France has always had a special place in our heart. It was where Meghan first studied abroad and was inspired to study French. Now, many years later, she now holds a masters degree in the subject! We had spent an amazing few days in the Loire valley last year and were planning to spend a few days in the South of France this year.
Then COVID hit and like everyone else our plans started changing very quickly. Most of our trips earlier in the year had been canceled and lockdowns across the UK meant even day trips were off the table.
It's worth acknowledging a few things up front. First, we take the COVID-19 virus very seriously. We know that even if we don't get serious systems / are low risk, if we got it and spread it we could be putting others at serious risk. We also recognize that having less adventures is a small sacrifice to pay to slow the virus and its devastation. We've adjusted our plans to ensure whatever trips we do are socially distant wherever possible. We are avoiding eating out, wearing masks when we're in public spaces, etc.
Because of COVID we've also shut down our London offices and Meghan is working remotely for the foreseeable future. We did a few weeks of work from the US which went well, despite the 5 hour time difference. That planted a seed that's now grown into a full fledge plan.
No plan survives first contact with COVID-19
Okay, so that's not the exact quote, but it's accurate. This plan is likely to change given the ever changing landscape. As of today, the British Government has said it is safe to travel to France. We started talking and realised that there was not likely to be another time (at least until retirement) in our life where we could work from anywhere and were living in Europe. So we decided to go for it.
After a quick trip across the English Channel via the Chunnel we'll pick up a rental car in Dunkirk and begin our six week adventure. We're expecting that we'll be doing around 6,000KM of driving along the way.
Places we'll be visiting
We're actively monitoring COVID hotspots and will re-route as needed.. but the current plan at the start of the journey is:
- 🏕️ in Chamonix
- 🏕️ in Mercantour National Park
- 🏕️ in Cévennes National Park
- 🏕️ in the Pyrenées National Park
- Cannes for the 🛥️ show (🤞)
- Omaha Beach
Along the way we're hoping to visit every French National Park (on the French mainland, that is). We're also hoping to see the Tours de France go by, which is happening while we're doing this!
We've tried to design our trip to be as safe as possible. France has relatively low numbers right now in most regions, but there are some hotspots. We've rented a car and will be staying in Airbnbs where the host has committed to Airbnbs' enhanced clean program. We're also bringing about 1,000 sanitizing wipes, 3 bottles of disinfectant, a ton of masks, etc. etc.
We also won't be enjoying many of the amazing French restaurants along the way. Instead, we'll opt to shop at outdoor farmers market and cook our food at the Airbnbs. We'll prioritize activities that enable us to be socially distant (e.g hikes over shopping) which is fine by me anyway :) Meghan may not be as happy about this.
We know this won't eliminate all the risk, but we think it brings it to an acceptable level.
Meghan and I are both quite busy with work right now, and we knew that if we were going to do this it had to be done in a way to ensure we stayed productive throughout the experience. A non-trivial amount of our packing has been around getting the right office stuff to fit in a semi-compact way... I am convinced that we can get that 27" external monitor to fit, for example.
You'll notice from the map and itinerary that this is not always the most logical progression (particularly the jump back up to Lyon). That's because we were optimizing for a lot of things when finding an Airbnb:
- In or near a decent size city (so we knew there would be good cell service as a fallback for the Wifi). We actually checked the LTE service from Orange before booking.
- At least one desk and another place to work
- Available for a full work week (we don't want to have to deal with check in / check out times on work days)
- Good internet
- Pet friendly (Yes, Spark is coming!)
- Ideally in a neat spot with things to do outside nearby
As you can see this limited our options, so in some cases we decided to drive a little further to make sure we had a quiet and reliable place to work while on our adventure.
As a fallback, we also got a very collapsable table that will double as a camping table. We plan to use it as an extra desk in the Airbnbs we go to.
One of the parts of the trip I am most looking forward to is camping in the national parks. We'll be camping in 4/6 national parks that are within the mainland part of France. Not only is this going to be a really cool way to see the country and national parks, this is also proving a great way to save money!
Keep an eye out for pictures of "Plum" the tent on her first adventure outside California (who would have thought it would go CA --> France).
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