First Day of TweedtoTokyo COVID-19 Diversion

A very odd day today. We are now in the foothills of the French Alps, in a lovely house belonging to my parents, where life is both very familiar, and at the same time, very strange.

It is familiar because we have been lucky enough to have holidayed here almost every year we have been a family. I lived here for 2 years, while working and studying in nearby Grenoble. Harriet and I got engaged here.

It was always the plan to be here in March, to make the switch from car to train, and to give us all a little downtime from constant travel and maybe update our minimal wardrobes with more spring-like clothes.

It is strange to be here now, a week earlier than expected, and in such unprecedented circumstances. The village itself is very quiet, only the boulangerie and tabac open (the mini-Market is normally closed on a Monday). People don’t greet each other with a handshake or a kiss. There is an air of quiet, disquiet perhaps, which is difficult to define.

We are all tired and a bit subdued too after 12 hours in the car yesterday, and the sad loss of a beloved Teddy in a Swiss motorway service station.

Duplo S is missing Duplo A

For all the “this is just the start of a new adventure” geeing up we can (and do) do, this is very far from the meticulously planned trip of a lifetime, and that feels a bit rubbish.

To be sure, I am very aware that we are hugely privileged in many ways (going on the trip in the first place, work situations which allowed it, a family bolt-hole to run to, not being an at-risk person for Corona, nor being medically affected by Corona, or anything bigger than the enormous splinter Sophie had in her foot).

We have had a saying on our trip to date, “it may be weird to you, but it’s normal for someone else”. This has been useful for food, dress code, manners, languages, etc., but the thing with the current COVID-19 situation is that it is nobody’s normal. Austria, where we were just yesterday, has just banned meetings if more than 5 people. We are a family of 6…

Even as I type this Ursula van der Leyen has informed me that Europe is closed to all but essential travel for at least 30 days. What does that mean for us now?

Do we have right to remain in the EU during the Brexit transition period? Is it a greater risk (to ourselves, to others) to travel, or to stay put? Is travelling home “essential”? For whom? We don’t particularly want to come home, especially when there is a chance we will be able to continue with some of the trip. At the moment the Olympics are still planning to go ahead, but last week we were planning to be in Slovenia now.

Harriet has been contacting our insurers and our Russian travel fixers, and they are scrambling as much as we are. Kazakhstan has closed its borders, the Moscow to Tashkent train has been suspended, and even one part of the insurers can’t get through to the other.

As a nice aside, our AirBnB hosts in St Gallen Switzerland, refunded our money, despite our cancelling too late to be entitled to it. There are good people doing good things, and that’s a thing to aspire to too.

Even so, it is all a bit discombobulating. Macron is speaking to France at 8pm tonight, and the rumour is that this will be to introduce more restrictions for travel, potentially for 3 months.

So what are we going to do about it?

There are some things we should do while we are here anyway:

  • Continue with daily exercise, and some maths.
  • Continue to monitor the changing situation globally.
  • Our friend Rose, in California, shared a “Lockdown Schedule”, which we are going to adapt and use. Lucy is writing a poster of it right now.
Rose’s Daily Schedule. We will let you know how we get on.
  • We are likely to be in France for at least a month, so the children could do with learding more French, even if anyone they try to speak to runs away covering their nose. Harriet and I have started talking to the children in French as much as possible (please not before breakfast, and please not at weekends, say the children. Peut-être, say the grownups.)
  • The children have started using Duolingo to learn French try to understand what we are saying to them. (There has also been bribery, in the form of ear piercing, which has helped this. As for when an ear-piercing studio might reopen, who knows…)
  • Go for walks in the beautiful mountains.
Lots of walks
  • Harriet is still planning to cook Bled Cake, our missed Slovenian meal, and then there’s tartiflette, fondue montagnarde, raclette, etc.
  • Make this as good as it can be, and try to look on the bright side.
Some things remain lovely

Because the alternative is worrying that world travel is over forever, millions are going to die, and the global economy will collapse. Sorry about that picture.

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve so enjoyed reading your posts, Campbell family, and am reassured that you are safe and amongst family in France. Who knows where this will all go? You have each other, and the brains to figure out a new routine. Good luck with it all. Thinking of you. Pray God this is over sooner rather than later.

  2. That VIEW!!!!!! 😱😱😱😍😍😍😍😍 incredible.

  3. I have really enjoyed following your travels and so sorry that this virus has impacted what was a great adventure. I hope the restrictions have the desired effect and that you will be able to replan and travel to the ultimate goal. Best wishes

    PS, that view of the mountains is fantastic, I could happily cope with being restricted there for sure.

    • Thanks Paul. Day to day this place is as lovely lovely as it gets. Looking ahead to the weeks and months of uncertainty is less lovely, but need not happen for now. Hope you are well and safe.

  4. Hi Campbells!! I have just been looking at your website with all of the Primary 7s as we have been thinking of you all and the impact of ‘Corona’ on your trip! At the moment we are still battling on with day to day school life, as far as possible, which includes lots of hand washing, staggered lunches and as of today all staff meetings, extra curricular groups and large gatherings (like assemblies) are not happening. It seems that you have had an amazing time so far and I have loved looking at your posts and photos (especially the contributions from the children). I hope that you are all still in good spirits! Take care

    Mrs Brown x

  5. Hi Ben, I am truly gutted to see this situation scupper these awesome plans. I hope you are safe and well and make the very best of the situation. Your reaction to the adversity is admirable! Take care. J

    • Plans on hold, but looking increasingly likely to be shortened in the extreme. Sitting and hoping for now. Hope you are well too. Stay safe.

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