Traveling in Silence

(I just deleted a whole bunch of bleak stuff so I can get to the heart of things. Yay!)

We decided to travel. For two people who do it often that shouldn’t be a big deal, but obviously, with all the stuff going on, it really was. One of us (not me) needed to do a bit of research for a book in progress, and it would only be a few days…

So, for our anniversary and Nic’s birthday we went to Belgium for a romantic getaway. Masks in place and hand gel in constant use, we took the train to London (2 hrs) and then the Eurostar to Brussels (2 hrs). Here is how it went:

King’s Cross/St Pancras was a ghost town. It was utterly surreal to see a place where you normally dodge and weave empty but for a few wandering souls. There were no queues, and about half the shops were closed.

On the Eurostar we had an entire coach to ourselves on the way there, and only one other person on the way back. The conductor stopped to chat (at a distance, obviously) and told us how awful it was. It had picked up a little until the UK put a fourteen day isolation in place for people returning from elsewhere. Then it crashed again, and he said the situation is dire.

In Brussels, we were met with huge signs at the station informing you in three different languages that masks were obligatory—all the time. From the moment you left your front door you were required to wear one or incur a 1,000 euro fine.

And no one seemed to mind. Everyone wore a mask, and no one seemed bothered. No chanting about freedom or breathing or religion. Just calm people going about their business with an extra piece of clothing on. No biggie.

Yes, it got hot and sweaty under it when it hit 31 degrees. But better sweaty than dead. You could take it off to eat and drink, but if you left your table for the loo or such, you had to put it back on. We wandered, hand-in-hand, through the many winding streets and took tons of photos of the vast street art everywhere. It was quiet and relaxing and we had a great time.

Brussels main square is often crowded. It’s stunning and listed as one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe.

It wasn’t even half full during the amazing free light shows at night. Social distancing was easy during the day, since hardly anyone was there. The hotel owner told us how desperate the city is becoming. Their rent on the building is 20,000 euros a month. But no tourists are coming in, and the government can only help so much for so long.

On the way home we went through an extra layer of security. They triple checked my visa and we had to fill out re-entry forms detailing where we were sitting in the coach, what time we left and entered, where we’d be staying, etc. It was thorough, but not scary. To be honest, all the extra precautions made me feel safer.

On the way home we reviewed our trip as we always do, but the texture of this conversation was different.

What will the world look like when this is over? What if it doesn’t end? We simply have to move around it. We have to allow masks to become part of our regular wardrobes. We have to book slots at restaurants and plan a little more. But if we don’t go out, if we lock ourselves away, then these places we love to see, and the ways to get to them, will buckle and fold.

They won’t be there when we open our doors again.

Those are jobs lost, families unfed, homeless numbers rising. I think it’s amazing how many businesses have gone online and found innovative ways to keep going, and I love seeing how they’re being supported. But there are things out there we have to experience and explore that can’t come to our front doors.

Yes, we must absolutely be careful. Yes, we’re now self isolating for the next 14 days, and we’re lucky we work from home and so can do that. Yes, the crisis is serious and not to be taken lightly. But this is also the world we live in now, so we have to find a way to keep it going, to help one another not just in our own back yards, but also in countries who can’t afford to live without people visiting.

I’m just pondering and letting words flow. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Traveling in Silence

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