Take a school trip out of the country
When I returned from a school trip to Berlin, a week before the schools closed and we all went into lockdown, I was a little bit apprehensive about just what was going to await us.
Berlin had been like a ghost town in many places: tube stations were deserted, restaurants were only half-filled on a Friday evening, and we got the enviable type of group photos that are normally only achieved if you step out in the very early morning (half an hour to yourselves in front of the Reichstaag, anyone?!).
We’d been following the news carefully, for both the UK and Germany, and were aware of the way that things were heading. In fairness, we were surprised that the trip was allowed to go ahead – indeed if we’d set off two days later, it wouldn’t. But we avoided anyone coughing too loudly in public, dodged the biggest current dread of getting quarantined in our youth hostel rooms for a fortnight, and had a fantastic time. The main issue that we encountered was that all state-owned museums started to shut down on our second day, but we swapped a concentration camp for a spy museum, and filled in a few gaps in the itinerary with time at the shopping mall, and everyone was happy.
We realised how lucky we’d been on the last evening, when we spoke to some couples on the next table in the restaurant. They’d been on holiday in Poland that morning, and got told that they had 12 hours to leave the country before the borders were closed for an indefinite lockdown period. 8 hours later, they’d managed to get a €400 taxi to Berlin, with plans to take an overnight bus to Amsterdam and then a ferry back to Dublin. There were no other options as all the other transport had been booked up. This was getting scary now – my colleagues and I did not fancy escorting 18 teenagers through Europe during lockdown, and took time to congratulate ourselves that we’d not settled on Krakow as our destination for the Year 10 cultural trip.
I don’t think that any of us will ever forget the experience of a school trip on the brink of lockdown. It certainly added a certain ‘edge’ to proceedings. And that was how my lockdown experience began… with foreign travel.