For me a large part of the enjoyment of travel is the planning. I know that many people will not understand this; I have friends who hate planning a holiday; who would prefer just to pick up a travel brochure a week before departure, turn to the first page that opens, point to a random picture, and say: “there.”
That’s not me. I actively like the planning. And I like to plan well in advance. Partly, this is because in certain, more remote spots, the accommodation may be limited and books up quickly, but it is also because I enjoy the anticipation of having something to look forward to; and not just the anticipation of travel in the abstract, but the anticipation of a journey so pre-planned that is guaranteed to become a concrete reality.
I had pre-planned just such a journey for the summer of 2020. I had planned to go to Svalbard. I had started my planning over a year in advance; had booked my flights as soon as they became available, and my accommodation and even several excursions had been fixed and paid for before the New Year was upon me. But really my planning had begun well before even this. It had begun before Philip Pullman had ever dreamed of setting his panserbjørne and cliff-ghasts there; it had begun way back, enviously scouring the pages of Arctic Expedition Cruise magazines, and dreaming of all the places that I never thought that I would have the opportunity to visit. Yes, the journey to Svalbard had been ‘in planning’ for a very long time, even if for some of that time I was scarcely aware of the fact.
But now it looks as though all the planning will be for nought. The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has deemed that all non-essential travel is prohibited. Even though there are still three months before I am due to depart, it seems unlikely that the ban on international leisure travel will be lessened that quickly, even if other measures of the lockdown are relaxed.
So, it no longer looks as though I am going to visit the deserted mining town of Pyramiden and take a photograph of the statue of Lenin gazing out across the Nordenskiöld Glacier; it doesn’t look likely that I shall climb Platåberget in the company of an armed guard, there as a precaution against a polar bear attack; I am no longer certain to go on a boat trip across Isfjorden and Kongsfjorden to Prins Karls Forland Island, with the hope of spotting a walrus; and the planned excursion to the abandoned Gruve 3 coal mine in Longyearbyen would appear to be so much wishful thinking.
But there is part of me that has already done each of these activities; lived every moment of them, so comprehensive has been my planning; so meticulous my pre-trip organisation. In my imagination, I have already completed this journey, so there is part of me that is not disappointed that it may never take place in reality.
But there is another part of me, which is crying on the inside.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny will get over it. Eventually.
Check out some more of E. C. Glendenny’s travel writing: Easy on the Eyes.