What did you do for your most recent big birthday?
Your 30th? 50th? 80th?
Was it a big deal party?
Trip? [it’s a trip for me, always a trip]
Was it just another day, as you shrugged and insisted that you didn’t want to celebrate?
My husband’s 40th birthday present was going to be staying at a castle in southern Italy. Yes, it was going to be just as fancy as it sounds, AND did you know you could rent a castle in Italy for $125 a night?
Instead, we spent his 40th eating pizza in the basement, and drinking (very expensive) champagne as a consolation prize in our tiny COVID bubble of three adults.
It was perfect in its own way, but I do still owe him a castle.
I am typing this letter in my Notes app from seat 20A on a YYZ - LGA flight (Toronto to New York) - first leg of what was going to be my solo trip to India - MY 40th birthday present.
I’ve been dreaming of coming back to India ever since I left.
That was 12 years ago.
I was going to go back a couple of years ago - planes booked, hotels booked.
That was in March 2020.
All countries closed borders.
All tourist visas cancelled.
Cue two years of chaos.
I was so bewildered and bored, I got pregnant again.
Breastfeeding and extended absences do not go well together, so it took three years before I re-booked those plane tickets.
It was going to be this Friday.
But then Canada and India got into a fight, and India cancelled all tourist visas.
I found out a month ago, and spent weeks, scanning government websites, reading announcements from India’s high commission, checking for updates, and even considering travelling on my Russian passport (probably a bad idea, but it was very much expired, so that was not even an option). Hours on the phone, and my NYC - Mumbai itinerary is cancelled, and mostly refunded.
My husband wanted a castle in Italy.
Instead, he got basement pizza.
I wanted a trip to India.
Instead, I got a mild case of plantar fasciitis.
Maybe it’s something about the 40th birthday specifically?
But I decide to keep Toronto - NYC - Toronto leg.
Out of stubbornness mostly.
Because I don’t want to cancel THAT itinerary too.
There’s been a whole lot of cancelled things in the last three years, wouldn’t you say?
Things that fell through.
Things that never happened.
Things that happened that shouldn’t have.
I was NOT cancelling this one too.
My husband was so bummed out on my behalf.
“I can’t believe you are canceling this trip for the second time!”
Here’s what is so weird…
I’m ok with it.
You ever had a decision made FOR you?
Both times the trip fell through - it was completely and utterly NOT up to me.
It’s frustrating, and yet… I remind myself of a few things.
It is a privilege to get to visit a country that is not yours. I will never take that for granted.
It is always easier when the decision is made FOR you. There is literally nothing to do, but pivot.
And so… I’m heading to New York City to hang out with awesome people, feel the big city atmosphere, and maybe even drink some expensive champagne.