Like a row of dominos you accidentally start, country after country around the world have made decisions we never thought possible: they are urging us to stay home for the good of all and have closed their borders.
For once, those of us who usually have the privilege to travel around the world freely, in search of new experiences, work, and play, have to remain in one place. We have had to make our own decisions and ask, with a new sense of panic, concern, or necessary cold-headedness: Where to now?
For a lot of people, the underlying organization required to set up for a stay at home of an unknown duration at home requires little energy, at least at first. Sure, apparently hoarding on toilet paper was a thing to worry about. In the west, many headed to the supermarket to stock up on basic necessities, picked a friend to spend the confinement with, and even a location where to spend. But the rest was pretty straight-forward as long as you have a roof over your head you call home.
The privileged yogi nomads and travelers of our earth have not had it all that straightforward. We’ve had to ask ourselves what to do if our home countries decided to close its borders—do we go back now? Where to, exactly? We’ve had to ask around if our home countries would offer repatriation, and, considering our options, if it would be okay to refuse a potential offer. Where is home when you’ve been on the road for a while, hopping from country to country in search of work and life experiences? What kind of work can I do now that I’m not allowed to move anymore? Where will I get my income from once my current job ends? Will the owners of the Yoga Farm kick me out?
And do you even have to stay in confinement when the country you’re currently in… doesn’t really have one in place yet?
Feel Your Feelings—Navigating The Grief of Cancelled Travel Plans
Once you’ve somewhat figured out the practical side of things and decided where you’d remain for a bit, reality hits. Airlines have emailed to say your flights were cancelled. The yoga studio you were supposed to work at in your next destination isn’t able to receive you anymore. The friends you were going to take a trip with are heading home. Travel plans are cancelled, and you suddenly have an empty calendar.
I’m a slow traveler myself and prefer to stay in one country for a while before I move on to the next. In the beginning, when confinement rules started popping up here in China, I wasn’t too worried about my next travel plans. The situation would get better, and we’d be able to hop on a train to keep exploring China in no time.
Well, not quite. Next week, friends were supposed to fly in to visit Shanghai, and we were going to take a trip somewhere to the mountains. I have a list of places I’d like to visit around China—Tibet, the “Avatar” mountains (Zhangjiajie), Hong Kong for a Vipassana meditation retreat. Everything is canceled until further notice, and it has come with disappointment.
So right now, it’s okay to be sad, and yes, grieve. We will get used to the new normal, eventually, but it’s okay to take some time to feel the sadness, the disappointment, the anger even. The rest will come when it does.
The Wonderful Skills of A World Traveler Yogi
World traveler yogis have more than one trick up their sleeve. Exploring the globe comes with its set of challenges, and when you’re on the other side of the planet, away from familiarity and comfort, you have no other option but to go with it (with a little help from our friend, our yoga practice). Over time, you build the skill set to face the next challenges that will come—right now is one of these challenges. Let’s see how we can navigate this COVID-19 situation with ease.
Traveler yogis have, without a doubt, an incredible ability to adapt to new situations, places, faces, and atmosphere. Right now, we’re called to adapt to our new normal and to go with the flow. What has our yoga practice to teach us here? How can it support us to navigate new rules, new settings, new obstacles? We’ve done it time and time again—now is as good a time as any to rely on that skill.
Some of us have years of experience making long-distance relationships work through video calls, regular emailing, and photo sharing. Some of us might even remember the times when emailing or bad internet connection on Skype were the only options available. Now, with dozens of calling platforms, social media, and an internet connection available in all corners of the world, it’s easier than ever to check in with loved ones, and even play games together, even miles apart from each other. Let’s make the most of that possibility!
If you want to travel the world in search of new experiences, there’s no way you’ll find what you need by staying put and watching time pass by. You have to get out there, reach out to people, make new connections, come up with a plan, find a balance between what the world is saying you do and what your gut is telling you to do. Right now, how can your ability to problem-solve and find a way to get what you most long for help you with your current situation? How can you feel in control rather than like you’ve lost your freedom?
Compassion and empathy
Traveling isn’t just a way to discover new places, you discover new cultures, new ways of life, and learn from the countries that so kindly open their doors to us. For once, we see how it feels to be refused entrance to another country. We also think of the people who spend more of their time outside all over the Asian and African continents, while we are cozied up in our homes. How we cultivate our compassion towards the populations who have it more difficult than we do? And how is this changing our perspective?
All Things Are Temporary
If there’s one thing we learn by traveling the globe and having a yoga practice, it is that things never really last. Emotions come and go, landscapes come and go. Nature reminds us that every time a new season comes and goes, and every yogi will agree that our yoga practice evolves the same way, urging us to respond to our needs and desires in the moment.
May we all remember this right now, and that we can rely on ourselves, our mats and meditation cushions, nature around us, and our loved ones across the globe to go through this. It won’t last forever, and sooner than later, we’ll have to adapt to yet another new normal.
In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!
Ely is a slow traveler and location independent entrepreneur. She is a digital content creator and the co-founder of Shut Up & Yoga, an online magazine that aims to bring humor and critical thinking to the worlds of yoga, wellness, and personal development. She is a curious bee and loves to experiment with different outlets and media to explore her mind, move, breathe, learn, and play. If you travel to Shanghai, her current home, you might find her squatting down trying to chat with the local street cats…