HOUSEHOLD NOMAD. Coronavirus diaries by an armchair traveller.

For those into sniffing around new places on and on and being professionally involved in tourism industry and its critics, the coronavirus lockdown seems like an interesting topic to look at. The only setback these days - for many explorers the universe ends on the verge of their door bolt. So here I am - #stayingathome with no place to travel like many of us do. Except - what if my flat was that TripAdvisor destination, and I was one of its many types of tourists?
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Everybody were obliged to stay at home during the first weeks until April when the coronavirus lockdown began in Latvia. Not that it was obligatory, not that individuals were punished when going to the beach, forest or shopping for groceries. Yet many, especially those not even being ill, took precautions seriously.

Days went by, and, by the beginning of April, it was already impossible to keep people at homes. We are very good at physical and social distancing here up north, but it troubles us when there's so much good weather outside and so much nature to get lost in! Now, looking forward to the extended emergency situation that ends on 12 May in Latvia, one can already admit - things have almost come back to stable, and most of us are getting impatient to finally get out on a sunny terrace and sip their favourite drink out in public again.

Trying to be a good citizen, I believe, I managed to physically distance myself from others pretty well - took a break completely for a week or two, when to grocery stores exclusively and only on quiet hours, ordered food at home or picked up myself when able, drove or rode to places and landmarks no one's at.

I realized I might be lucky to distance yet still freely roam around the city and country on my own. But what about those in quarantine or ill, despite feeling no symptoms? Or the elderly with often no one to talk to? Or all those crazy backpackers and adventure travellers who get high on travelling but are now limited within 4 walls?

These 6 weeks I managed to spend at home, work from home, eat from home, and even meet from home, grew on me like I was some sort of a flat tourism expert. I realized that my flat has become a great destination for some and it would never be a place of visit for others. So here are some "ratings" I gave to my flat if I was one of the folks not being able to leave home with the top of my shelf being my only dusty and exotic destination. How would you rate your premises during lockdown?
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"Active/Adventure tourist"

So many windows, but no a single bungee or zip line. The staircase looks nice, could go downstairs by bike at least, but the bike is outside! Can lock ourselves in the closet and pretend it's killing time for the virus. But there's no virus, not even wild, misbehaved pets or neighbour dramas. Just plants. Please!

To be honest, this place is more luxurious than any yurt, tent, or hostel we ever slept at. Man, it has a real good bed,nice kitchen, great bath, no noises, and well located public transport if we ever decide to leave. Sadly, this can never beat any "5 million star hotel" we have stayed at. But still, a nice, economic try!


Is this a joke?

"Culture tourist"
The flat has an impressive library with a huge section on Riga, architecture, tourism, urbanism, also the best of classical and modern literature. The internet is fast, online has a lot to offer - movies, concerts, virtual city tours to name a few. The premises are in a lovely historical neighbourhood, you can see some Art Nouveau out the window, maybe a bit of soviet modernism. A large board game collection, handful of them can even be played on video chats (like Cartographers and Just One) at least some people to meet! Although we were looking for more authenticity and more locals. Where they gone?

"Dark tourist"
Googling deaths and checking coronavirus statistics. Writing an entertaining post for CAPITAL R about the best places to die in Riga coming up on 30 April. The city looked dead out our windows, but has been returning to life lately. Found a book on Dark tourism by Rebecca Bathory in the library. That's at least something (since the death rates in the country are too pleasant for our taste).

"Eco tourist"
You can trust the food they're making is fresh and not pre-fabricated. Growing their own tomatoes and brewing kombucha. The flat has a healthy living-space/plant-space balance. The flat has a well established recycling routine, and they use shampoo bars and refillable shower gel along with lots of zero waste foodstuff. If ordered or picked up, meals can be delivered in vegware, which is nice - we tried out and ca recommend Mazā Terapija, Miit, Stockpot, also Balts and Ramen Riga. We missed the farmer's market though, but we found last year's hazelnuts from a local forest in a sack by the tile stove!

The streets are empty enough for an anonymous stroll. The central city is barely alive, yet old town is finally left for the locals, us - vagabonds, and birds. Theoretically, it all sounds just perfect. But could not experience that, because I am at home.

"Gastronomy tourist"
Probably the best food in town - feels like we are really thriving! All vegan, all home-made, includes workshops! Delivery options are also fast and distanced. We suggest Terapija, Miit, Stockpot, Balts, Nirvana Raw, Big Bad Bagel or Ramen Riga. They use Vegware so - no plastic!

"Health tourist"

The space is very nice for yoga and calisthenic exercises. Sadly there is no fitness area, no rollers for cycling and no treadmill. Food seems to be healthy though, there's plenty of options to choose from to be delivered or to be picked up as well. Also there's only home cooking, so everybody can watch their calories and nutrition. Otherwise, being healthy in this destination can be a real challenge.

"Introvert Latvian"
Ahh, finally no one's around.

"Leisure tourist"
Laying in my bed, ceiling gazing. The bathing (read - pool) area is nice, large, enough space for two. Good lights for reading, great local kombucha and other drinks on request, and there is a bed and even a sofa to potato around! Nice record collection and a screen on the wall for beaming stuff 24hrs! Covid and chill.

"LGBT+ tourist"

Everyone is straight here, and there's no party.

After 4 weeks our Instagram got repetitive, so we decided not to post anything because it's too cool. The wi-fi connection is great though and connects automatically, feels like real home; we even began our Youtube channel. Listening to vinyl a lot lately, great selection here, you have never heard of the artists. Keeping our beards and tattoos to ourselves, drinking home-made coffee and kafeja made in Vietnamese phin filters. If this was in AirBnB's offering, we would most definitely rent!

"Nature Tourist"
Quite a spacious blooming mixed broad-leaved tree garden in the backyard, and many plants indoors. Multiple dog breeds can be seen on the streets. We were lucky to stay on the fifth floor, there is a great view at the stars. Nice for seagull and crow watching. We were also promised titmice though, a whole bunch of banditry, but saw no one. But, to be honest, who are we kidding here, is really a nature destination?

"Sex tourist"
Not many options.

No one can deny - there is a strong urge to do some shopping during lockdown. Online stores are getting better and better, have never used grocery deliveries yet, for that we sneaked out and visited the closest food store. Prices are great, delivery fast, money not enough.

"Spiritual tourist"

Loved the idea of a flat being located in the middle of the city, yet providing quiet and pretty green surroundings. Like a spiritual island in the middle of traffic. Loved the wooden floors and natural, minimalistic interior - it gave space for mind and body. Small, yet powerful collection of books on Zen, Oriental wisdom, and mindfulness. They even received a new professional yoga mat during our visit!

"Tourism critic"
The idea of visiting urban destinations is embedded into domain of locality and the authenticity it creates. What authenticity can we talk about if there are no residents around? Are there any new sensations at all? Is the experience plastic and static, is it organic and intuitive? How is it possible there is at least one non-space as defined by Marc Augé in a destination as small as this? You tell me.

Their destinations might be quite outdated, but, since we are also fond of the classics, it did not stop us from enjoying some virtual quality time. Since the beginning of lockdown, we have profoundly visited Lost Heaven that we found worth for sightseeing, sadly not for exploring. We also swung by Vice City, Bayview, Liberty City, City 17, the island-states of Everon and Malden, and other destinations briefly; some of them in multi-player mode, some of them for the first time. Did not like Paradise City though as it was a lawless ode to the modernist movement without any interaction with any living soul; also totally lacked human scale.

Taking out the trash.
Window- and vacuum-cleaning.
Watering and repotting plants.
Cooking meals on our expense.
Cleaning sinks, the bath, surfaces, and floors.
Running free virtual city tours.
Gosh, this was the biggest philanthropy and altruism this flat has ever experienced.

An eclectic view at the neighbours' windows. One guy is doing some calisthenic exercises. Another kid is walking his dog in a huge backyard between houses, then kicking it out on the balcony where the family dries clothes from time to time. One guy is dressing up in the sunshine, another works from the kitchen in early morning accompanied by earbuds and Memory Water. Finally, a gorgeous cat that slept every time we ran our eyes over it. Anyhow, nothing exotic, peppery or resembling the Rear Window experience. Vivid yet tedious. We took the liberty and showered behind an open window to teach others some lesson!

Great "no rush" environment, lots of sockets, two large desks, can work very well. Internet connection is fast, and the library is professional and vast. This destination is perfect for companies of one. We enjoyed waking up later 'cause there's no bus to catch. Everything is very close, the fridge especially. Food can be ordered at door, we even managed to watch some TV series when eating - lunch breaks have never been so short and entertaining! There are multiple streaming and video call options to choose from, it just gets hard to concentrate at the screen sometimes. Only negative side - the dishes are very annoying.

We came to this flat with half the monthly income and still have nothing but it left. Meanwhile, we kindly ask you to donate CAPITAL R, so we can afford our next first-world trip to Bali or Las Vegas. Or to Bolderāja. Or keep on creating independent, honest and unmerciful content on Riga and the Baltic Sea Region. You choose.

Mārtiņš Eņģelis