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‘We feel very lucky’: Spanish travelers stuck in Bali after transcontinental road trip

Jesse Vad

The Jakarta Post

California, United States  /  Wed, June 3, 2020  /  02:39 pm
‘We feel very lucky’: Spanish travelers stuck in Bali after transcontinental road trip

Laura Cañal, a nurse, and Maria Rodriguez, an accountant, both live in Madrid, Spain. (Courtesy of Laura Cañal and Maria Rodriguez/File)

Laura Cañal and her longtime friend Maria Rodriguez first traveled to Indonesia as backpackers in 2013. After that trip, they knew they’d come back someday.

“Next time, we’ll do it by car,” said Rodriguez.

“You are crazy,” replied Cañal.

Seven years later, the duo had driven a van halfway across the world, from Spain to Indonesia.

Cañal, a nurse, and Rodriguez, an accountant, both live in Madrid, Spain. After their past travels, they threw around the idea of a longer journey, this time by car.

Eventually, the duo committed to the year-long trip after beginning to plan it in 2018, a full year before they left Spain. 

They chose Indonesia as their last stop because they loved it the first time they visited. They also had friends in Indonesia and thought it would be a suitable place to end their adventure.

In the fall of 2018, they bought a used 2014 Volkswagen Caddy. A few months later they quit their jobs and started preparing for the trip. In June 2019, they hit the road.

Read also: Indonesian couple taking country on motorbike tour around the world

They chose Indonesia as their last stop because they loved it the first time they visited.They chose Indonesia as their last stop because they loved it the first time they visited. (Courtesy of Laura Cañal and Maria Rodriguez/File)

Their route took them through Europe, which they crossed in a month as they drove through Austria, Poland and Latvia, among others. Then came a long stretch: Russia.

It took two months for Cañal and Rodriguez to cross Russia from west to east. They never had any problems, aside from minor car troubles, and made it happily to the eastern coast of the country.

There, they continued to South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and then finally, on Dec. 31, to Indonesia.

At the beginning of their stay in Indonesia, Cañal and Rodriguez were in paradise, bouncing between Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores. They spent over a month with their friend Blanka Palamos, another Spaniard.

Palamos, an artist, moved to Bali in 2013. Since then, she has married an Indonesian man and started a family.

Cañal and Rodriguez met Palamos in 2013 during their first trip to Indonesia. The three kept in touch and became close friends over the years.

“I think in Indonesia, the three of us really feel at home,” said Palamos.

Palamos admires Cañal and Rodriguez for their kindness, generosity and because of what they represent in their travels.

“Two women, traveling alone from Europe to here – it’s incredible,” said Palamos. “It’s so beautiful and can be so inspiring to others.”

But the stress-free days of tropical bliss didn’t last. When borders started closing around them because of the spread of COVID-19, Cañal and Rodriguez realized their drive back to Spain was doomed.

They also feared for their friends and family in Spain, a country that was hit hard by the pandemic.

“All my colleagues were having a horrible time in Spain,” said Cañal. “I felt like I should have been there. It was a strange mix of feelings.”

Cañal and Rodriguez didn’t go back to Spain because they didn’t want to abandon their car. Instead, they hunkered down in Bali and arranged with a company to have the car shipped back to Spain in June. Once the car is on a boat, they will try to fly home.

When it comes to being stuck in Bali, things could be worse.

“We feel very lucky because of the place, because of the people. They’ve treated us very well,” said Cañal.


(ES) Las paletas de colores del mar de Bali son alucinantes. El mar de Bali es un mar perimetral del océano Pacífico, localizado justo en el límite norte del océano Índico. Tiene 45.000 km2 y se sitúa al norte de las Islas de Bali y Lombok. El mar constituye la parte suroeste del mar de Flores y el estrecho de Madura lo comunica, por el oeste, con el mar de Java. Y ahora podemos decir que durante un momento de nuestra vida, vivimos frente a él. 💙🌊 ----- (EN) The color palettes of the Bali sea are amazing. The Bali Sea is a perimeter sea in the Pacific Ocean, located just on the northern edge of the Indian Ocean. It has 45,000 km2 and is located to the north of the Islands of Bali and Lombok. The sea constitutes the southwestern part of the Flores Sea and the Madura Strait connects it to the west with the Java Sea. And now we can say that for a moment in our life, we lived in front of him 💙🌊 . . . . #travel #amed #travels #vanliferevolution #bali #beach #baliindonesia #landscapelover #asia #traveldiaries #furgosfera #thebaliguideline #roamtheplanet #traveltheworld #furgocamper #minicamper #furgonetascamper #vanlifediaries #vwcaddy #baligasm #furgoneteros #furgoperfecto #furgoneta #minicampervan #vanlifestyle #vandeviaje #furgocamper #indico #vanlifer #vanlifeproject #pacifico #vanlifediaries

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Bali has been left relatively unscathed by the pandemic so far. The Tourism Ministry even announced that starting on May 28, Bali will be open for tourism again. Tourists will need to have a certificate stating they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.

Now that Spain has started to improve and their families are safe, Cañal and Rodriguez feel more at ease. They’re staying in a hostel on the eastern side of Bali where they remain as isolated as possible. They teach Spanish online, work on their website, do gymnastics and go to the beach for sunsets. 

“This is something that the trip I think has taught us,” said Cañal. “That in the end, there is always a way.” (kes)


The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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