The thing that bugs me most about our current situation is that I’m not able to visit my parents. Especially the fact that Daughter can’t cuddle with them for an unknown period of time makes me sad. However, I realise there are many situations imaginable when you would have the exact same situation.

Last year I interviewed eight Dutch students about their gap year abroad when they were a teenager. Some went to America, another one to Taiwan, one spent a year on a tiny island in Colombia. Their experiences and surroundings were all very different, but their stories on the first few months were very similar. They all needed to adjust to a life far away from their parents, siblings, friends, knowing that it would take a long time before they would see them again. They all needed to adjust to a new rhythm in life, accept the rules of their host families, adjust to different school regimes and find new friends to hang out with. For most of those I interviewed this meant feeling lonely and lost for weeks, months even. Not being able to hug your parents when you feel lonely and sad at the moment when you need it most, is what most of them referred to when talking about their first period of living abroad.

What I realised this week, is that we now experience this collectively. Despite being at home, you experience the social distance of a gap year. You can talk on the phone, you can send letters, you can see each other through video, but it is not a replacement for the hug we all long for. This is a global gap year, without knowing how many days this year will count.

Luckily I’m at home with the Man and Daughter, so we cuddle as much as we can. As for hugging my parents, I will have to be patient. At some point the gap year will be over. I’m looking forward to the longest and warmest hug ever.