I am stubborn. Not in a ‘my way or the highway’ way but in a ‘anything you can do for me, I can do for myself’ way. I don’t like being made to do something I don’t want to do. Such as cancelling my trip half-way through: partially because I was looking forward to it but partially because it was already planned and cancelling would mean making a new plan without time to consider or waffle on it. So before I could change my mind, I up and bought a one-way ticket from Vietnam back to London, in fear of the UK border closing (I am a non-citizen who had been working and living in London but moving out).
I write this not from Vietnam or Cambodia where I intended to be, or even Nepal where I had planned to go in another two weeks to conclude my long-awaited epic journey in Asia. Alas, I write this from the safety of my friend’s home in Surrey. Having decided to leave Vietnam early and with 4 hours until the last minute flight I booked, it was a bit of a whirlwind coming back to the UK. I no longer have a flat here but it was my final destination for my trip and where I had booked a flight back to the US and left my non-Asia clothing. Yes, I could have gone back to the US without going via London but as you’ve noticed, things are changing day by day and at the time, London seemed to be the place to go to lay low for a month until things quieted down.
This decision also meant I was at the mercy of other people who I would have to rely on to house me when I suddenly reappeared 5 weeks earlier than expected. But if there’s a silver lining to this situation, I was welcomed back and given a place to stay (multiple, in fact!) and I have been very fortunate to spend this pseudo-lockdown with a small household of supportive friends and friendly cat. And even more than my direct support, the general feeling of community that is arising through the wonderful technology we have has also meant community yoga, group remote happy hours and thoughts on how we can recover from this as a society.
This isn’t something that is going to go away overnight and this will probably have a huge impact on every facet of society and industry at least for the remainder of 2020. But it’s comforting to realize it’s not just affecting one person or one country, it’s all of us and we’re in it together. After years of disagreeing on politics, Brexit, refugees, borders, this is something that is bringing us together as humans, borderless.
The second silver lining or lesson in this is sometimes planning ahead bites you in the ass. Hotels, flights and activities that I booked well in advance are now having to be cancelled and understanding that the whole travel industry is reeling, I want some assurance that I can recoup some of my losses. If only I hadn’t planned ahead! But how do you plan for something like this? Sometimes you just can’t plan for everything. See stubborn above.
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awryRobert Burns, ‘To a Mouse’