Having been stranded in the Austrian city of Salzburg since March, Alissa Mann, 22, was legally required to self isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK in mid-June, in accordance with the Covid-19 safety guidelines. Instead of being holed up in her small room at her parents house in the thatched-roof Cotswold’s village of Hook Norton, Alissa, a languages student at the University of Sheffield, decided to pitch a tent in the front garden, and spend two weeks enjoying the her isolation outdoors.
“I moved to Salzburg back in February to start working as an English Language Teaching Assistant in two nearby schools. There was about a month of relative normality before suddenly, in the space of a week, Austria went into full lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. I bought several flight tickets home, which were all cancelled within hours of booking. A lot of my time in that first week of being stranded was spent in a panic, worrying over when I would be able to return to the UK. But as the time went by, I realised I had had more time and freedom to explore the natural surroundings of Salzburg than I otherwise would have been able to. In hindsight, I’m so much happier that I spent those strange months in Austria rather than in the UK.” She says about her time on the continent.
“Before I came back, I’d discussed with my parents what to do about the quarantine. My bedroom at their house is tiny, about 4 metres by 4 metres. The thought of staying in there for two weeks made me feel a bit sick.
So the day before I landed back on British soil, my parents set up the family tent in our front garden, much preferable all round. Although I was exhausted when I finally got back to our village in Oxfordshire, I was touched at how much care my family had put into setting up my camp for me, with colourful lights and little lavender plants outside.”
Affectionately called “Camp Austria” by her family, with the country’s flag flying above, Alissa slept and cooked in her 3-pod tent, which was equipped with working electric lights, phone chargers, a wifi extender as well as a full size gas camping stove, sneaking into the house only to use the bathroom.
“I had expected to enjoy the whole experience – in my mind I built it up as a mini holiday, and it was definitely a very relaxed two weeks. But it was really frustrating not being able to cook or spend time with my family when they were so close. Especially as our living room window was right by the tent entrance. I could see them all sat inside together, sometimes with the cats. I couldn’t feel too sorry for myself though, as camping in the garden isn’t exactly the same category of separation as being trapped in another country!
I love camping and I had all of the modern conveniences, so I’m a little surprised at how relieved I am to be back living in a house. It was almost impossible to have a routine or feel motivated to work in the tent, so that’s definitely a bonus of coming back inside. It’s just nice to feel a part of the real world again. But at the same time, that feeling of separation from reality was a huge part of what made quarantining in a tent feel more like a holiday or rest. It’s strange how living only a few metres outside of your home can completely shift your mindset – at times I felt like I was living on my own little planet.”
Photos by Rebekah Lowri