I was recently asked to share my favourite vacation – taken or planned – as part of a leadership activity to develop listening skills. My response? The vacation that got cancelled because of Covid-19, a two-week bus tour I had planned in the Yukon, Canada. As my colleague listened, I reflected on the fact that despite not taking the trip, I still managed to experience everything I’d hoped for by going away.
The trip would have been my first solo, non-business trip ever. I wouldn’t know anyone and there would be no familiar landmarks. I’d booked it last year following some major upheaval in my personal life. The trip was a step towards accepting and embracing my new independence and it was a life line too, something to look forward to during the emotionally tumultuous months to come.
A clear, open sky and freedom to roam
“Why the Yukon?” people asked, encouraging me to articulate what it was about the area that drew me. Space was the first thing that came to mind, a vastness that I’ve been craving in recent years, with no high rises or hydro towers to mar my view. A clear, open sky and a natural landscape that stretched for miles in all directions is what I was after. No pressures, and a freedom to roam unobstructed by industry or city-level expectations. “Who knows,” I teased friends, only half-jokingly, “I may never come back.”
I googled the trip and various locales along the journey. Family members gave me magazines they’d come by, which covered interesting aspects of the great Canadian north. The Yukon was very much open for tourism and I was excited about getting there before it became overrun with tourists from all over.
Then the pandemic began to creep onto our radar, a bit slowly at first before hitting high speed and everything closing down. For a little while, I held out hope that my Yukon adventure would still happen. The daily escalating news soon dimmed those hopes altogether. I accepted that my trip would no longer happen and began working on cancellation plans.
However, as I reflected to my listening buddy in our conversation, the pandemic gave me an opportunity that I wasn’t expecting. Because of the limitation on our social activities, I spent quiet evenings after work, subdued weekends where the biggest thrill was going for a walk and chatting with a friendly neighbour, and sitting out on my front stoop on warm days. I began to appreciate this newfound spaciousness and experiencing life in a different way; a way that could only happen in a city that was ground to a halt by unprecedented factors. I became particularly grateful for my home, having enough work to sustain me in it, and especially for being able to maintain social distance without difficulty.
Then there was the nature aspect wherein I, along with so many others, paid far closer attention to the unfolding of spring, marveling at each blossoming flower, unfurling leaf, and blade of grass that stretched towards the sky. I felt more connected to our natural environment, having had the time and capacity to pay it my unfettered attention. I appreciated how lucky I am to live on the edge of a city where nature is still trying to be abundant in competition with endless development.
Navigate endings without distraction
As for the solo aspect of the trip, the pandemic afforded my ex-partner and I the chance to navigate endings without distraction from ordinary life, thankfully in good health and without significant impact to our finances. We had time for conversations that pre-pandemic life couldn’t afford us, and cultivated moments of new insight and awareness. I discovered the comfort of reflecting on moments of joy and had more time for that reflection.
When I finally realized that my trip would have to be cancelled, kind friends reassured me that I would get another chance to go one day. I’m not so sure myself. The Yukon trip that never happened served a very specific purpose in my life at a time when I needed it most. And in a way, I ended up taking it nonetheless.
For your own reflection:
- What did you have planned, that’s been impacted by the pandemic?
- What did it mean to you?
- What happened instead, and how did that serve you?
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