The Salt Lake City teen is trapped in Colombia because of a COVID-19 travel ban | Instant News



Classes began in August at Arizona State University, but Jonny Vizmeg was not sure if he would be on time. The Salt Lake City teen doesn’t even know when he will return to the United States. Vizmeg took a break between graduating from West High School and starting college. He left for South America at the end of last summer to work as a guide for tourism companies and plans to return to Salt Lake City last month. But now, in early June, the 19-year-old is basically stuck in Colombia without a clear path home due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city of Vizmeg, Leticia, is a port on the Amazon River at the southern tip of Colombia, and is only accessible by boat and air. Domestic and international flights in the country were suspended due to COVID-19 through June and August, respectively, according to the U.S. Embassy. in Colombia. There are humanitarian flights available outside Bogota, the capital, more than 600 miles away from Leticia, but Vizmeg could not get there because of inter-city transportation restrictions. He had considered traveling through the Amazon basin to try to fly out of other areas, but he had to pass through countries where the borders were closed. “It’s not always easy,” Vizmeg said, but he found a way to adapt and make it work, even if things didn’t always go according to plan. That was the attitude that Vizmeg tried to maintain for months south of the equator. He first went to Chile in September, where he thought he would guide people on trekking, rafting and horse riding trips. Tourism was slow, when anti-government protests began in Chile in late 2019. So he went to the Colombian Amazon to work as an interpreter for another tour company. Later, he helped build a tree house and set up a company to follow him. Then COVID-19 attacked, stopped tourism again, and left Vizmeg without an easy return journey. He keeps in touch with his family in Utah by charging his phone at a friend’s house or using a generator. When he has access to Wi-Fi, he can send emails or use WhatsApp to send text messages or call home. “As long as he has internet access, we can get in touch regularly,” Dot Verbrugge, Vizmeg’s mother, said. “It’s always nice to hear from him.” Times when he can’t get online, like when he’s in the woods, he wonders how things are going. Verbrugge and Vizmeg have contacted government agencies and US and Colombian politicians to help bring them home. “I’m kind of joking with him,” Well, if you are going to get out, it will really take international government action to do that, at this point, “said Verbrugge. There were a few weeks, before closing in Colombia, when the family considered whether Vizmeg should go home early, his mother said. But there was so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and most travel bans were focused on Europe and Asia at the time. They thought that if the closure lasted two or three months, Vizmeg could “drive it” and complete the project. Vizmeg prepared Plans A, B and C on how he would navigate the gap year in South America. He estimates that now, after unforeseen circumstances and a global pandemic, he must be on Plan H. However, Vizmeg said, this trip was always intended to challenge him. “I’ve progressed a lot.”



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