How to Deal With Uncertainty

If you read about my Fijian experience, you know how I found myself stranded in a foreign country far away from home, not knowing when I’ll be able to leave. I had to take a step back from the situation I was trapped in and learn how to appreciate the good things, I had a lot of time to reflect. The uncertainty was the hardest part but that was also an opportunity to test my ability to chin up and not fall into a black hole.

Besides the panic and anxiety level rising quickly, I felt powerless and vulnerable, caught like a rat in a cage. What can you do to preserve your mental health in this situation? Below are the 3 lists I made for myself at the time.

Things I felt grateful for:

  • A roof over our heads
  • No need for medical assistance or medications
  • Access to food and water
  • Some money in our bank accounts
  • Internet to stay in touch with the rest of the world
  • Friends and family
  • My fiancé

Things I missed / wished we could do (so I can appreciate them better when I’ll be able to do them again):

  • The most obvious one was our liberty of movement – Just being able to book a flight and go wherever we wanted…
  • Open the windows wide and get some fresh air (it was very hot and humid, sometimes stormy, in Fiji during wet season)
  • Go for a long walk
  • Shop online (it’s silly but I missed Amazon Prime)
  • Go to the restaurant (or order a takeaway – Pizza!)
  • Bake a nice cake
  • Go to the cinema
  • Watch movies on Netflix (or just UK TV channels)
  • Take a warm bath
  • Sleep in our own bed
  • Cuddle our cat (I missed my feline friend so much)
  • Feeling at “home”

My learnings from this whole experience:

  • Don’t postpone things too much, we never know what happens in life
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late to do what makes you happy
  • Don’t “save the best for last”
  • Identify who you need in your life and who is toxic to you
  • Prioritise your health, you owe it to yourself
  • Going through challenges together makes your relationship stronger
  • It doesn’t take much to be happy, it’s all about simple things
  • Be thankful for what you have, every day
  • You’ll never get back the time you wasted
  • Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want to do
  • Don’t think “it’s not going to happen to you”
  • Mental health has a strong impact on your immune system
  • Even when you feel lonely, you’re not alone
  • There is no rainbow without any rain…

It’s important for me to go back to these lists regularly and remember nothing can be taken for granted. Everyone should have the chance to realise how lucky they are because their situation can change anytime, without notice.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other one is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.”

Dalai Lama

What have you learnt since the pandemic started?

Big Girl x

Stuck in Paradise? Not Really…

Stuck in paradise

Let me go back to the most traumatic experience of my life. It was something that on paper most people would probably dream of… Which makes it even worse. Let me explain.

Earlier this year my fiancé and I were travelling. We were in New Zealand when the pandemic was officially becoming a worldwide problem. Our next destination was Fiji and they had no case at the time. We thought we would be much safer there, perfect occasion to rest a bit before our last destination (Japan). But things didn’t go as planned and everything escalated so quickly… We didn’t see it coming. Maybe we underestimated the danger at that time. Maybe we didn’t feel anxious enough to make a better decision (the right dose of anxiety can be useful sometimes!). But most importantly, we refused to let go so easily on our once-in-a-lifetime travelling experience. We paid the price for it though, we got stranded for 3 weeks in Fiji.

Our first days in Fiji

For the first few days we were in a rather empty holiday resort. Their first case of coronavirus was diagnosed a day after we arrived. Day after day, everything closed down: the gym, most of the restaurants, even the swimming pool. Of course no activity was available and the number of employees at the resort was decreasing quickly. It was pretty scary and we started to feel like we shouldn’t be here. 3 days later, our flight to Japan was cancelled. We had to accept the fact that we had no choice but to go back home earlier than planned… Although it was not so simple.

How we tried to leave

We booked ourselves a last minute flight to London via Brisbane and Singapore. But once at the airport and ready to leave, we found out Singapore has closed its borders, even for people transiting only. We were also informed we needed an authorisation from Australia to stop there too, which contradicted what the British embassy told us the day before when we called them for reassurance. So we couldn’t board on that plane and there was no other flight available for us. Breathe… The next day, we came back to the airport and talked to the embassy again. They were clearly overwhelmed by the situation. A handful of trapped tourists was doing the same thing but no one had any idea what to do.

stranded in Fiji

How we got stranded

A couple of days later, the Fijian Government made the decision to close the airport completely. No planes were authorised to fly off abroad. That’s how we got trapped in a tiny island far far away from home. It was not pleasant at all, we didn’t know how long the situation was going to last… The uncertainty was difficult to cope with. It wasn’t like we could ignore the situation and enjoy our holiday no matter what, everything was closed and the atmosphere not so good.

So we rented an apartment near the airport and stayed inside all day, only going out for necessary food shops around the corner (our diet was mainly based on rice, tuna and sweetcorn). We were using our free time to reflect on things we were grateful for, things we wished we could do (so we could appreciate them more once back home) and what changed in our mindset. The list is long but the main thing we took out of this experience is that when everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear. I’ll come back more in detail to the entire list in another post.

How we finally escaped

It’s actually a tropical cyclone that saved us. The Fijian Government wanted to protect their brand new planes and agreed to let them fly abroad, using desperate tourists to absorb the costs at the same occasion of course. That day was 6 months ago today, the day we finally escaped that nightmare. I feel like I can relate to people who have been released from a foreign prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

This experience taught me many things. Sometimes you just don’t know what people are really going through. I heard so many times: “Well I would love to be stuck in Fiji, it doesn’t seem so bad!”. Although I can understand why some people would say that, I think it’s also particularly inappropriate and shows a lack of empathy. It made me become less judgemental and more understanding of others. I don’t make the mistake anymore to underestimate the impact that words can have on people. We need kindness now more than ever. Stay safe all!

Big Girl x