Travellers in a pandemic in Uruguay – Where are they now? (Part 2)

The coronavirus pandemic trapped them in a country they did not know, yet they adopted Uruguay as their refuge. Where are these travellers a year later?
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on April 1, 2021

Jan Kuijs & Pleun Peperkamp: You don’t need ‘all the things’

Dutch social workers, Jan Kuijs and Pleun Peperkamp, had been driving around South America to escape what they felt was the humdrum conventionality and restrictions of every day modern life in Europe when the pandemic hit. They spent the next eight month in a small beach town in eastern Uruguay in the department of Rocha. They found the slower non-materialistic lifestyle of Rocha to be exactly what they were looking for.

Though they had been planning to travel in South America for an indefinite amount of time, when it became evident that the pandemic was not ending any time soon, in November, they flew home.

However, instead of resuming life in an apartment in the city, they chose to settle in a small house in the Dutch countryside. “We’re trying to stay tranquilos and not get wrapped up in the day to day,” Pleun explained.

Back in the Netherlands, they found themselves constantly remembering the “wise words” of Martín, a local bar owner in Rocha, who had questioned their nagging concerns regarding the future and their reluctance to have children. In long conversations, Jan and Pleun argued that they wanted children but it was never the right time. It was a ball they continually kicked further down the road. Only something they could aspire to if they had more money, more savings, more stability, more…

‘Are you happy?’ Jan recalls Martín quizzing them. They assured him they were. ‘In that case,’ he reasoned, ‘if you’re happy now, why aren’t you going to be happy in the future?’

Last December, a month after returning home, to everyone’s surprise — themselves included —, Pleun fell pregnant. The baby will be born in September. “Martin made us realise, you don’t need to have everything planned out. You don’t need ‘all the things’. As long as you have a stable relationship and enough love to give a child a warm home, the rest will fall into place — like it always does.”

Uruguay is often in Jan and Pleun’s thoughts. They imagine that one day they may buy a little house in Rocha. “What we miss most is the climate, the people and their wonderful mentality,” they told me. “Please send all our best to the people of Uruguay.”

If you missed the first part—which came out last week—, read it here.

Photos: Jeremy Kroeker, Vici Greeff, Jan & Pleun, Clara Harrington.

This is the English version of an article written for El País, Uruguay’s oldest newspaper. Part of the Spanish language series.




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