At a time when we are all living “as good as we can” in a situation as brutal as it is exceptional, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts that have been running through my head. Today, more than ever, the internet is the tool that allows us to stay in touch, to get information, to exchange, to debate… with its good and bad sides. And that’s why today I take advantage of this sharing platform that is our blog to talk to you about all these things that cross my mind… hoping that you will read them and that you may give me your opinion in the comment section 🙂
Just two weeks ago, we were still in Paris… a tourism and book fair we were supposed to attend had just been cancelled and we had to pick up some material, books that we had left at a friend’s house in Versailles (in preparation for the fair). We thought we would spend a few days in Paris, pick up our stuff, see some friends and organize a drink with some readers before heading back to our Swiss mountains…
And yet, we underestimated the speed at which the Coronavirus situation in Europe would worsen!
We arrived in Paris on the evening of the 11th… I still remember very well on the 12th of March, Macron announced the school closure on TV and urged all French people to stay at home. The next day, friday March 13th (as a sign), Switzerland took the same measures. The situation had become very clear to us… we cancelled everything and took the first speed train on Saturday to come back home!
Well, it really was the right choice as 3 days later France was confined and Switzerland did not wait long to take similar measures (even if a little less extreme). No doubt about it, everyone will remember the month of March 2020 when the world stopped!
Drastic measures and confinement
Since then, the only motto has been: avoid the collapse of our health systems by all means.
For me the question does not arise, saving the lives of thousands of people at risk clearly justifies the urgent actions put in place. We are not going to let people die on the altar of “economic health”, are we? (even if the two sad clowns Trump and Bolsonaro don’t seem to be of this opinion 🙁 )
Since then, we’ve witnessed, like everyone else, the closure of all non-essential businesses, the cancellation of all events, the prohibition to gather, the closing of the borders (and for us who live literally 100m from the French border it feels weird)… Keeping a safe distance of 2 meters and washing hands with a hydroalcoholic gel have practically become reflexes for everyone! Who would have believed it just a few weeks ago?
Like everyone else we live in confinement… But we also measure our chance to live a golden containment in the mountains (we have an apartment in the small ski resort of Morgins in Switzerland). Since the measures of confinement, the village is quite empty and there is not too much risk of transmitting the virus between the people who remain. However, we still have everything we need with a bakery, 2 small grocery stores that remain open in spite of everything and the post office that continues to deliver if necessary.
Otherwise we take advantage of the confinement to mak some work in our apartment (since we have just moved in) … But for the rest, I have to say that these times our lives are very similar to our working weeks before Coronavirus! (I mean by being “digital nomad“, we know what remote working is all about 😉 ) We keep on working on our projects, we try to finish those tasks we never had time to finish before, we also think about the post-Covid19 period (I’ll come back to this matter a little bit below)…
But let’s reassure you right away, we’re not just working! We’ve also dusted off our good old Nintendo GameCube by playing at least 4 games of Mario Kart a day (the best game of all time 😉 ), we watch movies, we have drinks on Zoom with our friends (if you don’t know Zoom, try it!), we also try to keep in shape by doing workouts 3 times a week with freeletics 😉 we sunbathe on the balcony… In short, we do our best to keep on living more or less normally.
The impact and consequences of the Coronavirus
Although we try to work/live normally, all these drastic and exceptional measures obviously have brutal consequences for many people! I first think of the families who have already lost loved ones to this disease, of all the healthcare staff who expose themselves to many risks in order to protect our health, of the 1st necessity stores staff, of the delivery men, drivers, garbage collectors etc… who work in difficult conditions. But I am also thinking of the people who work in bars, cafés, restaurants… of all those people who are in the event industry, in tourism industry or in other sectors that have been badly affected and who have seen their activity stop overnight.
For our part, we simply could not have imagined the impact of this health crisis on our small business. From one day to the next (since Friday the 13th 😉 ), the number of visits on our blog has dropped by 60%… which is quite logical since nobody is looking for travel information anymore. At the same time, our revenues have practically fallen to 0! As we have already explained (here for example), 80% of what we earn comes from affiliate marketing, i.e. commissions that we get when people who are preparing a trip (or are travelling) buy a service or a product that we recommend on our site (car rental, photo gear, travel insurance etc…). Here again it’s clear: no more travels, no more income 😉 …and it gets us thinking!
But we put it into perspective in the sense that we have a rather minimalistic lifestyle (and therefore rather low fixed costs) and that we have enough savings on the side to see it coming. On top of that, we’re just both self-employed, we don’t have any employees or children at home (remote working with children at home can’t be easy… great respect to all confined parents around the world!)… And most importantly, we are healthy and so are our loved ones! So it could really be worse!
What do we do after Covid-19? Thoughts and challenges…
Well… I think that the evolution of this exceptional crisis should make us think and question ourselves deeply! Personally, when I see everything that’s going on, there are so many thoughts going through my head (and I’m sorry if it’s going a bit all over the place, I still have a bit of trouble putting things in order)!
I must say that the first thing that strikes me is how a virus like Covid19 (certainly highly contagious and nasty because of symptoms not necessarily visible) has managed to bring the whole world to its knees in a few weeks… In spite of our health care systems, modern medical technologies and so on, the virus has spread like wildfire, barricading people in their homes and sinking our almighty economies. As Eva Illouz explains in this excellent article (it’s in french but maybe you can translate it… I did not found an equivalent in english), this virus reminds us that our health is paramount and without it everything can collapse in our globalized and interconnected societies.
On our small scale, this health crisis also makes me aware of the precariousness and the “relative” usefulness of our blog. When things are going well, however, it really feels like we are doing something useful by striving to be a source of inspiration and quality information for all our readers. But when the priorities are elsewhere, like now, our travel blog loses some of its meaning… In these moments we would sincerely like to do more concrete and useful things for society. This is the irony of this crisis situation, we realize that the less valorized professions (delivery man, driver, farmer, nurse and so on…) are in fact the most essential to the functioning of our societies. In any case, this makes us think with Fabienne! We’ve already spent a few evenings imagining what this more concrete activity could be, one that we like, one that is full of meaning and compatible with our lifestyle… hopefully we can tell you more in a few weeks 😉
Speaking of irony, what about the most likely origin of this pandemic. The fact that humans are stepping more and more over the territory of wild animals by exploiting the land would greatly increase the chances of new viruses like Covid19 (an interesting article about this in the Guardian). Thus, bats chased out of their natural habitat would have transmitted the virus to the pangolin, which, poached for its meat and scales, would have transmitted the virus to humans… it looks a bit like nature’s revolt against humans, doesn’t it? Or at least a very strong warning to push us to change!
Because yes, it is possible to change quickly and the health crisis we are currently experiencing proves it… In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus and “flatten the curve”, our states have taken unprecedented measures (social distancing, making available incredible amounts of money). Of course these measures have greatly restricted our freedoms, our social life and the impact on the economy has been very negative … But we have to admit that there are also positive effects:
- Many companies have been forced to adopt remote work because of social distancing measures . While working remotely may not always be applicable, in many situations it could bring more flexibility and quality of life to many employees. Personally I hope that those companies which have been forced to adopt remote work will continue to use it in the future when possible.
- Even though we have seen some very selfish behaviour since the beginning of this crisis, I prefer toremember above all the solidarity actions that have been taken! In Switzerland, for example, the Qoqa.ch website has launched a support platform open to all small businesses that have been forced to close because of the virus. There are also a large number of platforms or facebook groups that have been created to help for example people “at risk” to do their groceries or walk their dog…
- Finally, what is a disaster for the economy has become a blessing for the environment. CO2 emissions have dropped since the beginning of the health crisis (look at these comparative images of nitrogen dioxide pollution over France), water has never been so clear in Venice, animals are reappearing in places where they hadn’t been seen for a long time… a temporary break perhaps… although it’s only up to us.
The first thing that comes to mind next is:
If we can take such measures for a virus, why can’ t we do the same for the climate crisis?
Obviously the time scale of the threat is not the same, but the climate emergency is no less urgent than the virus, on the contrary! The latest estimates by climate experts are scary! Whatever we do (i.e. even if we stopped our emissions… because of climate inertia), we should reach +2 degrees in 2040 and if we continue as we are doing now, we could reach +6 or even 7 degrees in 2100! Our only hope to stay below this infamous 2 degrees threshold which promises us terrible runaway phenomena (which will have much worse consequences than the Coronavirus) is to reduce our emissions to 2 tons of CO2 per capita and per year and to reach carbon neutrality on a global scale by 2050! (as stipulated in the Paris agreements) As a reminder, the French average is currently around 11-12 tons of CO2 per person/year, the Swiss average rather around 13-14 and th US around 16 (you can estimate your carbon footprint using this tool if ever and you will find our carbon footprint of last year here) . That gives you an idea of the magnitude of the task ahead!
So, as François Ruffin says (a french politician): “this crisis is a crossroad, an opportunity for a turning point”. The coming months promise to be difficult for many of us. So if we are going to have a hard time anyway, we might as well have a hard time shaping a better world rather than reviving for the nth time the “economic growth” that is the main cause of all our problems. At our individual level we can already do many things (drastically reduce air travel, change our diet habits, favour second-hand purchases, limit plastic etc…). But maybe we could also use the colossal sums of money mentioned by the states all around the world to, for example, establish a universal income, accelerate the energetic transition, transform agriculture… rather than restart the economic machine.
Finally, I don’t know if the analogy is good, but I’d like to finish by comparing two things that have struck me in the last few days. On the one hand there is Amazon, which has to hire 100,000 temporary workers to meet the growing demand for mostly non-essential orders. This same Amazon which is tax evasion champion, destroys millions of new items and offers miserable working conditions… On the other side there is the small delivery company of local products of my buddy Frédéric (terrelocale.ch) which has seen its number of orders multiplied by 4-5 overnight because of (or thanks to) confinement measures. He is literally overwhelmed and works non-stop to deliver essential and local products to the inhabitants of my region.
When I see this, I tell myself that this health crisis really has many faces and can have very different outcomes… I want to believe that after all this we will not choose the side embodied by Amazon! I hope instead that we’ll choose the change embodied by my friend Fred’s small business. I hope this Covid-19 will act like an electroshock, that we will take this warning seriously and finally get ready for tomorrow’s challenges!
Well… I don’t know what you think about all this but I think that a first step forward is to share my thoughts with you on our blog! Once again, I’m not trying to be judgmental, just to share what comes to my mind and to exchange with you on these issues that are very important to me (by the way, don’t hesitate to give me your opinion as a comment below).
On that note, I hope that you take care of yourself and your loved ones in these difficult times… and dont’ forget, #StayHome (we can never repeat it enough 😉 )
If you’re interested, here are some resources and articles (in addition to those I’ve already quoted in the article) from people who are much more legitimate than me to talk about these topics. Feel free to share their message around you.
- An Open Letter to Global Leaders to remind them to choose very wisely how the decide to “stimulate the economy”. They call on leaders to have the courage, wisdom and foresight to seize the opportunity to make their economic recovery plans truly transformative by investing in people, nature and low carbon development (sign it if you want).
- A must watch video and article from Naomi Klein about the Coronavirus capitalism and how to beat it. If you believe in this, share it!!!