Lindsey Dollard, microbiologist and mom of one from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was traveling in Italy when the country was forced into a total lockdown. In this brief Q&A, Lindsey tells us all about traveling at the time of the coronavirus outbreak, her constantly changing plans, and her renewed love for spontaneity during her travels around the world.
Could you tell us a little about you and your family?
I live in Cambridge, MA, USA, and I am married to an Australian from Melbourne. We had planned to spend five months traveling and visiting family with our nearly 5-year-old son. We left Boston at the end of December and went to Melbourne, Australia, for six weeks. Then we traveled in Vietnam for two weeks, followed by another two weeks in Thailand, and then flew to Italy. We intended to spend two weeks in Italy, but we arrived just as the whole country was about to go into lockdown so we departed for France. We had anticipated traveling until the end of May, but with everything shutting down we have decided to return to Boston and self-quarantine for the next 14 days.
Where were you when the outbreak started?
When the outbreak started we were in Australia, staying with my mother-in-law in Melbourne.
How did the outbreak affect the areas you visited? What was your experience?
Southeast Asia seemed to be in “business as usual” mode, though many people were wearing masks (not out of the ordinary) and several shops and restaurants had signs saying they were refusing Chinese tourists. Our scheduled flight to Rome was fairly quiet, but not empty by any means. After our arrival on Sunday, March 8, it quickly became difficult to enjoy Rome as a tourist. The Colosseum opened Sunday morning but was shut down by the police shortly thereafter. No one, including our hotel, seemed to have up-to-date information about what was or wasn’t open. We woke up Monday morning to the news that all museums and archaeological sites were closed. Since this was our first visit to Rome, I was very disappointed that we weren’t going to be able to see the Raphael exhibition or the Sistine Chapel. In St. Peter’s Square, police were enforcing social distancing by asking people to maintain a one-meter separation between each other. That evening, we went to a casual pasta shop for dinner. Even there we were required to sit one meter from each other despite the fact that we were a family. Apparently it didn’t matter that my kid had been licking my face earlier in the day! After our Airbnb host informed us that all restaurants would be closing for the foreseeable future, we made the decision to cancel our trip to the Naples/Sorrento/Amalfi coast areas and decided to head to France earlier than anticipated. On March 9, we had to scramble to find a restaurant that was open for dinner as all restaurants had to close by dusk. There were very slim pickings since most places don’t actually open until 7 p.m. for dinner in Rome. Somehow we managed to get ourselves fed. We saw lines down the block at local grocery stores, as the number of people allowed inside was limited.
Were you able to get a flight out of the quarantine zone?
We were easily able to get a Ryanair flight from Rome to Marseille even though we weren’t sure if our original Naples-Marseille flight would be refunded. It has since been canceled so we will be getting a full refund for it.
Is your child aware of the situation?
Our son is aware as we have been trying to get him to not touch EVERYTHING in his sight and to focus on hand hygiene more than usual. He was also very aware of all the people wearing masks and gloves and of our ever-changing travel plans. As a microbiologist myself, it has been a fun way to teach him about how viruses behave and spread! We have stressed that we are unlikely to become very ill thanks to our ages and good health, but we want to make sure we aren’t spreading it to anyone who is high-risk. We don’t want him to get too worried, but also to understand why we are still so paranoid.
If you have left Italy, how is the situation in the area you are staying in now?
There were signs and awareness of COVID-19 in Marseille but it felt pretty normal. We were just keeping an eye on The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) travel advice and continuing to be extra careful of our hygiene in hopes that we didn’t expose ourselves or others to the virus.
How has your child’s education been affected?
Thankfully we had no problems in this area as we had pulled him out of his second semester of nursery school this year to travel!
Anything else you would like to tell us about this experience?
We kept a close eye on the situation as it evolved in France and back home. As everything started to shut down we decided to make our way back home. Our latest adventure around the world has reinforced my love of traveling with as few plans as possible (even with a kid in tow!).
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual, not of a medical professional or of Bébé Voyage unless specifically indicated to that effect.
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