I knew it was coming. Maybe that explains my quiet acceptance. As of today, Sweden has a travel ban in effect, preventing me from flying to Stockholm on April 4. My plans for an epic European adventure are kaput. There’s a virus going around. I get it. My dashed dream is nothing when the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are feeling like they’ve got targets on their backs, worrying that every cough, sneeze or sniffle is the beginning of a frightening fight for survival. I’m concerned that people like me might be asymptomatic carriers, leaving harmful contaminants in the air between the grocery aisles as we get our regular week’s worth of milk and bananas. (Foolishly or not, I shall not hoard.)
My hotels have all been canceled. No penalties, no hassle. All my bookings had been with free cancellation policies. I still have to cancel my flight and a ferry to Estonia. Early this morning, I called Folkuniversitetet, an adult learning institution, and canceled my Swedish immersion class. Alas, my conversational Swedish will remain limited to useful expressions like, “Det finns en älg bakom restaurangen” [There’s a moose behind the restaurant] and “Gå och tvätta dig! Annars får du ingen mat” [Go wash up! Otherwise, you will not get any food]. The phone call triggered a pang of missing Sweden as the gentleman who took my call was so charming in his quintessentially Swedish demeanor: somewhat overwhelmed in processing course cancellations yet earnest, respectful and friendly in a restrained sort of way. How often do you feel both warm and fuzzy and amused after a customer service call? Damn, I just love the country!
Yet Sweden must wait. I can reschedule but I have to let go of the fact it’s unlikely I’ll have another opportunity for such an extended trip. What made things affordable was that I’d timed the trip to immediately follow when I move out from my condo. My belongings were to sit in storage—a minor cost—while I lived without a home. No rent, no mortgage. The savings would have offset a chunk of my travel costs. I thought I had an exciting, brilliant plan. I loved the openness of it. I’d settled on three weeks in Stockholm, plus visits to Tallinn and Helsinki, but the rest was to unfold along the way. Other likely stops: Prague, Lisbon and the Algarve in Portugal and a complete tour around Iceland’s Ring Road. But the itinerary, to the extent there was one, was subject to change. “You should see Germany’s Black Forest!” “Have you thought about Budapest?” Okay, let’s do it!
That was then.
I’m picturing a family minivan driving through Ohio with a “Disney World or Bust” message scrawled through a film of dirt on the back window. Who ever thought the entire world would be stuck with the “Bust” option? Surreal becomes real. This is now.
Come April 3, instead of grumbling over the check-in fee for my suitcase and suffering through thirteen hours in a cramped airline seat, I’m faced with uncertainty along with a reality check over the true meaning of “suffering”. Please, please, please, let us get a handle on this virus. Let people get the testing and the care that they need.
When I move out of my condo, I will be officially home-less. (To say “homeless” is both inappropriate and needlessly dramatic.) I could try to make the 4,400-kilometer drive to Toronto which is where I planned to live after my travels. I’m not sure that’s a wise move though as healthcare is provincially run and there is a three-month waiting period for medical coverage after I secure a permanent residence in Ontario. Technically, my former province, British Columbia is supposed to still cover me but it’s a bit of a gray area and, given that we’re in a pandemic, I’m reluctant to take my chances. Besides, during Prime Minister Trudeau’s press conference today, a reporter asked if travel between provinces would be restricted. Answer: stay tuned; anything is possible.
Staying put, to the extent I can, seems to be prudent. I have an offer to stay in a friend’s RV though it lacks running water and won’t be hooked up. Another friend offered a room in her place. Very kind. Then there’s Daniel, my surprise boyfriend for the past two months. He offered his second bedroom. What?! Living “together” in a separate room at a new and still temporary boyfriend’s place? That just feels weird. And yet things are continuing to develop.
In a week, when the ever-changing landscape (hopefully) becomes clearer, I’ll start to plan anew. Will hotels still be taking guests? I’m sure there’s some remote Airbnb cabin in northern B.C. or on one of the Gulf Islands where I can exhaust my European travel budget. With a little imagination, I can pretend I’m actually in Sweden, somewhere off its “Wilderness Road”, Vildmarksvägen, 700 kilometers north of Stockholm. Perhaps it will be a golden opportunity to actually see a moose behind a (closed) restaurant. If not a moose, then a bear [en björn].
It’s all good. Different, but good.