trip to Bali, we made a fruit smoothie bowl
A private cave we found just by driving down the coast in between Larnaca and Ayia Napa
Sea caves in Ayia Napa
Sea you beach bar in Paphos
Adonis baths in Paphos
Mykonian style 2-day getaway in Paphos