Category Archives: Life 101

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.

Inconvenient Lessons Are the Best Lessons

Dreaming is a luxury of the able, I sometimes find. Those able to afford it, those able to do it.

Injury and adversity flips my switch from thriving to surviving, and I find all dreams and desires vanish as a matter of necessity. All that matters is this day, this challenge, and overcoming it. After that, maybe then dreams.

This leg injury of the past week has been an interesting life-lesson for me. A Steff-lesson too, in that I’ve learned a bit about myself.

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I don’t think I’ve ever realized before now just how drastic that flip of my switch is. I go from imagining my future to having this rather dogged what-needs-to-happen one-foot-in-front-of-the-other modus operandi on basic survival. I’ve barely even thought about “Life Abroad” this week.

(Psst, you know I started a new blog, “Full Nomad,” for my travels, right? Start here.)

And it has only been nine days for me with the knee/meniscus issue, but it’s like a spotlight on why I had no “dreams” for so long when I was living in Vancouver.

I was just trying to survive, man.

I got out at the right time. Any longer and I think I might’ve crippled myself emotionally. It just wasn’t the right place for me anymore. That may sound dramatic to some, but I really don’t care. I don’t like to think of who I might’ve become had I kept ignoring the signs of what was wrong in my life.

No one should ignore what’s going wrong in their lives, though. That’s the trick of existence. There’s a certain amount we have to abide, because life isn’t a happy-happy sunshine club every day, but there’s a point where ignoring lack of contentment starts to eat at who we are. I was long past that.

Once I got to Victoria, I realized that this wasn’t my “place” either. I do love it here. I love Vancouver too. It’s just that there’s something missing for me. That “something” is likely not anything specific, but instead the excitement of travel and the drinking-in of every culture on the planet, an alternate existence I thought I’d live in my 20s and it never happened.

But this week, I stopped thinking about all that. I just wanted to be here, to enjoy this place. Victoria is gobsmackingly gorgeous as spring blooms, and I want to be a part of it.

Funnily, it’s because I was injured three times in a row last summer and worked so much during it all that I made the decision to stay until my 42nd birthday this September. One final summer in the Queen’s beloved Victoria.

Ironic then that on what we in Vancouver & Victoria have always jokingly considered the start of spring, February 21st, that I should suffer this knee injury.

Oddly, though, it’s healing faster and better than any knee injury I’ve ever had. It’s just inconvenient long enough to teach me — or remind me — about perseverance, restraint, gratitude, and dreaming.

I feel a lot of gratitude today. I’ve been pretty much walking without any support for a couple days. I last really used my crutch on Friday night. If I go for a walk tomorrow, it’ll be with a cane. I’ll be in a knee brace for a few weeks until I’m confident my knee is fully healed, but I’m so optimistic that I can get fully past this before April, leaving me nearly 6 months to get in better condition for Life Abroad.

Today’s dream involves thinking about the travel bike I’ll buy for my trip and where it might just take me once I’m in Europe. I like the idea of spending part of Spring in France, living in the countryside where I have to cycle 3 to 5km into town for a morning croissant and to buy baguette for my dinner with cheese and charcuterie and wine. Nice slow ambling over rolling hills, lavender wafting in an early morning breeze.

Nothing in this world feels as free as cycling down a new road in a new place in the sunshine with a breeze and not a care in the world. Nothing. To do that abroad, in places I’ve always dreamed of seeing, that will be a huge ingredient in the success of my travels.

To make that happen, now another gear must shift — writing for dollahs. To work, Cinderelly. To work.

Hobbling Through Enlightenment

Note: Yeah, I have a new shiny travel blog, but I’ll still turn back here for slice-of-life postings I like to do that are not about the travels.

Crutches. Painkillers. Icebags. Elevation. These are the cornerstones of my weekend and the week ahead. Maybe the next two. God forbid it last longer than that.

Meniscus issues, it seems. I say “seems” because x-rays loom. My crazy-ass former-rugby-team-doc chiro tried a (painful) trick of pushing what seemed like a meniscus flap back into where it belonged. Two days later, I can bend my knee 90 degrees again. Not any further, and not without strain, but that’s a start. (Pro tip: If it’s a “rugby team cure,” expect to cry like a baby or punch the doc. Guy’s lucky I didn’t belt him.)

This gimp knee means that, for now, Netflix is my god.

elevated and iced

Today’s viewing includes the VICE doc “All This Mayhem” about the Pappas brothers and their skateboarding rise to glory and drugs/crime-fuelled crushing defeats. It’s about a blend of tragedy and redemption. Angst, attitude, and all the inevitable pitfalls that come from confusing being a student in life with being a victim of it.

We lived on the cusp of hoods and lifestyles when I grew up. A former vacationing area for the big city became an early suburb, filled with new families and financially-challenged folks who were living on the outskirts. It was an area made of equal parts the gentrifying invading forces along with the mainstay white trash.

I was offered my first drugs at 8 years old, but somehow I stayed on the fluffy-angelic line of the divide in the years to come. My brother toyed with the angst and everything else that came from the disenfranchisement of the suburbs. We were equal parts the product of our upbringing.

We were never in the leagues of those who really went astray. I remember a lot of those in my youth who were really, really angry. Some went on to crime and drugs, others went on to bleak places that were more internal than external. Some just died young.

I dealt with enough stupidity in my teens, just like a lot of other folks did. These “happy family” types piss me off sometimes even now because I’ve never really experienced that. It’s a weird world, tight-knit families.

I love my family but it was a broken family, still kinda is. Divorce, bad communications, everyone’s got their issues. The North American Way. But good, fine people, and I love them.

I didn’t really become angry until later, and I don’t really know what started it. I just got there and stayed there. I had all this stupidity happen where the easy reactions were bitterness and blame. Year after year of bitterness and blame.

These people who tell you they had some brilliant moment where it all made sense, I don’t really understand ‘em. For me, enlightenment is a gleaming of insight that takes me time and time again. The anger and confusion sort of wear away in the constant adversity like a river carving away at rock. Epiphanies make for better writing, POOF MAGIC, but I suspect most of us don’t have that change-of-state moment and instead we learn through time and repetition.

I learn more all the time, daily. Constant growth. Life is school, man. Like this knee thing right now. I’m reacting and responding better than I expected.

I mean, this is the sort of thing that throws a wrench in the travel-the-world plan. This was NOT an adversity I expected added to my list as the seven-month countdown begins. Yeah, I cried. Then I got over it. Later this week I need to find a course of action. That’s how it rolls.

That resilience, I’m not the only person who’s got it. There’s a lot of us who rock it, and I think for most of us it’s because we’ve been shit-kicked by fortune one way or another time and time again. Eventually we just realize it ain’t personal, it ain’t malicious, it’s just life.

BOOM, adversity. BOOM, overcome it. BOOM, onward. That’s life.

It’s funny, you know. A lot of the people I know who were once angry as a way of being, a lot of ‘em have gone on to become the mellow, easy-going people I like to know. They’ve been on the “dark side” and realized that perspective was a lot of the problem.

Yeah, my leg’s fucked up. Oops. That really sucks. Know what’d be worse? Being broke with a fucked up leg. Or having it happen when abroad. That’d be bad. Maybe it happening now means I change something, improve myself, and reduce the odds of such a thing happening later. Who knows. Maybe this is a catalyst for changes I need in fitness and health. I suspect it is, because I’m feeling motivated.

Adversity is the biggest teacher there is. Necessity of change is the mother of invention. Those are truisms for a reason.

I feel sorry sometimes for folks who have these smooth-sailing lives and then BOOM, some huge thing happens and they just crumble. It’s a hard road through it for them. Sometimes I see them becoming bitter and hardened as a result.

Everyone needs to open their eyes and see how hard others often have it. They need to look for examples of the extremes we can overcome when we focus and ditch the victim complexes.

Shit happens to us all. We’re allowed to cry a little and get a bit angry, but odds are we learn more about who we are as a result of those fluctuations. The trick is in the bounce-back.

So I have to bounce now. I gotta weather this little patch of suck-ass luck with my knee, find a few positives, make a plan to overcome it, and do everything I can to avoid feeling sorry for myself or acting like a victim.

If you think that’s easy for me, or for anyone else, you’re a moron. It’s not easy. But it’s doable, and it’s a choice. It’s a lot of self-talk, deep breathing, and weathering through periods of feeling like everything’s hopeless. Because that happens to us all. That’s the mindset. That’s the challenge.

It’s also where the victory comes too, though. So, yeah, this blows a little, but methinks I’ll get past this. I have something to prove to myself.

I also have the fortune of knowing it’s my own stupidity that caused my injury, from when I heard the little voice in my head saying “No, don’t sit like that, you know your knee hates it–” and chose to ignore it.

I caused this. Now I have to solve this. That’s the school of fucking up. It’s also “Success in Adulthood 101.” It’s called responsibility. Like my favourite saying goes, life’s tough — get a helmet.

(Or a crutch. Check.)

crutch

Dark & Beautiful: The Brain & Creativity

brainsbrainsbrainsThe human brain is a marvelous and terrifying thing.

I once heard that science knows as little about the deep sea as it does the human brain. The last frontiers. Is that true? Really, the only thing that matters is that I can buy its truthiness. Science can’t even really explain why some PMS makes me want to club a baby seal, but other times I’m fine. Hello?

Yesterday, for instance, I managed to be productive and focused, but inside I was terribly, terribly depressed and angry.

Fortunately, logically, I knew it was just hormones and weather. I realized there wasn’t an actual reason I should be either depressed OR angry, and I knew where I was in my cycle. The way I was feeling wasn’t rooted in reality, and I understood that, come morning, odds were highly likely the mood would vanish.

And poof, just like that, it’s gone. Today I’m hopeful, creative, charged, and just bought the domain name for the creative and existential project to consume the next half decade of my life. If that’s not optimistic, even at the low, low price of $8.99 per year, I don’t know what is.

Perspective

I mean, how many people have the opportunity to point at Planet Earth and go “I want that,” then set into motion the mechanics of taking on the whole wide world for five years with no roots, anywhere, no limits? One in 100,000? One in a million? Lucky, indeed.

It’s knuckle-cracking elbow-greasing time when it comes to this little going-Full-Nomad project of mine. A friend has offered to help me set up my blog. I’ve decided not to host that content here on The Cunt. This place has been great for me, and I’ll likely still use it to unleash my wrath and rail at the gods from time to time, but I’m in a different place now. I’m a different person now. I need a new creative home.

Despite my older, mellower ways, it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never be Mary Poppins. Nor would I want to be. I like my wrath and fury, my joy and faith. I like the mix of pathos that swirls in my brain. My yin to my yang is right there. I may tilt and pivot, vacillating from seeming extremes, but I’m usually able to hold onto a small measure of awareness that, whatever the tempest, life is generally a smooth-sailing place for me. Or at least a place I manage to navigate without peril.

Storms are Genesis

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarEarlier, I saw a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how it’s impossible to be a serious writer if you don’t suffer depression. I’m sure if he were to expound, he might have said something like it’s the variations of emotional themes which make great writers what they are.

They’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve lived to tell another tale.

Throughout history, writers have been the teller of the tales. They’ve kept the legends alive, passed the records of humanity from one generation to another. It wasn’t until humans began to write that we really had a record of not only the social structure but the emotional worlds in ages long past.

Writers record the human condition. We try to grasp what happens around us, record how it affects us, and inspire the next step. Today, different mediums allow for writing/recording/inspiring to happen visually, in audio, and of course on the page/stage/screen.

But all of it starts in the brain, when someone sees something and has a thing or two to say about it. Poof! A synapse fires, a thought is born, a project springs forth.

That inspiration and the ability to create something of where there was nothing, it blows my fucking mind.

The human brain is a marvellous and terrifying place, indeed.

The Psyche and the Fulcrum

Surviving nearly a year of dark, fearful deep depression baffles me. Survival didn’t seem an option then. I’m grateful my forays to bleakness are seldom now, rare even, and I’ve the faculties to buckle up and hang on until it’s over, which is never more than a day or two.

I have no illusions. Once I’m gone “Full Nomad,” there’ll be days where I find myself fatigued and homesick, wishing I had a bed all mine. But it’s days like today after I’ve told myself “It’ll be better tomorrow,” and I wake up, and it really is better, that convince me I’ve got this. I’ll have brief downs and see myself through them.

Done and Done

That’s another funny thing about the brain. The more we realize and act upon our strength, the more our brains can sell us on our toughness when needing a pep-talk down the road.

It’s fantastic we’re as resilient as we are. One of the greatest gifts ever given is adversity. It never feels that way at the time, but no matter what the loss or the price is, a healthy person will become better, stronger, more resilient as a result. I know I’m grateful to have proven already I’m “tough enough.”

Like the saying says, we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.

That part is inspiring and comforting. What’s terrifying is the brain’s ability to shut out all hope and languish in darkness. Science needs to unlock mental illness. I’m glad it’s getting more attention.

And Now, More Mysterious Than Ever Before!

Strength and resilience aside, the flipside to the possibility of that terrifying darkness is the jaw-dropping experience of creation. Some brains conceive rocketships to the stars, incredible food combinations, cures for disease, life-changing books, or soul-charging songs. Poof! Magic. Inspiration, creation. And so the creative cycle continues.

With every new experience, a new creative door might open. I can’t begin to imagine what seeing the world and blowing my perception wide-open will do for my brain. What will I create? What will I learn? What will I experience? How will it influence my thoughts for the rest of my life? My creativity? How much will it increase my resilience?

I’ve already lived through incredible extremes of the human brain. Or like to think I have. In less than eight months, I start the project that I hope will shake me to my foundations and awaken me from my white middle-class life, and change my world-view for the rest of my days.

Waiting will be a bitch. Luckily, Trusty Brain shows me positives in proceeding slow and studiously, while laying proper groundwork for a long, successful journey.

Way to go, brain.

Brains

Out With The Old Year, In With The Year of Lasts

On Facebook, my friend Jason posted that it’s “The first day. 364 to go.”

I have been so very conscious of this day coming, for so long, like it’d be a countdown clock ticking in the background.

My New Year’s is weird and very anti-climatic. I’m doing as little as I can. Decidedly so. I’ve left the house once in over two days, and that was only so I could walk around the block at midnight with an empty suitcase.

Weird, right? It’s actually a South American New Year’s superstition. Take the empty-case stroll at the stroke of 12 and your upcoming year will feature abundant travel. What the heck, right? So there I was, 11:59, taking a walk around the block with a carry-on case. Maybe I should’ve taken my largest suitcase. I was trying not to be penis-y about it, though.

But in those other 60 or so hours, I haven’t been case-marching around the block; I haven’t even been outdoors.

Now that six days of sun have bled into a week of forecasted rain, I’m feeling a spot of regret I’ve not been out in the world much. You know what, though? I’m having EXACTLY the holiday I wanted when I asked my boss at the start of November if I could have 16 days off. EXACTLY.

Do nothing often? Check. Do something sometimes? Check. Set a new world record for pajama-wearing? You betcha. Watch whole series on Netflix? Yup. Sleep as late as 10? Yep. Get up and then go back to bed for the hell of it EVERY SINGLE DAY? YUP.

I have the luxury of knowing that I’ll very likely not be around for, well, five years. I’ve deliberately chosen to stay longer than I want before I leave for my world travels because I decided to savour The Last of Everything. Every season, every holiday, every weather, everything. I wanted to live knowing that this would be The Last Time I have any of these specific experiences for a very long time, maybe ever. Like, seeing the leaves fall in the park. Maybe I’ll never live here again, right?

After all, the only thing I can tell you with any certainty is that I have about nine months left in Victoria. Then, where? I don’t know. I don’t know where I want to start my adventure. I’m not committing to anything.

Except, that is, I’m committing to selling half of what I own, blowing this town, and becoming a citizen of the planet. Hopefully I’ll have it in me to experience five years of rootlessness. If not, so be it.

But when I’m done, my expectation is that I might find a new place on the planet to live. A new tribe. A new culture. A new thing. Newness. My eyes are wide open and my future’s whatever I want it to be — when I know what I want it to be, that is.

Nine months and then all my future is an unknown. Period. Blank slate.

It intimidates the shit out of me. It makes my heart go pitter-patter. And makes me smile a little too.

That’s what awaits me this year. Up to 10 months of redundant routines, and then POW, the complete opposite.

So these days, I don’t want to have any new experiences, or at least I’m not chasing them down. I kind of want to enjoy my life of routine and comforts, because for maybe five years I’ll never have a home longer than maybe two months, but often not even for that long.

I won’t have a favourite blanket. I won’t get to spend a week sitting on my ass watching Netflix because I’ll have too much guilt that (Portugal’s wine country awaits / nearby French markets bustle / Croatia’s seashore entices me / Istanbul lurks beyond the door / Prague beckons…) and that’s only where I might go in the first six months or year.

For five years, I’ll have to be social and rely on the goodness of strangers to get me where I want to be. Recluse? Not a chance. I’ll have to talk a lot, be interested and plugged in. I’ll have to be constantly creative and engaged. I’ll need to write every single day. I’ll never get to have a favourite comfort food because I’ll never be around long enough to get comfortable. I won’t get to have favourite anythings because I’ll always be days or a couple weeks away from somewhere new with more millions of things to experience — which is the whole point of travel.

It’s okay to mourn the end of my mundanity and comfort. Mundane comfort is a beautiful, glorious, wonderful thing. Do-nothing days can be magical.

This, my wonderful spread of boredom, wine-drinking, TV-watching, slack-ass relaxation is possibly the last time I’ll get to do THIS without pressure and anxiety about all the things I should be doing before I leave, let alone for the five years which follow.

That constant whirlwind of stimulation that is proper travel, it daunts me a little because I love the end-of-travel flop-on-my-own-bed feeling, and I won’t even own a bed while I’m abroad. I mean… zoinks. Serious commitment to the cause, that — selling everything before I go.

So this Christmas holiday, I’m overdosing on domestic bliss. I’ll always be able to remember when I wasn’t sick or injured yet chose not to leave my house for over 72 hours. Except that walk around the block to summon the coming year of travel, of course. And tomorrow I’m only ending the isolation because I’m being bought a fancy meal and get to wear fancy pants (or at least my new jeans).

I like that I’m “mourning” Christmas as much as I’m celebrating it. I’ll miss this apartment and the simplicity of Christmas here. I like that I’m aware of so many “lasts” as I go through this final year. It’s a year of bittersweet savouring. It makes smaller moments seem very poignant.

Because I’m also excited to know my life will be me not knowing what’s next yet believing EVERYTHING is possible. I like knowing I’ll have week after week after week of amazing new experiences in mind-blowing places. I like that I’ll meet new people everywhere I go. I love that I’ll probably never see a sunset in the same place more than two or three times for five years.

It’s so completely opposite of the life I have chosen to live here in Victoria.

That’s the beauty of life. We can be whatever we want, live whatever life we choose. Most people just don’t get creative or risk-taking enough about it. Victoria was always going to be my jumping-off point. For awhile, I was trapped by life as one of those folks who couldn’t take a risk, then I decided to stop all that, and Victoria was step one. This around the world thing was a dream I didn’t have the guts to share, at first, but now I’m confident that I’ll make it happen. Somehow.

Today, I have three quotes I’m trying to live my life by. One of them is relevant to my five-years-around-the-world dream:

“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not,” attributed most often to Denis Waitley.

Waitley Quote

Right now, I’m a reclusive writer girl trying to resurrect her mojo (and succeeding at it). I’m still trying to decide what Next Phase Steff’s catchy tagline is. I’ll know it when I see it.

So for nine months, give or take, my life’s all about the Last Time. Comfort food, quiet nights at home, old casual lounging clothes, favourite blankets, sunsets in the boring same places, creature comforts of all kinds — that’s my year ahead.

Until one day it’ll be the complete opposite. Poof! All new! All firsts! All the time! ALL THE PLACES.

When I’m not daydreaming about my future, I’m completely stuck in the moment. It’s a nice, weird dichotomy, and I know what to love and appreciate about both. (And there’s not much to dislike about each of ‘em, either!)

I’m excited about 2015, minions. I’m really stoked.

I hope you are, too. Happy new year, you.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my "boring old" sunset spots.

My last sunset of 2014, from one of my “boring old” sunset spots.