you could guess the first part of this story... no problem! The places and faces may be different but it's fair to say that March 2020 looked a little bit more similar than different to everyone.
The 10 second version of mine is this..
I was just getting back on a plane from Bali to Manila (that had been somewhat of a home for the last 3 years), and then hopping over to Greece, to be with family for a couple of weeks before a schedule of Norway for a concert, Berlin (Cold war nerd alert!), Stockholm, Warsaw, relocating to Budapest, and a summer full of Greek island hopping, working, and exploring, before September for a safari in Kenya and Tanzania...
you get the point!
and then it all got cancelled, bit by bit, painfully slow and utterly unceremoniously.
Now you may think, and... so... that's nothing new.
But when you work for a travel company, and your whole life plan kinda depends around planes, borders, travel and happy moments... there is an extra layer of "oh no..." when you see the world closing.
lesson 1: Traveling vs. Escapism
For full transparency, I did travel around Greece and Hungary that summer. And although it wasn't with the same intentions I found a new way to explore more.
For the last few years I have been so focused on progressing through life in a measurable way. Get X grades, visit X many countries, make X amount of money, and suddenly, all of these things starting to seem so arbitary and meaningless (compared to global health).
Everything seemed so magical on the outside. My friends would be jealous over the perfectly instagrammable pictures and destinations I would get to explore while working at the same time.
After all I had just bid goodbye to a life in medicine and the science world for a life of adventure.
But on the inside, I was still waking up everyday stressing over whether things are going to work out, and how I need to be achieving X everyday or it's a day wasted.
The truth is you can travel away from a place but you can't travel away from yourself.
lesson 2: Take the long way home
In the three months that I was in Athens I walked more than I ever had before.
This has been one of my favorite things since I can remember. Growing up, my family would move almost every year to a different country. I would escape the isolation by going on very long walks every evening and discovering everything that was around.
During my time in Athens, I climbed to Mt. Lucabettus over 20 times. I took every side street that led home, I tried new bakeries and treats and discovered new neighborhoods every chance I had.
This place had been an unofficial home for a year yet I knew so little about it!
The first thing I did when things started to open up again was a little tour of Anafiotika, the area perched on the side of the Acropolis hill. We got to learn about the little churches and communities of this area from a group of volunteers that maintain the cultural sites in the area.
It was so beautiful to spend a few hours just listening, taking pictures and taking everything in without thinking... okay what's next.
lesson 3: Having a home makes the travel-part more fun
As a third-culture kid I grew up without a strong sense of home.
The majority of my extended family has always been based in beautiful northern Greece, in Thessaloniki. That's where I was born and spent most of my childhood, but it was never a home to swiftly go back to.
In 2020, I thought Budapest would be my base for the next few years. But as fate has it, a few magical drops of love and adventure calling and I made the jump back to New Zealand.. for a guy!
Pretty cool story to tell our kids one day... love in the times of a pandemic!
Looking back and forth to all the adventures of last year and the once planned for the time ahead, I feel so much more safety and excitement knowning that there is a place that will always be and feel like home.
lesson 4: what's your why
It used to be that noone ever had to justify travel.
"but why?" ... it's not something you would hear often when describing the next adventure that was awaiting.
But when the risk/benefit equation with travel shifted all of a sudden you had to justify why.
Why take any risk when all is seemingly well and stable here. Why not do it later? Why not wait a couple of years? Why this country and not that? why? why? why?
For me the answer lies half way between "well travel is a way of living and I wouldn't want it any other way" and "why wait when no one has promised you that another day will come".
Always keeping things safe!
lesson 5: The best lesson
The best lesson out of this last year of no travel is that as cliche as it sounds the voyage is not something that stops. There are so many ways to travel close to home, ways to travel through books, movies, stories, people, food... oh I could go on and on forever.
There are so many different reasons to travel. And for me, it will always come back to people.
This year I have reached out, and had more meaningful converstations than ever before. I have reconnected with friends and loved ones all around the world that were facing the same major disruption albeit within a different reality.
Although most of my trips never came to be in 2020, I know that every single trip in the years to come will be cherished and loved in a way that I wouldn't be capable of before.
My main goal with this blog is not to monetise, advertise or sell a service.. it's to build a community. If you love traveling slow and want to experience the most that world has to give I would love to hear from you at withgiota. That's the place where I share and connect with people like you the most.
Until then, keep the adventure alive!