“When everyone is going to the same place to get away, no one’s really getting away anymore,” fellow writer John Rothwell said back in 2018, claiming that #VanLife Has Ruined the Great American Road Trip. The dreamy Instagram pictures of couples parked on beaches have been an easy draw for many, and the same can be said for places like Portugal. The country’s long been a magnet to this type of travel, with its amazing coastline, sizable parking spots, and amazing surf. And to top it off, rules are pretty mellow when it comes to how road trippers are treated by the authorities.
But in times of COVID, things are different. This year’s pandemic has exposed a palpable divide between travelers and locals. Through a three-week span this fall I road-tripped from Lisbon to Portugal’s southernmost point and I saw that everyone — from surf camp owners to experienced surf guides, people running the local cafes and employees of town’s cleaning services — everyone has a renewed perspective on the relationship between adventurists in campervans and Portuguese locals.