Everyone is missing someone amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. For Romeo Cox, that special person is his grandma Rosemary.
After his family moved from London, England, to Palermo, Italy, the 10-year-old didn’t get to see Rosemary for a year and a half. And because of lockdown restrictions, he couldn’t fly out for a visit in 2020. So he decided to go on an epic three-month quest to get a hug from his beloved “granny.”
Determined to see his beloved grandparent, the little boy pitched the idea of trekking all the way back to London to his mom Giovanna and his dad Phil.
They weren’t crazy about it at first, but Phil, a journalist and documentarian, eventually agreed to make the journey with his son.In June, the pair set off, taking a boat from Sicily to Naples.
While their trip was over 1,700 miles, they didn’t drive, opting to walk, bike, and use a boat where necessary instead.
They woke up at 4:30 every morning and walked about 12 miles a day, sleeping in hostels, convents, kind strangers’ homes, or directly under the stars.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. Beyond the grueling walks, Pedro, the donkey carrying their gear, would sometimes refuse to go any farther. They also had a run-in with a pack of wild dogs, which they thankfully managed to escape.
All along, Romeo knew it would be worth it when he finally reunited with his grandma.That said, the journey wasn’t just about reaching Rosemary. Romeo wanted to bring attention to the struggles refugees face and raise money to support them along the way.
“I was passing over the cliffs trying to get to our hostel in Calais and we met this Sudanese boy trying to cross from Calais to his family and brother in the U.K. and he wasn’t allowed,” Romeo told BBC. “I felt it was unfair for me to meet my family and he not to.”
He felt he could relate in a way. When his family first moved to Palermo, Romeo couldn’t speak Italian and felt out of place. But the refugee children he met there helped him adapt.One of them, a boy from Ghana named Randolph, became Romeo’s best friend.
That’s what inspired him to create a fundraiser to make online learning available to local refugees and other children in need. So far, he’s raised over $22,000 to go toward tablets and WiFi!
In September, Romeo and Phil reached their destination. After a 14-day quarantine period, Romeo finally got the hug he’d been waiting so long for!
“I ran down the road and to [Rosemary’s] car, calling her name,” Romeo said. “We had the best, longest hug. She’s so special to me.”
( Picture courtesy of Romeo’s Big Journey Facebook)