I recently had something pretty disappointing happen to me. While I was prepping for some serious backpacking trips, I badly hurt my foot, and had to carry out travel cancellations. Besides the disappointment of not being able to go, I found myself really struggling with what this means for my body and my health. Sure, injuries happen, but as someone with chronic illness, I realized that these backpacking trips were more than just fun getaways, they were proof to myself that I was still strong.
So, not being able to go hit me really hard – because my body decided for me. I realized that not being there didn’t make a big difference for the people that were continuing their trips without me. And in one case, a close friend seemingly wrote me off, and hasn’t spoken to me since. It was a whole cascade of difficult emotions, and I didn’t realize how normal it was to struggle with depression and sadness when you get an athletic injury.
Once I did, I got to thinking, I wanted to write a travel guide for the trips you don’t go on. Sure, a good trip can come together with planning or spontaneity. But how do you navigate the trips that fall apart, the trips you can’t go on because you are injured, sick, or family circumstances change.
But this isn’t a practical guide to canceling a trip. It’s an emotional guide and a short explanation of the times I’ve had to give up on a journey. Perhaps these stories will speak to you in a moment of difficulty.
It can be really emotional if you’ve been planning and saving for a trip for a long time (or possibly already spent a lot of money on it), and things don’t work out. But you aren’t alone. Let’s explore the trips you don’t go on together.
- 1 Travel Cancellations For Injuries and Sickness
- 2 Travel Cancellations For Family
- 3 Travel Cancellations For Disasters
- 4 Travel Cancellations: For Bad Weather
- 5 Ok, Some Practical Considerations for Travel Cancellations
Travel Cancellations For Injuries and Sickness
New Zealand and the Chatham Islands
My solo trip to New Zealand was actually really amazing. But it got off to a bad start, and that actually never changed throughout my journey. First, I got food poisoning on the plane. Somehow, I was just lucky enough to have scored a part of a middle row to myself, so I was able to lay down and hide under a blanket for 14 hours. Once I got to the beautiful islands, I felt better… but not perfect, for the rest of the trip. At one point, I was at the very top of a hike, when I started feeling nauseous and I had to turn around early. I spent the rest of the day resting and wondering how I would get through the rest of my itinerary.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that that caused me to cancel part of my trip. I was hiking down a long set of slick, wooden stairs in the forest, when I fell… all the way down them. I was lucky to not get really hurt (or worse), but I did land very very hard on my hand. And I ended up worrying that I had broken something.
Between the pain and the spike of anxiety caused by the fall, plus the lingering effects of the food poisoning, I ended up cancelling my leg of the trip to the Chatam islands. I spent several nights fretting over what I was going to do. But in the end, I decided that I was just too exhausted to make it to the islands. I ended up losing money on a flight I had to cancel, and my last-minute lodging wasn’t cheap either.
Considering My Decision
And while I do wish I had made it to the islands, I think I made the right decision. Sometimes, you really just need to give your body and mind some rest.
Instead of flying to the Chatams, I spent my last few days in New Zealand in Christchurch. I went to the movies, spent time writing, and learned that I loved tea with half and half – something that enhances my life every day now.
If I could go back, the only thing I would do differently would be to not fall down those stairs. I think I would still call it quits on my final leg. Sometimes, the adventure is just too much for your body.
Travel Cancellations For Family
We had some really difficult family situations arise during the year that I was finishing up a year-long professional certification program that had me traveling across Wyoming. The program was meant to end with a big get-together in the middle of the state. I was planning on celebrating with my cohort, topping off a year of hard work, and spending time with people that I might never see again.
It was meant to be one of those rare moments in which you get to savor your accomplishments and work with others. (Something I dearly miss from school). And something that if I missed, could never be replicated.
However, in the midst of some dire family health situations, I decided that I just couldn’t go on this trip. I had no idea what was going to happen if I left town, and thankfully, nothing bad did. But I just couldn’t in good faith leave home when my family might need me, whether for support or to hold down the fort should they need to leave. So, I missed my last opportunity to see my cohort and to this day, never received my physical certification for the program.
What was key in this decision, however, was deciding that no matter what happened – I was ok with not going. In the end, it didn’t make a difference that I stayed; it turned out that I wasn’t needed. But that’s ok. I wanted to be there for my family and that’s what I did. You never know what would have happened had you chosen another path.
Travel Cancellations For Disasters
Northern California, Hawaii and North Carolina
I had several family and friend trips (not to mention work trips) planned for 2020. So, needless to say, all of those had to be cancelled when the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in. I still can’t believe that towards the beginning of 2020, I was trying to convince myself that travel would return in 1-2 months. The idea that we would all be stuck in limbo for more than a year was terrifying to me. It was something I couldn’t bring myself to believe at the time.
But of course, there was no getting on a plane that year. Even a trip that I had planned with a friend for 2021, as vaccines began rolling out, had to be cancelled because she got COVID.
Looking back, travel was really the least of my worries in 2020. But initially, when we were all struggling to understand what a global pandemic was really going to look like for our lives and our goals and everything that we enjoyed – cancelling all those trips was really difficult for me. I worried that I might never travel again.
And I got through 2020 by focusing on other things. I hiked more than ever in the parks in my home town. And I went on outdoor roadtrips towards the end of the year. I discovered that my desire to explore could be fed in other ways, in times when travel just isn’t possible. Opening our minds to other paths towards our goals and the things that make us happy is really important.
Travel Cancellations: For Bad Weather
Back in 2019, when I was going through a really hard time, my mother and I planned a trip to Bermuda for the early part of the year. I had our itinerary nailed down. And I had even borrowed a friend’s scooter to make sure that I knew how to ride one. (You couldn’t rent a car in Bermuda back then, no idea if that’s still the case). But on the morning of the day that we were supposed to leave, there was a huge storm in New York, where our connection was.
We had to make a call. Was it worth hopping on the plane and risking getting caught in a New York blizzard or was it better to cancel the trip?
In the end, keeping an eye on the weather, we called off our journey to Bermuda. I just couldn’t risk putting my mom in a situation where we might be stuck in a New York airport for a long time. Particularly because you can expect that hotel space will become sold out if everyone’s flights are cancelled.
So, after making bunches of phone calls – we decided that we still wanted to have some time together just us. So, we drove to San Diego for the weekend instead. Of course, it wasn’t the kind of adventure that Bermuda would have been. But we still got to spend some quality time together. And I have many special memories from our little San Diego trip. Sometimes alternate, simpler travel plans might be just the thing you need when adjusting for weather and other things out of your control.
Ok, Some Practical Considerations for Travel Cancellations
I said that this wasn’t a practical guide for travel and trip cancellations, but I couldn’t help myself. Here are a few tips that I have for planning for, and navigating those times when trips don’t happen.
Tips for planning ahead:
- Choose your travel insurance wisely. Many travel insurances will cover cancellation costs under certain circumstances. You will need to read through the terms of the insurance to know what these are. You will also want to know what you will need to submit in order to process a claim. I suggest looking for options that will cover sickness and injury of you and your travel companions as cancellation reasons. You may also need to think about what will happen if you get sick while traveling and need to extend your stay either to quarantine or recover. One of my favorite travel insurance tools is the Forbes tool.
- Avoid pay now options. While pay now options are cheaper and more common now than ever, I avoid them. That is because having free cancellation on your hotels and rental car can make the difference between an easy cancellation and a stressful loss of gobs of money. The thing is, you just never know what life might throw at you. And sometimes it is a relief to just stay home.
Tips for immediate or mid-trip cancellations:
- Give yourself time to process your travel cancellations. No matter why you are reconsidering your travel plans, it can be very emotional. Let yourself think through what you really want and need to do, and let yourself feel sad if you need to. Take care of yourself.
- Let key friends and family know about your change of plans so that you can get a little support and so that they can help you get home if necessary.
- Take some time for yourself. If you took PTO to travel and you need a little time to decompress, use some of that PTO. Sometimes there are also alternate plans that you can make in order to still enjoy yourself or make the best use of your time off.
- Consider other ways that you might be able to get the same benefits elsewhere or with other activities. Were you planning on spending some quality time with someone special? Consider a staycation or alternate destination. If you were looking for a solo getaway, see if you can create a retreat in your home or nearby.
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