As many of you know, my daughter Kennedy has been in Italy working to finish her degree in architecture. It’s actually required at her school that she studies in Rome and travels around Europe to gain a better perspective of the various styles of architecture. She was super excited about her big adventure and has been sending us amazing pictures of her travels the past few months.
Kennedy was excited that she was able to get an amazing apartment with several girlfriends that was only a block from the Vatican. She never had to wait in any lines to see the Churches, the Coliseum or any of the other major architectural attractions. She even got to see the Pope on a couple of occasions!
The U.S. Embassy in Italy has been awesome, continually sending my daughter updates and information regarding places in Italy and Europe that might not be wise to travel or might be having protests, etc… Unfortunately, the coronavirus threw everyone a major curveball.
As you can imagine, my wife and I started to get a bellyache a couple of weekends back when we first heard the headlines that the number of coronavirus cases was exploding in Italy. Kennedy had friends in Milan at Fashion Week and many other friends scattered across Europe that weekend. Kennedy herself was just returning from a trip through Spain…again she said it was amazing!
Interestingly, this time when coming back into Italy she was met at the airport by officials using heat sensors to check body temperatures, etc… She said those that had a temperature or were showing cold or flu-like symptoms were pulled out of line and taken somewhere. She didn’t know anyone that was removed so she doesn’t know exactly what happened to them or what hoops they had to jump through.
At that point, she was being told the troubles and concerning areas for coronavirus were to the north in the Lombardy region and Rome wasn’t seeing any major complications. For reference, Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region and around 350 miles to the north of Rome. As you know, travel via train inside Italy and other parts of Europe is easy and taken by many. Kennedy knew many who had taken frequent short trips to Florence (about 180 miles from Milan), Genoa (under 100 miles from Milan), etc…
I told her it would only be a matter of time until it started to spread and show up in more widespread locations and that she could soon be quarantined or locked down. I told her I could get her a flight out and back to the U.S. Her response was, “Dad, I could think of worse places to be locked down, I’m going to stay and ride it out.” That was not really what mom wanted to hear, but I kinda admired her risk-taking spirit. I knew it would have probably been the same decision I would have made at her age.
About a week passed and the coronavirus situation started to become even more fluid in Italy. Still, Kennedy was sending us pics and videos of people in the streets and at restaurants and night clubs where everything was going on as normal. She said there was never really anyone wearing masks or even talking much about the virus headlines. She was getting all kinds of text and social media questions from her friends back in the U.S. about the virus but she said there was very little if any change in or around Rome. It was still as if nothing had happened or the headlines didn’t exist.
This past weekend things started to change more dramatically. She received an e-mail from the university that they were to attend a mandatory meeting. Girls she knew from other U.S. universities that were studying in Italy were also receiving e-mails. Decisions from above were obviously made that the U.S. students needed to promptly exit Italy. Kennedy had not known or heard of anyone that had the virus and was very surprised by the move to bring everyone back home.
Again, my wife and I were filled with mixed emotions. We were happy she was going to be home in the U.S. in case there was some type of major pandemic. Lying in bed talking late at night with small amounts of tears in her eyes, Michelle had told me on several occasions that she didn’t want her baby sick and quarantined in a different country where she wouldn’t be allowed to see or help her. So we were happy she was coming home, but…
We received an e-mail since we were listed as her emergency contacts that informed us she would need to be self-quarantined for 14 days because of her possible exposure. To Michelle and I that immediately meant no welcome home hugs, kisses, laughs, or good stories from the adventure. She was transported to a location, has to take her temperature twice a day, report the readings to the state department, and hope to be virus free in 14-days. Like I mentioned above, she has not knowingly ever been in contact or knows of anyone that has had the virus.
I told Michelle this morning, what a crazy emotional rollercoaster it has been and we are still on it… What’s our emotional response during the next two weeks if she develops a cold or sinus infection like she normally does when she travels a bunch? How freaked out will we be?
I started to think more about our family’s emotional journey and roller coaster ride associated with the virus and it has certainly been at the forefront of our minds. I suspect a similar emotional pattern is happening to other families who have had family abroad. But perhaps even more worrisome for the markets will be what happens when these emotions and worries become even more widespread here at home, when neighbors, teachers, friends, and family members you might know who have not traveled abroad start to be identified with the virus.
Like anything, I have faith that this too shall soon pass. I also truly believe we are in the best country with the best health care to contain and battle the virus. Unfortunately, I still think there is more downside as more families will be forced to deal with the fear and uncertainty that accompanies the symptoms of the virus.
I remember reading and writing down an interesting quote when I was in a larger trader’s office early in my career, it read…”Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future and in the markets. It is a product of our imagination causing us to fear things that may not ever exist. Do not misunderstand me, danger is real, but fear is a choice and the market can run with it much longer than you or I can remain solvent.”
Included below are some amazing pics that Kennedy sent while on her travels. We are grateful that she had the opportunity!
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