Iberian Isolation with Ben Roberts

In early March of 2020, I had to make a difficult decision. With an assignment lined up in neighbouring Portugal and the coronavirus epidemic beginning to take hold in Spain, where I live with my family, should I travel to do the work or cancel? I had never dropped out of a job in my entire career, yet it was becoming obvious that this situation was quite unique, so pulling out would have been justified. Equally, I didn’t want to risk getting isolated from my family if I was unable to travel home.

As a family we decided that I should take the job, but we also figured it was best to travel as a family unit. We live in a quite remote town in the mountains north of Madrid and had already been isolating, so we felt confident that we weren’t carrying the virus. Nevertheless we kept ourselves isolated from others. Midway through my job, the border between Spain and Portugal was closed.

For the last 5 weeks we have been isolated in a remote mountain cottage in the Serra do Açor, a mountain range in Portugal’s interior that feels like stepping back in time. The landscape, ravaged by wildfires in 2017, is a stark clash of blacks, greens and yellows. We know that we are fortunate to be here in this moment, but equally are striving to do our bit – staying away from others, keeping social interactions to a minimum.

It now looks like we will be able to return to Madrid on 26th of May.