Freedom to Write: On Truth, Courage, & the Right to Write

The writer’s relationship with the truth is a curious thing. Today, I’m thinking of writing’s power after hearing about pianist James Rhodes’ legal victory for free speech. He is finally legally allowed to publish his memoir detailing extreme abuse and frequent rapes inflicted on him as a boy.

It offends me that he had the courage to write this searing book on his abuse only to have some asshole of a judge ban it because it’s “offensive” material. What a cruel irony.

Truth won this week. Writers should rejoice.

James Rhodes: Pianist, Author, Free Speech Hero. Photo from Herald Sun.

James Rhodes: Pianist, Author, Free Speech Hero. Photo from Herald Sun.

As writers, those of us with the courage to rip off the Band-aid and expose our wounds to others, we change lives. We inspire people with our struggles. Not just me, anyone who does it. The writers I admire most, even bloggers, are people who dive head-first into the human condition without apology. Fear, pathos, doubt, rage, lust, angst, pettiness — it’s all who we are. How dare you sanitize that?!

So many people are comfortable with glossing over their ideas so to be palatable to the broadest spectrum of people. They are who I find offensive.

Those who would tone it down, dress it up, soften it, take the edge off — they feel to me like betrayals in wartime.

Life may not be war, but it’s certainly a struggle for all of us. Everything we do is measured and weighed in ounces of joy, heartbreak, satisfaction, or any other emotional currency you devise.

Sanitizing that so it can be swallowed by the least open-minded of us offends me to my core.

Writing close to the bone can’t be done by everyone — it’s too hard. The more harrowing and authentic it gets, the harder it is to push through it. Being truly honest with yourself is challenging enough, but pressing “publish” and sending it to the hungry hoards — that’s truly daunting stuff.

I don’t know how my writing has evolved over the years — I’m too busy doing it to analyze it. I can tell you that what has definitely changed over the years is the reason why I write so openly. I’ve learned no matter how open and honest I am with my words on a page, my readers are never in my head. They’ll never experience the world as I do, be in a moment with me. And I’m grateful for that. In that way, being open doesn’t feel like being laid completely bare, no matter what my end-reader might think.

My fingers always filter my experience. I keep a little for me, share a little with you, and we both get what we want.

What’s also changed is that I’ve learned the value of sacrificing that part of my experience for public consumption. Much of the time my words just fly by folks, like dust on the wind. Hopefully, it finds those who need it at the time.

Nine years ago, I wrote about my mother’s death in a way that ripped both the Band-aid and some skin off. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. After struggling with the words for three weeks, I published it, it went out in the world, and fell silent thereafter, like an echo in a dark cave. Or so I thought.

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Now and then I’d meet someone who’d mention that post, how it moved them or changed them. One day, I got a PayPal email. A woman in Germany sent me $500, to this day still the biggest donation I’ve ever received. She wrote that she cried for half an hour, then went and sent it to everyone she knew. She finally found something that explained her grief over her mother’s death in a way that others could understand.

For me, that was a life-changing moment. It was as self-affirming as having a blog post go viral with 250,000+ reads in a couple days. I know, because I’ve been there too.

Having one person, though, say I finally put words to a pain they couldn’t voice — I mean, that still gives me shivers now. When someone pulls me aside at an event and tells me what my words meant to them, I play it cool, but inside I’m doing cartwheels.

Because that’s what we fucking do this for. That’s why we probe the dark places. That’s why we risk sharing them. It’s not enough to understand what’s going on with us, or seek understanding. Helping others do the same, that’s the pay-off.

I’m no guru. I don’t have life figured out. Lord knows I’m trying. But that’s the thing. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all. What’s right for you won’t be right for me.

For example, I got friends with the perfect family life. Several friends are doing parenthood and marriage in such a fabulous way that I know, if marriage was my thing, I’d do it just like them.

That makes me vomit a little, though. It’s great for them, but the mere thought of that life fills me with nauseousness and unease.

You know those moms you hear about who start out good, but come apart in a haze of addiction and depression because they feel like the kid wrecked their life, and they hate themselves for it because they also love the kid and know just how much they’re fucking that child up?

That’d have been me. If I were a mother, I’d love the kid, but I’d spiral into a depression I’d then chase with alcohol and drugs in hopes of taking the edge off my self-loathing. As a result, I’d neglect my child, my child would grow up knowing that they were the reason for my self-loathing.

I laugh at people who say “Oh, but you don’t KNOW that.” And you do? Come on. This is my head.

Does it make me evil, knowing this about myself? Or does it make me courageous to admit I could never be Suzie Homemaker? Either way, I don’t give a shit, because it’s simply what’s true. I’ve decided against doing that to another human being. Good for me.

So what’s wonderful for my friends would probably destroy me. My story, though, isn’t the prevailing mantra we hear in the media. Instead, we’re told family is the ultimate reward in life, that an existence without children means no legacy will follow us. What idiocy.

This is why we need different voices in the mix. We all have different truths. From the things that define us through to the roads we should take in life, there is no one universal account.

I never would have imagined I’d be packing up my life to be a nomad, but somewhere deep inside me, I wonder how it took so long to see that this was what I needed to do. Writing about this “pre-journey” phase has been teaching myself a lot about who I am and what I need. Sharing that with others, I think, is a great dialogue to begin.

Maybe, thanks to following my journey so far, someone somewhere has already realized they’re trapped in a life not right for them. Maybe my reasoning has helped another person create a bold new dream for their life.

I don’t know. I don’t care. I’d still write about it anyhow. Catharsis is its own drug.

In the end, putting my story on page is probably powerful for someone, somewhere. Maybe I’ll never meet them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have the right to say “This is my life. This is how I see the world.”

Speaking to our experience, sharing with others, that’s what humans have used their words for since time began. How can a court steal that right from anyone in our supposedly western, free society?

James Rhodes fought for our right to own what has happened to us. To share what has been done to us. He fought for our ability to have community, empathy, and understanding with others.

And he won. Today, all writers, and all readers, are the richer for it. Thanks, James.

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Owning My Moment

They’ll tell you life flashes before your eyes right before you almost die. I can’t testify to that. I was too busy almost dying to take a scenic ride through my life on the two instances I nearly met my maker.

Almost dying is a busy business, friends.

But here’s a new one for you.

Last summer, I gave myself a year to mourn and say farewell to my life as I know it. I didn’t really believe I’d actually embark on this trip around the world for five years, but I figured I could fake it till I made it.

With the year-to-mourn scenario, I knew I’d have a lot to work through and process and deal with, from last times at the beach to sayonaras with people I love.

What I couldn’t predict, though, was the emotional voyage I’m taking before my journey. Or how soon this emotional trip would begin.

Life isn’t flashing past me. Instead, I feel like I’m waiting at a railway crossing as the longest train ever rumbles past, each carriage representing another memory or experience in my four decades walking this earth. Each one crosses me, chugging past, demanding my attention for a fleeting moment. Then it’s gone. Just like everything else in my life will be in 19 weeks.

By Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California (AMTK 542 lFun Train, Long Ravine 3-76...) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California (AMTK 542 lFun Train, Long Ravine 3–76…) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s as bittersweet an experience as it can be.

I’m so excited and hopeful and in awe of what it is I’m about to embark on in just under 5 months, but I also know I’m never gonna be this version of “me” again. I’ll never live here again, have this combination of belongings again. I’ll never be this naive or scared again. I’ll never be this full of unchecked potential again.

Everything will change. My whole world. Me.

I’ll love who I become. I’ll be proud of myself, confident, daring. I know this already. I also know I’ll have no regrets. For the rest of my life, no matter how this turns out, I’ll be the girl who was willing to give it a shot.

Still, I think I really will have the adventure of my lifetime. I think I’ll come away with more writing fodder than any author could ever wish for. I believe I’ll meet my savings goals. I know I’ll find a place I never want to leave.

There is room in me, in this universe, for all of that to be true and yet also for me to be sad tonight as I say goodbye to my past and get ready to embrace my future.

A part of me thinks getting rid of my antiques early is the best thing that could ever happen to me. With that, it’ll be easier to accept both moving on and loss. When I wake up tomorrow, that’s the side of me that gets the loudest voice.

Tonight, I’m owning my grief, but I’m doing it badly, because all these moments of dreamy optimism keep peppering my sorrow. My eyes are dried out from tears and tired, yet I keep getting shivers of excitement.

I live in a weird world right now. That’s the emotional state that comes with limbo. Stoked yet sad. Optimistic yet reticent.

I contain multitudes.”

I’ve never related to that phrase more than I do tonight.

I’m trying to think of a way to end this with a cute button, poof. Done, concluded. Away you walk, a happy reader. But there is no simple ending to this post. Not today. Inside, my soul feels a little like a puddle a toddler has been splashing in. I got a good release, but a little muddy.

That’s all I got for you, man. I pressed pause and this is the snapshot you get. A stormy moment on the otherwise smooth-sailing seas to my future.

Creative Commons image from Pixabay by Stux.

Creative Commons image from Pixabay by Stux.

(Almost) Every Writer’s Dreams

Tick. Tock. The countdown continues. 5 months and 1 week, I jam from these digs. Off to Vancouver for The Grand Farewells, and zipping to Croatia, as my uber-nomadic adventure begins, setting the stage for what’s to be the wildest five years of my life.

I’m relaxing as a homeowner does. Fat pants, juicy red wine, and some Netflix. Billy Crudup flick. Which naturally reminds me of the movie Jesus’ Son. And that led me back to my writing lessons with novelist Maureen Medved (The Tracy Fragments). I wrote this story I kinda fell into my first hardcore “writing trance” with, and it was a two-page short story I hope foreshadows the fiction writer I wanna be. She said it evoked Denis Johnson to her, who had already written Jesus’ Son by then.

And I don’t know, man. Am I that writer? I sure hope so. It’s the dream, right? Tell you one thing, once I’m gone, it won’t be for lack of trying.

The goal is a novel, for which I already know the story in a loose gist, and which I’ll not tell you. But a serious “published by the big boys” kinda novel, not screwing-around-with-ebooks novel. Nothing against ebooks, because I mean to write a lot of them, but I’d just like to know something I dreamed up made it to a trade paper or even hardcover. Publishing non-fiction wouldn’t mean as much. Fiction, that’s the hard stuff. From nothing comes everything.

So, I know what I want. Writing. And the freedom to do it.

And here’s the thing: My trip will be to writing what petri dishes are to lab cultures.

There is no better environment or setting for a writer than getting stimulation of new cultures and landscapes all the time, immersed in old towns, living for 30–50% less money, never mired by silly things like house cleaning (think about it! 5 years, no cleaning!) or home maintenance, no friends or family or obligations to screw up the writing mojo. It’s every writer’s dream life. I’ll have more time, more money, more newness around me, more inspiration, and no “real life” distractions outside of what I can resolve on the web, thanks to appointing a legal representative back home.

To keep reading, please do so at my travel blog, The Full Nomad – click here.

Risks vs Reward: Travelling the World As a Single Woman

When I tell people my travelling-for-five-years plan, they’re generally really excited to hear about it, but they also question the safety. Not just of a woman travelling alone throughout all kinds of countries, but of the lack of security that comes from giving up a home.

Another thing they commonly obsess on is how my entire life is becoming an unknown. Folks seem to think is very unsettling.

I’ll confess, I’ve had a lot of these concerns myself in the last couple years as I’ve worked through confronting ‘em and screwing up my nerve to go anyhow. I’ve also been lucky to have a lot of weird little instances occur over the last two years, where I’ve had doubts washed away.

The idea that you travel “alone” is a misnomer. Some of the greatest friendships of my life have lasted less than 48 hours. For a day, we’d live and die for each other. There’s a kinship and connection that develops on the road, when you know this fleeting moment is all you got and maybe it’ll never happen again. I doubt this sense is as strong as it was in the pre-Facebook era, when the odds of staying connected were very low.

To continue reading this post, please visit my shiny travel blog, The Full Nomad, by clicking here. Thanks!

Out of Adversity Comes Awesome

Life moves quickly. I whiled my weekend sourcing luggage and committing to one. I’ve had travel inoculations. I’ve made a financial strategy re banks and credit.

I know the average blogger pulls the “Gosh, I’m so sorry I’m not writing, I’m so busy!” shit a lot, but in this instance, it’s true. In 5 months my whole life needs to have been imploded, stored, sold, paid for, or packed into a suitcase. I’ve written indepth about this over at The FullNomad.com today. Read that here.

I’d love nothing more than hours to pound on my keyboard, pontificating on Steffness and Infinity World, but things gotta get done, man.

I’m charged. Chuffed. Stoked. Whatever you wanna call it. 58 days ago I blew out my knee. This weekend is the first I’ve done stuff without having to baby my knee much. I rode my bike! I’ve photographed! I’ve felt freedom after nearly two months of feeling trapped.

CharcoalMore importantly, I feel like a victor. I coulda panicked when I blew my knee. I could’ve pushed too hard out of fear. There’s a million ways that all could’ve gone so awry.

Instead, I trusted my instinct, hoped for the best. I trusted my caregivers too, but ultimately realized I was the person in control of everything. That’s a hard place to tap into when injured because injury itself feels like loss of control.

Not so, however. I could’ve sat there and done nothing but wait for the knee to heal, but I found a happy medium. If not for the knee injury, I would not have finally realized I need shoes in the home to minimize my long-time calf problem that causes pain while walking. I wouldn’t have learned a passive approach to stretching my hip flexors, which is a huge problem-solver with low-back pain. I also wouldn’t have discovered the abductor stretch as the single-most important stretch I can do for hip stability, ending a major issue for the last year.

Without the knee injury, I’d be going to Europe with a lot less confidence in how to deal with my tricky back after travel days. I can’t tell you how much cash I’ve spent over five years to fix my body, but this knee injury gave me the most important keys I’ve learnt in all that time. Invaluable. What a gift. Hey, thanks, torn meniscus. You rocked my world in a good way.

How bizarre.

Perspective, Grasshopper

0d67403c40e1fc86b2e6156a37f5b0cbIf I had to guess my single best quality for living abroad, it’s what I’ve just described — my choice to make adversity into an advantage by learning something new about myself along the way. Adversity happens, people. Deal.

Was I born with that? I don’t think so. Maybe a bit. But I think it’s mostly a developed skill. You have to want to get something out of bad situations. It’s an attitude and a choice. Develop that skill, and hard times are never as hard again.

It’s about learning to learn. Learn everything possible, every day, every way. Question everything. Believe in yourself but also know that you don’t know shit when it comes to cosmic proportions. I leave room to doubt myself, if only because it forces me to become sure of myself. Zen, that.

The Gift of 40

These days, I feel blessed I didn’t get to see the world in my 20s. Granted, I know some freakin’ awesome 20-somethings out there travelling, but I also know how much has happened in my years since when I would’ve been travelling, had life not derailed on me, and all that perspective will temper my world-view in wonderful ways.

10950585_752150741570470_1275021983_nI’m so much more empathetic. I’m accomplished. I’ve almost managed to claw out of my debt through hard work. I’ve had a lot taken from me but a lot taught to me too.

There’s a sense of peace and invincibility that comes from all those things. They’re similar to what you learn on the road, too, but I learned them in two regional postal codes.

I love being a woman in my 40s. 42 looms. Shame in aging? Screw that. The 40s are when you understand who the hell you are, what you’re made of, and just how much you can face down. It’s the decade when you finally get past all the posturing, you grasp just what’s not worth wasting time on, and you recalibrate. Or if you’re lucky, that’s how your 40s will go down.

Is my 5-year-plan for world travel just a midlife crisis? Then I say I love midlife crises! Imma gonna have the best midlife crises EVER. Why the hell not? What’s wrong with saying I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW?

Absolutely nothing.

It’s Either This, or That

Should I be settling down, buying a home, and being conservative for my retirement? What, here, in one of the most out-of-control real estate markets on the planet? Give your head a shake, bro. I’ll have less financial burden on the road than here.

Kick-ass1-500x472Should I be married and having kids? With the planet on target for 9 billion people in 2050, I think you’re cool without my participation in the breeding program, all right?

And frankly, while I absolutely know I will always regret not having kids, I promise you, I would’ve really regretted HAVING kids. And having kids knowing full well you would resent their impact on your goals, time, and freedom pretty much makes you cruel or foolish to bring a life in the world and saddle them with your bullshit.

That “regret” of not having the family and the home and the fence comes from understanding the full potential of the human condition. I get it, man. I know family is wonderful. But I can’t have that and be the person I’ve always dreamt of becoming. That’s not selfish, that’s self-preservation.

And funny thing is, when I’ve dreamed of my future, it’s never included a spouse, a marriage, or a kid. I’m not adverse to the spouse or marriage, but I’ve never viewed it as something I require for the life of my dreams. I’ve never imagined myself as a mother. Not even once.

I chose not to have any of those things as a trade for freedom to follow my whimsy. Until now, my whimsy has been unspectacular. I’ve always been a late-bloomer. So at 42, just watch me go.

In the end, I get to travel, become the writer I know I can be, and leave a legacy of words and trips and photographs and creation. That is the choice I make. That is the trade, and it’s a fine one at that.

A Last Good Look, Then No Looking Back

These days, I enjoy reflecting a little on calendars and time, and how much falls between it all on the life/adversity spectrum. It’s fun, remembering where I’ve come from, because I’m about to leap into the great unknown and not look back anymore.

Soon, the past is prologue and the story begins anew.

That too is a choice.

I can’t help it. I’m elated to batter my keyboard, lost in thought about all the lessons I’ve learned and just how useful everything I’ve ever been through will be, once I’m ambling up old town cobblestone streets, lost in places I’ve dreamed of being since I was 15 and reading Paul Theroux on my front lawn. This writer, man, the worlds he brought me seemed like an untenable dream.

Now I’m the woman I need to be to have what I dreamt of all that time ago.

Life’s about to become one hell of a trip.

It’s Not Just Where I Go, It’s What I Leave Behind

This is a whopping 2,200 words. I’ve written it more for me than you, but I hope you too can enjoy it.

photo5When I leave on a jetplane to my unpredictable life abroad, I see myself doing a few things to officially close the door on my past.

Chief among them will be editing those who cast influence upon my life. I don’t want to ruffle feathers now, but I suspect many people who are loosely termed as “friends” of mine through social media will find themselves excised from my digital life, while I’ll choose others to be amplified and omnipresent.

I’ve made some big, long sacrifices to find myself on the road upon which I’m travelling. I’ve set goals, I’ve accomplished them. I’ve changed my worldview and fought through a lot of personal doubt. I’ve removed some excuses from my realm and have fought hard to overcome all kinds of odds. Some of those in my life are a large part of why and how I was able to beat those odds.

A Dream Takes Shape

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From flowliving.com.

If you’d asked me three years ago whether I thought I could do what I’m about to do — sell everything, travel for five years — I would’ve laughed at you. My health was bad, my debt was choking me, and I barely had faith I could hack it in Victoria, let alone in worldwide travelling.

But then I started demanding more of myself, convincing myself I had the power to change my situation from the unfulfilling, scary life it was, and instead fashioning something amazing from it. At the time, I was only hoping to pick a cheap country and move abroad as a desperate means to get some retirement savings in the bank.

But then it seemed like that wasn’t enough. It was a big world, how could I pick one country? Maybe I could see more of the world while still saving money.

Then some friends of mine were all out there travelling the globe. Duane was living as a digital nomad — short trips home, then back out around the world again. Jason was on a more-than-a-year trip, doing everything from looking for bats in Austin, Texas, to making the trek up to Everest Base Camp. Nadia was scuba diving her way through oceans all over the planet, creating magical marine photography.

These weren’t famous folks or celebrities, people with major Instagram accounts or book deals. They are simply friends who decided to go a different route than your average bear.

These are some of the people who inspired me to think I could do more than just escape for a while. I could drop everything, get the hell out, and cross off items one after another off my bucket list. Now on the horizon is the dream of not only travelling the world, but the possibility of doing so debt-free. What? That’s insane, but this week I’ll have finally paid off nearly 75% of the debt choking me when I moved here.

Recognizing Regret — And Ending It

Haruki-Murakami-Famous-QuotesMy birthday will fall in the week I leave the country, and this is for deeply personal reasons that I can sort of give voice to, but you’ll never understand it the way I feel it.

I’ll be 42 the week I leave. When my mother was that age, she had 15 years left to live. She had no idea of that, then. Nor did we. This weekend, two acquaintances in my age group are in hospitals battling cancers that could claim their lives. Now that’s a fight that takes everything you got. I know — I watched as the days ticked away to my mother’s cancer death.

Much of what led me to Victoria in the first place was reading the posthumous blog post by my friend Derek Miller. It went viral the world over, thanks to the simple, clear way he explained he was sorry he was dying, sad he would miss so much to come, but that, given his choices and his family, he had left this life with no regrets.8469916ee4caece12e76d122b77d8c32

I knew, reading his words, that my Vancouver life was clouded with regret. In the year that followed, I chose to end that regret by moving here. In my new Victoria life, that regret is lifting, but it’s because I’ve done the hard work to make it rise, and also only because I’m leaving on this trip soon. My travels will end a lot of the regrets I’ve had — because it will mark me becoming the person I’d dreamed I’d be, as far back as when I was 15.

How Our Friends Define Us

People tell you that success in life is often about “who you know,” and I suspect many people interpret this to mean that it’s about whether you’ve got an Elon Musk or Bill Gates in your phone as a contact, but I think it’s much more than that… while also being much simpler.

I think “who we know” translates to what we see as humanly possible, demonstrated by those in our lives. It’s those people we’re friends with who defy odds, challenge assumptions, or conquer obstacles. They’re folks who show us the realm of our possibility, our strength. If we allow them to inspire us, then we can change who we are simply because of who and what they project.

1e6063aa328c2793401ab2c5857007faAs my time here draws to a close, I’m trying to be patient with some of those in my digital world. They’re not really “friends” but they’re also not people I’m quite ready to kick out of my online life yet. Maybe some only because it’d complicate business/other friends. For some, it’s because I’m hoping they finally realize they can CHOOSE to change their life. Thing is, it means first getting over the sense of being powerless under adversity.

But come that day I’m leaving on a jetplane, the only folk I want left are the dreamers. Those who might not think everything is possible, but a hell of a lot of it is. I want people who aren’t defined by limits around them but instead are inspired by potential.

Feeling The Fear, Doing It Anyway

I can’t for a moment pretend I’m not completely terrified about my journey. I get mini-anxiety attacks even now, if I’m being honest. But then I get heart flutters of giddy excitement.

how-to-make-your-travel-dreams-come-true-by-Natasha-von-Geldern-world-travelerStill, I know there will be weepy nights when I feel a million miles from all I’ve loved, when I miss everything from the smell in the air and seasonal weather through to the cracks in familiar sidewalks. I know I’ll sometimes cower under covers, hugging the only comfort item I’m bringing with me –my Quatchi teddybear – as I fight back tears and rage with PMS in some unknown city in a foreign land.

But then I’ll wake and put on pants and steel myself to face another day, and something spellbinding but small will happen — maybe just an old man with a cart offering me a flower or a pastry as he waves off my money, or I stumble into a five-centuries-old church not “grand” enough for an admission price, or some quiet night as I’m perched on a rooftop in some city’s Old Town, staring out over rooftops that barely changed since the Renaissance, as the sun sets, as it has hundreds of thousands of times since.

And I’ll realize then what I know now: Everything in life is a push-pull. Sacrifice feeds accomplishment, and accomplishment requires sacrifice. I can’t have one without the other.

I can’t have the dream of seeing the world and philosophically transforming myself down to the core of who I am, unless I’m prepared to walk away from everything that has shaped me into who I am today. That, my friends, is the price of admission for the big show.

The Price Worth Paying

There is nothing I want more in life than to survive off writing what I want to write. Not client work, not web copy. But things like this filled with thoughtful pauses found in the myriad moments which comprise who we are.

Whether I do that through a monetized blog or it’s by way of writing a monster best-seller, it doesn’t matter. That’s what I want to do — survive solely off my writing.

ef13506c37c8141725f610c91cb8538eFor that, I cannot have the “But how will you do that” type folks who sort of believe it’s possible but doubt that they could know anyone first-hand who’s capable of eking that existence out, as if it’s some superhero-esque feat . I cannot have those folks around me, the ones I see constantly wondering why a Bad Thing has happened to them, when they could instead simply choose to accept it while they learn something about themselves in the process.

I need the dreamers. The believers. The inspirers.

For a long time, I was lost in the “why” of adversity and never understood how to learn and grow from it, that fires forging me would temper me in the future versus ever again being so badly burnt by misfortune.

Today, I’m blessed by the gift of adversity. Nothing but struggle for over a decade served to teach me that life is a constant fight but it’s the magic of the moments in between that make it so worth fighting for.

Lessons Are Gold

B782gkuIgAAIt39I’ll never be an optimist. I’ll never not fear or worry about life. I don’t believe that’s viable. Not for me. It sets people up for disappointments, I find. Instead, I favour pragmatic realism. I understand that both good and bad befall us. I know struggle often sucks. I accept bad moods and depression when they find me, because they’re valuable tools in the human condition.

But that crap’s on a clock, man. Tick-tock, start moving past it and fast. Like when I blew out my knee at the end of February. I allowed myself to be angry, depressed, and scared — for a couple days. But then I tempered that with determination and resolve. Somehow, I’d make it work out.

In the end, that injury has taught me two things that might become massively instrumental in preventing back and knee blow-outs when I’m travelling.

How much is a lesson like that worth? A month of inconvenience? More? Arguably, yes.

Who Am I? Who Are You?

In the end, there’s no way to clue other people into those epiphanies that transform us from naysayers to unbridled dreamers. There’s no surefire trick, no guaranteed route. Somehow, something unlocks that for you, and you figure it out.

45b04566ef8d638140f813c822e578dfFor me, it had to get darker and harder after my move to Victoria before I found a way to claw out of that. But I did that. I had the support of friends, but I was the one with the heavy lifting.

Years ago I heard a quote — “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” It is the single most important quote I have ever, ever heard.

For a long time, I saw world travellers as being a specific kind of person. Luckily, I’ve learned there is no one kind of traveller. I have my friends to thank for that lesson.

When I watched my friends Jason, Duane, and Nadia circumnavigating the globe, I realized something important: None of them did it the same way. None of them did it the way I would, if I could. And none of them would travel the way I will.

I realized I didn’t have to follow their model. I didn’t have to be an adventurer of the Patagonia-wearing mountain-climbing ilk, or a big-city fan. I didn’t have to challenge nature, confront extremes, or embrace big fears.

I could eat, drink, meander my way around the planet. I could stop in strange places and simply be a part of them, if only for a day or a week. Take a piece of it with me, leave a piece of my soul behind for the next traveller. That, I could do. And I could share it with readers back home.

Look to the Little Stars

An ex-lover once told me his favourites were the little stars in the sky. The ones you squinted hardest to see, often outshone by the big ones nearby. I always liked them too.

These days, I have what I call “The Park Bench Theory” about life. In it, any day including a moment of pause (often found on a park bench or a seaside log or a museum step) is a fine day well-lived. I don’t need the big fancy days. I don’t need the black-tie events. For me, the best of life comes in the simplest moments.

david-glaser-quote-if-only-there-were-a-longer-time-between-epiphanyHere in Victoria, I’ve learned to understand what makes me tick. What I love. What I crave. Where I dream of. Knowing that, well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s essentially the secret to life, after all.

Some people go their whole lives without ever finding th passion or want that makes them tick. I’m lucky. I not only know what my passion is, but I will have a five-year master class that will help transform me into the kind of writer I’ve only ever dreamt of being.

And I can hardly wait, even if it’s a road I’ll journey alone.*

*But no traveller is ever alone. It’s a voyage made possibly by endless strangers all conspiring to get us where we need to be. We are, indeed, shaped by who we know. Even strangers.