Well, it’s been a long period of silence, but that’s not to say the mental writing wheels haven’t been turning. I’ve been (slowly) building something new, and I’m not too terribly far way from getting the new website and blog up and running. Soon, everything will be moved over to a more permanent home. I will let you know where to come and find me when we’re all moved in!
I am touching down on Canadian soil after one year, nine months, and two days away. It’s a different person arriving today, really, than the one that left almost two years ago.
I haven’t cut or coloured my hair in almost a year, and I’m still living out of the same 60 litre backpack that I left with, though its contents have shifted a bit. My feet spent more time aching from long shifts at the bar, or overnight hikes in soggy trail runners, than from dancing into the wee hours in 4-inch stilettos. A lot has changed. And that’s just the surface.
Since leaving home after high school, I have moved 17 times to 7 cities in 3 countries. For my university years, four months was the standard length of time to spend anywhere. After a year in Calgary in the same apartment, I responded to my itch to move in a big way and haven’t look back since. For a long time, this transience has been the only real constant.
My first year was spent in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa; three months travelling, three months working in a tiny beach town in Queensland, and six months working truly excessive hours yet still managing to love life in Sydney.
During my year in Australia, I flitted between easy travel, working in a laid back beach town, splashing out on expensive sailing trips, and then buckling down for six months to somehow earn enough to travel for ten. Of course, I learned. Tangible things: how to bartend, SCUBA dive, repack a backpack in record time. And then the other stuff. I either learnt how or tapped into my ability to work extremely hard to reach a goal. I learned how to listen to my body after an injury when it was telling me I needed a break.
In those first few months in Australia, I met Tim. We’d gone our separate ways for a while, as we both had plans and adventures and things that needed to happen. In April, we both returned to Sydney and we jumped right in. Moving in with someone I’d spent about two weeks with was a decision that the freedom of travel allowed me to make. It would have been very easy to both think we should take it slower, or that things could go wrong, or that it was a bit crazy, but we did it anyway. I felt free to make the decision for a number of reasons. I didn’t have a network of friends on the ground who, for better or worse, would judge it. I was literally lightweight enough to move out at a moment’s notice if it all turned sour. We took a chance, because we could, and we wanted to. And it worked.
Those six months in Sydney were some of the fullest of my life – literally and metaphorically. I was incredible busy, routinely working 50 – 60 hour weeks which included 5:30 a.m. starts and 1 a.m. finishes. And I still managing to squeeze in weekend trips and after-work activities. Tim and I grew incredible close incredible quickly, and I developed fast and strong bonds with a number of people I know I’ll be lucky enough to know for years to come. Tim and his friends introduced me to an entire world of activities I had never even considered. Where, in the past, I would have spent my time with friends out at martini nights, shopping, at a cottage for a weekend, having moving nights, dancing at clubs, drinking sangria on rooftops … Now my weekends were full of rock climbing, hiking, and canyoning trips. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this undiscovered life.
In October, a year after I had arrived in Australia, the real adventure began. I would be travelling for the next nine or ten months. My family visited for a month, and we had an amazing time exploring Australia and New Zealand.
I returned to Sydney for a bit of relaxation and a lot of packing, and then Tim and I were off for a jam-packed month of adventure in New Zealand, culminating with an absolutely amazing family Christmas in Auckland.
Saying it’s been an amazing trip, and incredible experience, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure doesn’t capture it. We saw things that surely must rival the beauty of anywhere in the world. We’ve done some of the most amazing things I could ever hope to do. Yet I know we will still be having such adventures for the rest of our lives.
I’m beyond excited to see my friends and family. I’m excited to be in a land that is familiar. To know how to ask for what I want. To understand, and to be able to communicate. I’m excited for hot showers, good cheese, and nice pillows. But I also know I will get my fill of all of those comforts very quickly.
We are going to Canada, as it somehow seemed to become the place to go. Tim can get a visa and is excited at the prospect of work on a mountain. I’m meant to be putting in some career time – I’m sick of traveller jobs and want something more challenging, fulfilling. But now I’m not so sure. I had a moment, on my last flight, when it was taking off from Panama and jetting me to Toronto, when all I could think was, “Leave me here.”
It’s not travelling that’s the hard part, it’s stopping. So the only way to survive the transition back to what many of us refer to as “the real world” is to think about it was the next great adventure. Have I lived in this place, worked at this job, known these people? This is what we, with our restless feet and our packed bags, must remember. We are always on the next part of our adventure.
If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?
The thing that people seem to forget when they consider these questions is what home actually is. Home never really means the timber your that surrounds you, or the car you drive. To paraphrase Fight Club, home is not your fucking khakis.
I have never felt more uncomfortable than the year I spent in my own apartment, following four years of relative vagrancy during university. With no investment in household goods in those four years exceeding approximately $20, finding myself surrounded by an entire studio apartment full of things that I owned was deeply unsettling. I quickly shook this feeling by moving most of said worldly possessions to my parents’ basement, where they remain at this moment, collecting dust and moth holes.
I packed what I would soon discover was far more than I needed into a 60 litre backpack and bought a one-way ticket to Australia. This appears to have been only the beginning, as my vague outline of plans for the next year or so involve far less permanence than I currently have in Sydney. Because at the moment, I live in a flat. There are couches here, there are clothes that will not fit in my backpack. There won’t be a moment where I consider not leaving, though. This is temporary, as each stop I make along the way will be. And I’m perfectly comfortable with this.
Apart from my love of traveling, there is a key component to this level of comfort with a relatively unsettled lifestyle. That is the fact that the vagrancy has recently morphed from a solo mission into one with a partner. This means that there is no search for home, as I’ve found it and can take it with me wherever I go. There will be no missing a building of sticks and bricks, as I already have what would make it worth spending time there. When you realize that home can be a perfectly transient thing, it makes the dream and the reality of living any sort of life much more attainable, and sustainable. Because you’re always home.