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  • Writer's pictureKati Pankka

I chose not to travel and I hate my decision right now

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Responsible travel choices are not the easy ones. And that‘s exactly why they are important.

Dear diary... Today I was supposed to board a Northbound train heading towards Lapland. But I’m not. I had to make a decision of which I’m not happy about - at all. Quite the opposite. I feel rather miserable about it. Restless and sad.

Explorer inside me would’ve really liked to take all the risks and just go. Hop on an adventure and hope for the best. (That’s my heart whispering to my ear.)

But at the same time, I know, staying put is the only responsible decision. (...and this is my rational brain whispering to my other ear). Responsible travellers first take care of themselves.

Yet another canceled trip

One week ago I was diagnosed with pneumonia and doctors order was two weeks sickness leave. Rest and recover with antibiotics and all.

This was already the third trip of this year that I had to skip. Earlier in the spring our surfing trip to Morocco and my Georgian adventure with Intrepid (as a passenger) both got cancelled/postponed due to Corona pandemic. Even though both cancellation were very unfortunate, I found those easier to cope with, as I didn’t need to make those decisions by myself. Same goes for the suspended tour leading season as well. Someone else had made that responsible decision for us.

Adventure in the North was calling but I couldn’t answer

This time, we had a motorhome rented out from northern Finland. The plan was to catch an overnight train to Kemi tonight and continue towards the north, Kilpisjärvi & Saana fell. Then crossing the border to Norway (you can imagine how excited we were to hear that it’s now again possible to travel to our neighbouring countries (except Sweden). Plan B would’ve been to do a road trip in Finnish Lapland which would’ve been wonderful as well, especially at this time of the year with midnight sun and all.) I was so looking forward to this trip! Being outdoors and traveling to new places with good company. I miss the Northern nature.

I’ve never been to Northern Norway yet, and after a bit of research (and reaching out to my adventure buddy Opal from Tromsø to get some local insights), I was feeling extremely excited and curious to explore some fantastic nature destinations (as a bonus we would’ve been conveniently staying away from the crowds with our camper van. Great first trip after corona restrictions being lifted).

We had not planned everything yet. We only had a rough plan. And a vision of playing it by the ear as we go - like a proper adventure. It’s always worth leaving some room for creativity and spontaneity while traveling. Those usually create the best memories. :)

Optimism can only take you so far

I strive to stay optimistic in all situations. Even last Sunday when I was tested negative for COVID-19 but diagnosed positive for pneumonia. I still thought there could be a chance for me to join this Northern Roadtrip. Recovering from pneumonia with help of antibiotics, painkillers and bed rest could happen in a week. And even if I couldn’t do any hikes, nor swim in refreshing waters, I was still hoping I could join the trip and spend my days just relaxing and reading books by the camper van, somewhere out in the nature. Why would it be any better to stay in the city staring at the walls, if I could as well rest and recover while breathing the freshest air in the world and admiring some stunning scenery...?

So why didn’t I go then?

Well there’s multiple reasons... and I’m fully aware that I’m being childish and selfish for complaining about this. But I have to get it out of my system now. What’s helping me is remembering something that my dear colleague Zsofia from Hungary mentioned recently. “Traveling is always a privilege.“ We should not take it for granted.

“As responsible travellers we should remember that traveling is always a privilege.” Zsofia Molnar

Knowing that this decision was the only possible responsible decision, didn’t make it any easier.

One of the reasons why I’m writing ** this down is to try and reason it to myself and convince myself that this is indeed the way it should be.

First of all, it may take weeks if not months, for a person to recover properly from pneumonia. I’ve read that even if you feel well after a week or two, it might still take a long while before your lungs are fit enough for proper physical activity. I didn’t want to take the risk of making my health get any worse.

While I’m not coughing nor sneezing, and the odds of being contagious are rather small, I still don’t want to take the risk of making anybody else’s health get any worse.

In one of the worst case scenarios (and trust me I’ve gone through many of them in my mind), I would wake up in the middle of the night with this horrible pain under my rib... unable to breath normally... fever rising back up to +40c... we would be somewhere hours away from any health care facilities... Would that be worth the risk? Just for a week of good times? No. No, it wouldn’t.

Technically though, that could happen to anyone without any pre-existing conditions as well. So it’s always important to check in advance from where and how to get help in an emergency. That’s one part of being a responsible traveler as well. Always aim to prevent any accidents and illnesses, but also prepare for the worst case scenarios.

In the end, one of the biggest reasons for not traveling this time, was the fact that I didn’t want to end up being a burden to my travel mates. And I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary worry to my parents, or anyone really.

When the universe is telling me to stop, rest and recover - I’d better listen. I’d better practice what I preach.

Plans come and go. New adventures will come.

Why do I hate my decision?

I’m feeling almost perfectly fine at this moment. Haven’t had a fever anymore in couple of days. No more pain. I can definitely feel that I’m recovering.

I’m so keen to go traveling again that staying put (while not sweating like crazy with fever and headache, in other words without being properly ill) makes me feel anxious.

Normally, my best ways of dealing with anxiety and stress are going somewhere new, exploring, enjoying the nature and doing sports/being physically active...

Oh well... you guessed it. Right now I can’t really do any of those. And I hate it. I really do. Doing nothing is no good for my restless mind.

I catch myself thinking I should just stop looking forward to anything nice. I should stop getting excited about positive things in the future. So many pleasant plans have hit the brick wall lately. I should settle for less. But I can’t help it. Genuinely. Dreams and plans motivate me in a way nothing else can.

Time to deal with it and move on

In the midst of my self pity, I picked up this book I’ve intended to read for a good while now. And it reminds me of something important.

”Not all of my dreams can come true. I wouldn’t even have time for them all.” Kyllikki Villa

Not all dreams can come true. We need to be prepared to adjust to what ever comes. This is what keeps calm and optimistic now.

This book** is a true story about a 73 years old solo traveling lady whose adventures are taking her on a cargo ship from Europe to Buenos Aires, and things are definitely not always going according to her plans. I love this book. Reading a book is nowhere close to real travelling, but at least it gives me a slim comfort and for now, that’ll have to do.

I wish my travel mates a wonderful and safe journey - keep on exploring - stay curious! I hope to follow your adventures virtually until we can travel together again!

*I actually didn’t write this text. I used dictation functionality of my phone and recorded this while laying in my bed. It seems to function pretty well. I only had to correct a handful of typos. Maybe this is a good solution for a lazy writer like myself. I was inspired to try this by an example set by below mentioned author.

**’Vanhan naisen lokikirja’ Old lady’s log book by Kyllikki Villa. Known as the Grand old lady of slow travel, this book is based on her 1997 trip where she recorded her diary on a tape recorder. She mentioned that she enjoys talking to herself. Haha! I somehow can relate to this very well. :D.

(Btw. Unfortunately this books appears to be available only in Finnish).

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