When I was in Grade 6, I began my three-year stint in late French Immersion, and as I slowly learned the language, I made it my mission to one day use my new conversational French to interact with the locals in France.
This year, as a mom of three in my 40s, I was thrilled when my husband agreed to take our first family trip abroad to explore the South of France. My travel dreams were about to come true.
For months, I planned our spring break trip. We would fly into Paris, gaze at the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, then train south, stopping in a few villages along the way, finishing with a stay in the beautiful coastal city of Nice.
Excited for our big adventure, my kids started a countdown on our wall calendar. Only 14 days until France! 13 days! 12 days...
When the coronavirus first hit headlines, I felt uneasy, and committed to only reading the information shared by reliable resources. Each morning, I would check the updates on the World Health Organization (WHO) website, tracking the number of cases in each country. 18 cases in France and mostly in the Alps, we’ll still go. I’d tell myself. 100 cases, ok that’s still low compared to other countries, we should be fine.
When I woke up one morning to learn that the Louvre Museum had closed its doors due to a staff walkout, I knew the worst was yet to come. While the number of COVID-19 cases in France was still low in comparison to other European countries, Italy was seeing a rapid increase, and I knew France was next. In less than a week, I watched the number of cases in France rise from 20 to nearly 1,000 cases. Schools began to close, all major events were being cancelled, and members of the National Assembly reported confirmed cases.
Five days before our scheduled departure date, I followed my gut and called it.
Getting sick was never my greatest concern.
With Italy closing its borders, and France enforcing a ban on events involving 1,000-plus people, I knew it would only be a matter of time before trains would be cancelled, attractions and restaurants would be closed, and maybe even hotels. I cancelled because I didn’t want to spend two weeks in a country that has seen a greater day-to-day increase than any other in Europe, second to Italy.
I didn’t want to get stranded in a foreign country, or put under quarantine so far from home - especially with my three young kids. Even worse, I didn’t want to bring my family to a region so close in proximity to those cities that had travel bans in place, and then return home and risk infecting others with the disease.
We still may travel over spring break, and are exploring our options. With over 100 countries reporting cases of COVID-19, we risk exposure almost everywhere, including right here at home. If you, too, are considering cancelling your spring break plans, don’t do it because you read something startling on Facebook, or a friend told you it wouldn’t be safe. Do your research (the WHO and CDC are great online resources). Check your travel medical coverage and booking cancellation policies - and for the love of humankind, wash your hands.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, Editor of WestCoast Families magazine, and a freelance writer who shares about travel, family, and food in various major print and online publications. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.