Visiting loved ones during the pandemic has become a daunting task.
Even so, when 10-year-old Romeo Cox decided what he wanted more than anything else was a hug from his 77-year-old grandmother, he didn’t let a few little bumps in the road—like quarantine, or that she was 1,700 miles away and there were no flights from his new home in Sicily to his native U.K.—stop him from making the journey.
“I hadn’t seen Granny for a year and a half, so [during lockdown] I planned in secret to go see her,” he said in an interview with The Times of London.
Romeo’s parents took some convincing, but Romeo finally talked them into letting him make the trip. “I asked my parents and they said no more than 50 times,” he told The Daily Mail.
“Eventually they agreed—provided we planned everything was Covid-safe.”
With his folks’ blessing, Romeo turned his plans into action. “I drew a map. I would walk and take boats and do it naturally to help the planet,” he told the Times. “And I’d take Dad. It would be handy to have an adult.”
Handy indeed, since Romeo’s father, 46-year-old Phil Cox, is a veteran journalist and filmmaker whose first-hand experience covering war zones gave him invaluable knowledge about making your way in less than ideal conditions.
Of course, Romeo isn’t the only relative to prove when you’re determined to spend quality time with your loved ones, where there’s a will, there’s a way. This past July, intrepid pandemic-stranded sailor Juan Manuel Ballestero sailed solo 5,600 miles across the Atlantic from Portugal to Argentina so he could be reunited with his 90-year-old dad for Father’s Day.
Romeo and Phil set off on their journey on June 20. The pair trekked across Italy, Switzerland, and France.
In the course of their travels, the duo spent many nights under the stars.
They were also forced to fend off wild dogs, got lost a time or two, suffered sore feet, befriended a wild donkey, and took some time to volunteer at a refugee camp in Northern Calais, but no matter how unusual or adverse the conditions, they just kept going.
That’s because, in addition to seeing his beloved grandmother, Romeo had another compelling reason to complete his mission—raising money to help refugee children.
As the new kid in town when his family moved to Palermo, Romeo was taken under the wing of some peers who’d already learned the ropes. Romeo recounted the story of his best bud, Randolph, whose family was often forced to march mile after mile as they made their way from Ghana to Italy.
“He walked even further than I have on this trip, but without food and water and in fear. He was risking his life,” Romeo told Metro News. “He helped me when I came to Sicily, and so I wanted to help him and other vulnerable children in return.”
Having raised close to £14,000 in donations for the Refugee Education Across Conflicts Trust, Romeo is well within sight of his £15,000 goal.
On September 21, father and son arrived in London’s Trafalgar Square where they spent a mandatory two weeks in isolation prior to being allowed to make the final leg of the journey to Grandma Rosemary’s home. “I’m feeling tired now—like an old 100-year-old man,” Romeo quipped to Metro News, “but it was so fun.”
With his grandmother’s house finally in sight, Romeo broke into a joyful run that ended in the embrace he’d so longed for.
It was difficult at first for his grandmother to wrap her head around everything Romeo had accomplished en route to their rendezvous. “I didn’t believe my grandson’s incredible journey at first,” she admitted.