Road Trip in a Pandemic


By Grace Rachmany

December 3, 2020

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When I got to Milano, I thought: How did they know? This feels just like a post-apocalyptic film. But how did the directors know this is how it feels? It’s not that surprising, of course. Cities have gone through wars and pestilence since the existence of cities.

Milano after the plague, or not after the plague. Certainly the worst of it hasn’t happened yet. We are in the middle of it. Maybe just the beginning of it. Whatever it is.

I remember a warm data workshop with Nora Bates. She said: The disaster has already struck. It just hasn’t struck everyone yet.

When I left Ljubljana, why did I leave Ljubljana? Numbers were rising. Measures were tightening. Will I be able to get to Spain? Will I be able to get back? Maybe with my Slovenian plates nobody will stop me.

In Milan I sat with one of my father’s best friends in a rooftop restaurant in the outdoor seating. They took our temperatures before we got on the elevator. I can’t visit my father but at least his friend lives within driving distance of me.

Four hours is a long way to go out of one’s way for a meal and Milan doesn’t seem so advisable, but who knows when we will get to see our loved ones again? She gets me an AirBnB because hotels make me choke with the poisonous sanitizer they use to cleanse the air.

We have dinner. I tell her it’s hard to speak to Americans about what’s happening in the States. She says “Whenever I bring it up, your father says ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’.”. I don’t want to talk about it either, but it’s all I ever talk about. I’m American, or at least that’s what one of my passports says. My residency permit says Slovenia. It’s my only hope of staying out of a red zone at this point. Red zone. I’m not worried about disease. Civil war is another thing.

The laundry place wouldn’t take my underwear or socks. If I want laundry done, I have to do it myself, they said. I don’t know if that’s because of the pandemic or a Milanese tradition. At a little coastal town two hours East, the proprietor of the self-service laundromat did my laundry for me at no extra charge.

This is my first post on the Sufficiency Currency blog. It’s about the wisdom of taking a road trip in Europe in the middle of a pandemic. At the beginning of the collapse of civilization. In a bizarre moment of suspension, where things seem to be going on as usual; waiting for the other shoe to drop. America is in the throes of a civil war and California has no air and we’re sharing TikTok videos and Instagram sunsets. Everyone knows the economy’s dead, but we’re working and shopping and paying rent as if nothing happened, like we’re under hypnosis.

Or a psychedelic trip. One big global psychedelic trip, and not the good kind.

Who is that masked man?

Zipping along the highway in a rental car in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse Psychedelic Bad Trip. That doesn’t sound very wise.

At one of the ecovillages, they make their own toothpaste. It’s not really toothpaste; it’s a kind of a powder. I asked one of the volunteers how to use the tooth powder. I knew the answer, but I was hoping I was wrong. She said: we just dip our toothbrushes into the jar. I don’t need a pandemic to know that dipping my toothbrush in the communal jar of tooth-powder is a bad idea. I brought my own toothpaste, like a civilized person. I brought the biological kind so they can’t complain.

As I drive my car along the Riviera, I see it out of the corner of my eye, for a brief second between tunnels, the dark blue sign with the circle of stars around the word France. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I wouldn’t have noticed. OK Google doesn’t say “Welcome to France.” When you cross between states in the US, Google tells you “Welcome to New Jersey.” In Europe, no such thing. OK Google is silent. She knows I crossed and I know I crossed. Maybe she’s pretending to honor GDPR as if she doesn’t know my every move. She knows if I am speeding but doesn’t tell the cops. She definitely knows that I got a small cut on my right index finger. Now she knows the prints of my middle finger, too. “OK, Google,” I say. “That’s me,” she answers.

The border crossing is easy. Finding lunch on the French Riviera in the off season during a pandemic isn’t. I have cake and coffee instead of something that feels French — or like lunch. The coffee shop has no WiFi. I guess you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself by the marina, not working.

The Sufficiency Currency project is about creating an alternative form of economic activity. Not marketplaces. Not money. An evolution of how we perceive our economic activity.

“People have always used money. What else is there?” people ask.

People haven’t always used money and there are still peoples on earth who don’t. Every system is born, lives and dies. Money is just a human invention and the financial system is like every other human invention. We can and will invent something else. Hopefully very soon.

A road trip to replace the world’s financial system in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse Psychedelic Bad Trip.