Polish blogger and YouTube star Eva zu Beck has spent the last two months on Yemen’s remote island of Socotra – a place with an ecosystem so unique it’s often referred to as the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean”. The travel blogger has been waiting out the pandemic in one of the world’s most-isolated places and sharing updates from her stay on Instagram, where she has a following of more than 4.5 lakh.
According to CNN, Eva arrived at Socotra on a weekly commercial flight on March 11 – just days before much of the world began shutting down to contain the spread of coronavirus. On March 15, Socotra officials announced that the island would be closing its borders and asked tourists to return.
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THE LANGUAGE WE ALL SPEAK, THE MOST AWKWARD AND BEAUTIFUL OF ALL. Every other evening, after dinner, I get visitors on my little verandah. They’re girls from my host family’s home. Together with their friends, they come to me in flowy dresses, with scarves wrapped around their waists and hijabs thrown loosely over their heads. After an exchange of greetings, one of them inevitably claps her hands and gets up, beckoning the others to join her. And that’s how our dance evenings begin. The girls know their Bollywood moves inside out, and they even sing along in (only slightly) broken Hindi. That’s an influence picked up from the TV, which runs on solar here. One moment, it’s all Aishwarya Rai, and the next, they’re singing an old Socotri song and rocking gently to its rhythm. When it’s my turn to dance, I usually try to get them to “teach” me and follow along. I’m the clumsiest dancer in the world, which is cause for much entertainment. Sometimes, we do solo dances though, where one of us dances, and all the other girls sit and watch. That’s when my secret weapon comes out: Britney Spears. With “Oops I Did It Again” playing on my Spotify, I start to feel like a little girl, and after that, it’s all giggles all over again. And then, back to Bollywood, in this prehistoric, tiny speck of land on the edge of the world. It’s a universal language, dance. It’s awkward, yes – but it becomes beautiful as soon as you embrace your own clumsiness, your natural movement. That’s how you begin to speak. And in that space between the dancer and the spectator, a language of universal understanding emerges. The epic photo by @rpljuscec
“We were woken up in the middle of the night in our tents,” she says, “and told that we should make our way to the airport immediately.”
Faced with the choice of returning to Europe or waiting on one of the world’s most remote places for the foreseeable future, Eva – who made a career as a travel blogger by travelling to off-the-beaten-track places like Syria – chose the latter. Four other tourists also decided to stay back on Socotra.
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JUST A SIMPLE, LITTLE, RADICAL DREAM. When I wake up with the fan rotating in endless circles above my head, I let myself believe it’s the morning breeze caressing my face. Why is this so rare? When the lights come on, I imagine it’s the sun lighting up the world and the sky as it rises above my head and not a roof. Why is this so radical? When the cars and bikes and feet start to beat to a rhythm on the streets outside, I pretend to hear birds and waves singing me a morning song. Why does this make me a romantic? Living in a forest, or sleeping on the beach, or foraging for food – when did these become such “radical” ways to live? Most likely, if you suggest that this is the life you’d like to build, you’ll be accused of romanticism. “You would get bored”, “that’s not how people live in the 21st century”, “you’d miss the comforts of a city”, they’d say. When did we become so spoilt? So out of touch with ourselves? A single stroke of destiny comes along and halts the economies we’ve been protecting so jealously, renders many luxuries worthless, and reveals a world that is stubborn but, at the same time, immensely fragile. Cities teeming with people, pollution, traffic jams, noise, invasive media, even more invasive governments. When did this become the less radical reality? Less radical than the natural joy that springs from spending a night in the open air. Less radical than taking in the sun, the breeze and the waves, every day. As for me, I’ve moved out of my tent and have been sleeping on the beach ❤️ Who else is a radical, then? ???? Photo: dronefie
“There is no Coronavirus in Socotra and since nobody new has arrived in the last week (the island has been shut off to new arrivals since I came), it seems like a much safer place to be than any European city, or international airport,” the YouTuber explained in an Instagram post. “So, I decided to stay. I am officially waiting out the pandemic on an isolated desert island. With no plans to leave.”
Pictures from Eva zu Beck’s Instagram reveal that the travel blogger has been spending her time camping on pristine beaches, fishing for food and relying on locals for accommodation. She has been renting rooms from goat-herders in Socotra’s less populated rural villages.
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WAITING OUT THE PANDEMIC ON A DESERT ISLAND… MY TRAVEL UPDATE. Socotra Island is one of the most isolated places on Earth. I boarded the last plane here, unaware that hours later, the world would become paralysed. Last night, after several days offline, it turned out that ALL flights to and from the island have been cancelled indefinitely. With 5 hours warning, we were told one last plane would come to pick people up and fly them to Cairo. The choice was to 1️⃣ stay on this remote island in Yemen indefinitely, OR 2️⃣ travel “home” across 4 countries into the heart of the pandemic, and self-quarantine somewhere in Europe. There is no Coronavirus in Socotra and since nobody new has arrived in the last week (the island has been shut off to new arrivals since I came), it seems like a much safer place to be than any European city, or international airport. So, I decided to stay. I am officially waiting out the pandemic on an isolated desert island. With no plans to leave. Nobody knows when flights will resume – it could be a month or more. I know I am in a very privileged situation right now. I have no dependents, no apartment with rent to pay, no office to go to. I’m very lucky to be able to make this call. The saddest part is that @fearlessandfar had to leave on that last plane, so I’m here only with a couple of friends from Italy. These are my travel news. You can expect to see lots of video updates from this epic island in the coming weeks! Over to you: if you were in my shoes, would you stay or would you go? Photo by @fearlessandfar
Eva says that she is not aware of any reported coronavirus cases on the island, where life continues to operate as normal.
“There are no social distancing or lockdown measures on Socotra,” she tells CNN. “We are free to visit friends and move around as we please. It’s as if we’re in a parallel universe.”
In one of her latest updates, Eva revealed that some locals of the island has picked up broken Hindi from watching Bollywood movies.
“The girls know their Bollywood moves inside out, and they even sing along in (only slightly) broken Hindi. That’s an influence picked up from the TV, which runs on solar here,” she wrote. “One moment, it’s all Aishwarya Rai, and the next, they’re singing an old Socotri song and rocking gently to its rhythm.”
While her updates about life on the island collect thousands of ‘likes’ each, many have also criticised the blogger for her decision to stay back and potentially expose the island population to coronavirus.
“Somebody in your group could have the virus without showing symptoms. You are carrying the virus to some of the most vulnerable regions in the world,” reads one of the comments on her Instagram.
“I don’t think you made the right decision. Everyone needs to respect this pandemic,” another says.