“Did you have anything planned for the next few days?”
He pushes me in a wheelchair towards the elevator. The cardiologist is in his mid fifties, has grey curly hair, wears small glasses, and he has a stereotypical doctor’s voice.
“I’m boarding a plane tonight to Sweden for the second part of my world trip.”
He stops pushing, raises his eyebrows and looks at me as if he should rather bring me straight to the mental department.
“You’re serious?” he aks. He lowers his glasses onto the tip of his nose and while ignoring my ‘as-confident-as-possible’ nod, he says: “For the next few weeks, you’re under my responsibility. This means you’re not doing anything, and you’re certainly not going anywhere…”
How did I end up here?
Two weeks ago, I started having pains on the right side of my chest. I also had trouble breathing. A few days passed. On Monday morning — the day I would leave for the second part of 80experiments to Stockholm — I woke up with disproportionate pain radiating to my neck, shoulder and arm.
I went to see the doctor, who send me to the hospital. After a day of tests they diagnosed me with pericarditis: an inflammation of the membrane of your heart.
As your heart is not a knee, I decided to be serious about this, instead of brave (read: stupid). I took the doctor’s advice to heart: Take my medicine and do nothing for at least 10 days.
So, on the day I was suppose to leave the country again, I cancelled my trip to Sweden…
What happens when you do the opposite?
It’s a question I always ask when I do an experiment. Usually followed by a few ‘why’s’. Why? It exposes assumptions we do about everyday matters we take for granted, and those assumptions are valuable to test every now and then.
This time I didn’t have to ask the question, and the answer was practical.
Instead of flying to Stockholm, being on the road again, meeting new people, going places I’ve never been before, and doing new experiments, my heart kept me home. Grounded on the couch and in bed. Not allowed to do anything physically.
How do you deal with a setback like this?
When you do the opposite of something you normally do, you have to switch. Mostly mentally.
Of course I was disappointed to say the least. I had to postpone world trip! The thing I lived towards ever since the first day I was back in The Netherlands. But it only took me that Monday evening to mentally make this switch.
I sat down with a pen and my notebook. Something I always do when I have to deal with unforeseen circumstances or setbacks.
The question I write on top of the page is: What’s the worst that is/can happen(ing)? I realized as I started writing: This is by no means the end of 80experiments, my health is the most important thing to continue the project, and sometimes something just is…
Make the best of it
Easier said than done, but in the end the only thing to do, is make the best of it. So during the ten days of rest, I slept a lot — 13 hours a day on average. Read a lot — 5 books. And started writing again — Countless travel stories. I also went through my travel notes, had fun with people that came by to visit, started learning Swedish, and rested up mentally.
10 days have passed, you’re not staying here right?
No, of course not! I still have a long way to go to recover to my old standards. And I have to take it slow. But on the 4th of July I see the cardiologist again and I’m positive he will give me green light to travel again.
If you are curious what’s planned next for July and August, check my now-page.
And everyone, thank you for the kind and cheering messages you’ve been sending. It’s much appreciated, and fuels me even more to continue this adventure.