You now know that we find solace and freedom on the Albania River. It took us a while to get back to this part of the world, but we are slowly getting used to it. We saw an opportune moment and seized the opportunity to leave the United States.
Now that we’re here, the question is, what’s next? In this article we will share with you some of our reflections on our first weeks in Albania. We will also discuss what the next few months might look like for us as travelers.
Getting to know Albania
Let’s start by telling you something about Albania. Although we feel like we are exploring a new country, this is not the first time we have been here. On a previous trip to Macedonia, we took a day trip to Albania and Kosovo to cross them off our list of “countries visited.” It was great to be able to say that we visited three different countries in one day. During that time we trekked through the mountains and villages of the interior.
Albania is mountainous, rugged and highly susceptible to seismic activity.
This time we are on the coast. We are near Saranda, one of the major cities on the Albanian coast. Saranda is a very popular day trip from the Greek island of Corfu, which is a popular tourist destination. There is a fast 25-minute ferry that connects the two countries before COVID. It is interesting to note that this area is home to one of the highest concentrations of Greeks in Albania. In our opinion, it is more like Greece than Albania.
Not all that glamour.
Our apartment is clean, comfortable and minimalist. All day we listen to the soothing sound of the waves gently pounding. The spacious balcony offers a fantastic view of Saranda and the sea. It is an ideal place to work without distractions.
We are in no hurry to abandon this position.
Sometimes we are the only two people in our entire building. Happiness! Another young man lives on the fifth floor. But we don’t think he lives full time, because we haven’t heard from him in a long time.
By and large, things are going well. But life in Albania is also full of difficulties. For example, Albania suffers from regular power outages.
Aging power grids, as well as insufficient capacity of hydroelectric power plants, are the sole cause of the occasional daily power outages in Albania. Electricity comes and goes without warning, which is not good for digital nomads!
From our balcony you can see how parts of Saranda have turned black due to the power outage.
The first weekend we were incredulous when the water and electricity in our apartment were cut off. Unfortunately, it only takes a gust of wind or a light drizzle to cause a 6 to 12 hour power outage. This can cause anxiety because you don’t know when the power will return.
And finally, as in countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Thailand and India, the only minor problem is that you cannot drink tap water in Albania. We usually drink tap water everywhere we go. But if the locals don’t drink it (like in Thailand), you shouldn’t either.
The journeys of uncertainty
Albania is currently one of the few countries that makes it easier for travelers to visit. No COVID test is required to enter the country and no quarantine is necessary. In addition, U.S. citizens can stay in the Republic of Albania for up to one year without a residence permit. If we like it here, or if the region approves of COVID’s suspension, we won’t have to worry about an expired visa or a quick departure from the country.
With the arrival of cold weather in the northern hemisphere, a new round of VID19 blockades is likely. Indeed, Spain, France and the UK have introduced new blocking measures. With the EU banning non-essential travel since March, we are left wondering when this madness will end.
I think it is safe to say that we are in a wait-and-see situation until other countries begin to lift their restrictions or conditions of entry. How long can the world remain closed?
Charming Albanian bell tower
Durres is located on the Adriatic Sea.
Albanian Coffee Bar
The beaches of Ksamil
Possible future directions
Aside from Turkey, we are technically in the southernmost part of Europe where we can now legally reside. We plan to enjoy the mild Mediterranean climate for as long as possible. But at some point we will want to move on.
Many restaurants, hotels and stores in Xamil, a summer resort, are now closed for the season. Once the warm weather is over, we plan to take a mini-tour to Albania to visit some notable places, such as Berat and the ancient Greek city of Apollonia.
Another consideration for the future? As a predominantly Muslim country, Albania is not the best place to celebrate a festive and holy Christmas. We will wait and see what the trip looks like in the next month or two. But unless the EU opens up to the Americans again, we will probably stay in the Balkans, in the countries that are not part of the Schengen area.
I’m already starting to think about some possible vacation cities. According to U.S. travel authorizations, Turkey and Ireland are considered “safe corridor countries.” This means, for example, that Americans who spend 14 days in Turkey have a green light to enter another country, such as Malta. This provision could prove useful for future travel.
Macedonia is another country that allows Americans to enter the country without undergoing COVID testing and quarantine.
Finally, an amazing natural phenomenon that we have been observing for years is taking place in this region. Every winter, in the town of Kikinda in Serbia, hundreds (sometimes thousands) of beautiful short-eared owls come to nest in the town square. We could fly to Belgrade to enjoy the magic of Christmas and spend a winter weekend with the owls.
Kikinda offers an owl walking safari from November to March.
The opportunities presented by wildlife often define our travel destinations, so perhaps it’s time to finally cross this item off our to-do list. For now, here’s our update on life here in Albania.
If you have any suggestions for important Christmas cities in the Balkans, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to hear your local travel tips.
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