Je Suis Charlie”

There was a time when I wished I was born in another era. I had romantic dreams of journalism as a youth, and still do. I believe media changes the world.

I know there are bad journalists and there are corporate entities fucking it all up, but if you talk to the average news journalist, they’re genuinely in it to tackle things they see wrong in the world. They’re in it to spread truth, challenge corruption, and effect change.

Journalists are always people I hold in highest regard. And rightly so.

Je Suis Charlie at AFP Paris


Night has fallen in Paris and the streets have been taken over by protestors and those wanting to pay tribute to the fallen members of Charlie Hebdo, the satirist paper that has never shied from controversy. They brandish pens in the air, shouting “Charlie! Charlie!”

Apparently Parisians have failed to realize they’re supposed to be terrorized in the wake of this attack. This is what happens when you attack what is arguably the birthplace of modern democracy as we know it.


Somehow, when life takes a turn for the evil, the horrible, or the immeasurably stupid, I seek a moment of beauty or humanity to remind me that it’s all going to be okay again.

Evil, inhumanity, these things aren’t modern inventions. They’re part of what mankind is, and we’ve had evil and badness among us since time began. Look at slaughters in Ancient Egypt, invasions by the Mongol Hordes.

We’ve simply improved efficiency (yay, guns!), and media is omnipresent, ensuring these events seldom go unheard today.

These shootings, slaughters, murders, and more — they’re going nowhere. Neither are the bad guys. You may dream of that day, but good luck coping with the inevitable truth that it’s simply a part of our (in)humanity. Nature is a beast, after all.

The animal kingdom does it too. Lions eat their young. Dolphins can commit infanticide with intentional impact injuries. For whatever reason, this ability to act with ultimate cruelty is stamped in DNA across species.

With 7.2 billion people on the planet, perhaps killing each other has been partly of biological/environmental necessity, but our ethical code teaches the majority of us that, even if our survival depends on population cull, it’s not something that most of us are capable of committing or ignoring. We’d rather be in it together with a compromised planet than witness mass loss that might save ourselves.

Look at the hundreds of thousands dead in the tsunami of 10 years ago. It felt like a gaping wound was ripped into the planet. We all felt the loss and horror of their adversity.


So days like today, when 12 people are killed because of one evil organization’s intent on squelching the freedom of the press, it’s strangely affecting. Just 12 people, out of 7 billion, but it’s 12 people who died for a reason that no person should die — because they wanted to challenge ideas, inspire dialogue, and push the envelope.

There is no sense to be made of this. Aside from spreading the news, not allowing it to happen in a vacuum, what else is there for us to do?

Admittedly, I’m a newshound. I follow these stories like a dog on a scent. It’s what I do. But I also walk away. Go back and find all the incidents of terror and mass shootings — outside of America, that is, because mass shootings in America have grown tragically all too common — and you’ll find 90% of the time I’ll take a long walk or bike ride to remind myself that the planet is largely beautiful, most people are kind, and it’ll remain that way most of the time.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.


Still, it’s a sad day. A horrible crime. A terrible thing to die for.

It’s a day that reminds me why I’m so outspoken, why I don’t censor myself. My language, the news I circulate, the opinions I raise like a flag, all these things are because I believe we need to speak truth to power — every one of us. Change happens on a personal level before it can take hold in society.

If you are too timid to say what you think, too scared to stand up to power, too apathetic to get involved — then the terrorists, the corrupt governments, the bad people, they all win.

Remind yourself that it’s a beautiful world. It’s worth fighting for and standing up to speak your truth. Otherwise why did these 12 people die?

Like the publisher gunned down today once said — he’d rather die on his feet than live on his knees. I like to think he was standing when those motherfuckers opened fire.

Today, my heart is with all those journalists and editorial cartoonists who feel emptier and less safe after this terrible attack.

But they’re just one small part of the fabric of humanity, and we good guys have strength in numbers.

Mourning Christmas Before Embracing the Future

Christmas is tidied and boxed away. It’s officially over for me, and will be the last time I have a homestyle Christmas with all my inherited ornaments that belonged to my mother and my family until about 2020.

My pasta angel, one of many beloved ornaments. That’s Israeli couscous for the hair, for crying out loud. What’s not to love? I’m sentimental about these things.

I’m sure people have thought I’ve been a little heavy-handed in my ramblings about the end of Christmas on social media, where I’ve been openly sad and sentimental, but it’s been quite an emotional process for me. I don’t believe in shutting that down and going, “Oh, Steff, you’re being stupid, it’s just stuff in boxed and Christmas will be just fine with or without your ornaments.”

You may like to disregard your emotions, but I don’t. I’m living in the present. Right now, I’m sad my Christmases are over and maybe are on the verge of changing forever. I don’t know what the rest of my life entails after September of this year. Yeah, you can argue that none of us “know” what the rest of life entails, but most of us think we have a clue. I’m removing the rug from under my feet entirely and I don’t know what follows, at all. Period.

Deep down inside, you ask me what I think follows my departure from Canada in October, what those five years of travelling around the world will entail, and I will tell you two words: Amazing adventures.

I think I’ll be living the life of dreams. Not just my dreams, but a lot of people’s. I think I’ll have adventures I can’t even begin to imagine, meet people I couldn’t conjure up for a story if I tried. I think I’ll learn incredible things about the world, prove stuff to myself. I think I’ll become fearless, excited, passionate, and happier than I’ve ever been.

That’s what I think. It’s what I believe deep in my soul.

But this past weekend, I’ve been sad and in mourning, and it’s a process I need to see through. In a way, I’m burying a lot of memories and heartbreaks and joys when I put Christmas in the storeroom this weekend. I’m putting away future comfort and laziness and sentimentality that comes from having a proper Christmas in one’s own home.

Change — good or bad — can (and should) be mourned and clung to and felt deeply before the next chapter comes. I’ve had a proper “goodbye” to every place I’ve ever lived, and when I’ve moved on, it’s been with zero regrets. Always zero regrets. Some sadness for a time, but no regrets.

The thing is, I’m not unhappy here in Victoria. I’m not. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time in some ways. I’m sad that I feel I need to take such extreme measures to regain financial security in my life — to leave my home country and see places elsewhere that I can live for 40% less. My adventure is born of financial necessity as much as it is desire. I’d rather be leaving out of sheer wanderlust than as a creative retirement-savings approach after all my adversities wiped out my savings, but that’s life.

I’m glad I allowed myself to be sad and frustrated this weekend, that I gave myself the permission to be a bit weepy and get resentful over the need to leave and undertake this massive life-change. I need to get that feeling out of my system and the only way to get it to leave is by letting it enter in the first place.

Before I went to bed last night, all sad-faced that it would be my last night with MY Christmas tree until 2020, I took the time to finally look up airfares and logistics. I discovered that even including a flight from Vancouver to London, then to Croatia, plus my whole first month of lodging, and the 16 days I’d like to rent a scooter for while I’m there, I will be at about $75 more than it would cost for a month of living where I do, including utilities but not including car rentals or bus or cabs, let alone 16 days of scooter fun.

And now Christmas lives in this box. This is Steff’s Travelling Christmas show, containing just four little ornaments, and it will come with me until my time abroad is done. Including my Polar Express bell. Because I believe in Christmas.

Then I was so excited and giddy that I couldn’t fall asleep until 4am. I mourned my present, identified my future, and went to bed accepting that Christmas was now in my past, and I was only nine months from beginning world travels.

In fact, I’ve decided my last day in Victoria will be my 42nd birthday. What is the answer to life, according to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? 42: The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Right, well, I’ll take that.

For me, it will be. My 42nd year will be incredible. I can’t even begin to imagine how well I will adapt to living a nomadic life. I am absolutely certain I can and will do this with great style.

For now, though, when times of fear come, I will accept them, process them, and move past them. When sadness strikes, I will let it linger until I’m ready to move past it.

There aren’t a lot of people on this planet who’ve gone and said, “All right, this fixed-life thing isn’t working. I’m going to travel the world.” What, less than 1% of people have ever boxed their life up to travel for over a year, let alone five years? It’s not a common practice, to be sure.

How can anyone tell me the “right” way to properly prepare for walking away from everything and embracing the whole world? Who is anyone to tell me what the right mindset is in leading up to that big day when I pack up just a few items of clothes, forsake much of what I own, and bail on my home?

No one can tell me how to move through this phase of my journey. I know what I’ve been through, what I’m leaving behind, and why I’m moving on. I know what I’m dreaming of. And I think I know how I need to emotionally prepare for my time abroad.

Yesterday I was sad about my tree. Today I’m literally tingling with excitement that the tree is down, about to go away, and now I have only 9 months to experience all the “last time” moments living here, in this amazing city, in this amazing apartment, as I stare down the advent of the journey of a lifetime.

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 DAYYUP.

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.

Of Eggs and Errors on a Holiday Afternoon

My kitchen is now a disaster. I made Eggs Benedict. For the first time ever, Hollandaise sauce stumped me. I failed not once, not twice, but three times. Angered, since I’ve never failed it before, I made it a fourth time — changing the bowl, changing the temperature, and even having cold water on-hand to toss in to stop the change-of-state before it cocked me up again.

Victory, motherfuckers.

eggsAfterwards, after having poached the eggs twice and vowing never to buy jumbo-sized eggs again, I looked down on my plate and realized I had never before so aptly or tastefully presented my refusal to quit or accept failure.

Because: Victory, motherfuckers.

It’s strange, isn’t it? When one little weird, messy, fattening episode can so succinctly sum up so much about who we are.

I feel like it was a very wasteful exercise, but for about $3, I proved something to myself. A completely unintended benefit, but I’ll take it.

I’m full now. It was lemony richness and everything I could have hoped for the first, second, and third times I tried making it.

***

New Year’s Day looms. I don’t know if I will accomplish all that I have envisioned. I’m trying to downsize by 10–20%.

It’s just a big nod to my dreams of heading abroad. I want to feel like I’m paring back life in preparation toward stuffing it all in boxes for a few years. So far, confronting my books has been emotional. I’m not ready for that yet. And should I? The age of paper is dying. Who’s to say they won’t escalate in value? Is it too soon?

And yet I’ve chosen some. I will choose more. It will not be easier.

It will, however, crystallize the fact that I’ve really begun to move toward my goals. That’s no small thing. Making your present surroundings reflect who you’re trying to be can be huge in achieving all that.

In the meantime, there’s more to do. I’ll get it done. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t hurt to go slowly — take 20 minutes to tackle a new cupboard, approach it on a piece-by-piece basis.

***

You may not realize it, but I write about domestic stuff like this all the time — from home decor solutions and architectural writing through to environmental news and the ways we live in cultures around the world.

It’s nice work if you can get it. You can read all those writings here.

The more you share, the more eyeballs my work gets, and the more everyone on all sides is happy. If you know pro bloggers, support the work they’re doing. It keeps us all employed.

Last year's Boxing Day sunset.

An End to Christmas Pantslessness: A Tale Of Introversion

You, dear blog reader, are my delay tactic to avoid walking for a little while longer. It’s 1:24. A little over an hour from now, I can leave to photograph the sunset. Last year’s sunset from last night was breathtaking. Tonight, we’re on the cusp of a cold and sunny front. Wispy clouds, blustery winds, moisture in the air. Beautiful things could happen. It’s worth a trek.

Along with this keen desire to shoot a sunset comes a little trepidation. I get sucked into my periods of isolation, like I am now. I haven’t left the house since the 24th. Going out today is the start of a slippery slope. I could have plans for coffee tomorrow, resulting in the tragic wearing of pants yet again. I have acupuncture on both Monday and Tuesday to use up the last of my medical coverage for the year (free acupuncture! why not?). Still more pants. Ugh!

I mean, there are only so many days I have available for pantsless slacking. It’s not like I’m scared of humans or anything. I just have this apprehension of talking to people because sometimes I just really fucking like being inside my head. It’s not an awful place to be.

I pity people who dislike being alone. What an awful way to live. Me, I like this.

It’s not as if I’ve sat stupid on the sofa. I’ve done some little domestic things. Plus, I’ve written 4,000 words in two days — inspired words, fast words, the kind of fat, juicy writing a writer likes to do. The kind I never get to do, because I get caught in the cycle of working for money, not for love or passion or spontaneity. The curse of adulthood and life in one of the world’s more expensive regions — money matters more than art, and it’s what makes the difference when deciding between paying the bills or satisfying the soul.

As for the woes of ending pantslessness, well, I think anyone who’s a true introvert has flashes of agoraphobia and/or anthrophobia. Fear of people, crowds, unavoidable encounters, that kind of thing. I don’t have it in a crippling or even inconveniencing way. I can talk to crows, I can work a room at a party, I can host an event — all quite comfortably.

I do dread people nonetheless.

Not in a collective EVERYONE SUCKS kind of way, though. Just in a “many people annoy the shit out of me and I’d rather be at home in fat pants” sort of way.

There are people I enjoy talking to. They’re the ones I find time for, who I enjoy seeing and even look forward to seeing. They’re people who not only talk but listen. They’re well-read, curious about the world, generally positive, interested in more than just themselves, and typically know how to focus on the moment.

But it’s unlikely to find that in the average person. That’s not snobbery or arrogance — it’s attention to detail.

The thing is, everything that makes me a good writer also makes me a tough friend to earn. I’ll notice inconsistencies. I’ll notice waffling, small hints of hypocrisy, insecurity, pettiness. And I can’t stand stuff like that. I’m definitely not imperfect — I’ll dislike people and let it show a little, but that’s just honesty. Not everyone will like me, either.

Take as an example when I see someone without the guts to say something to someone’s face but yet they delight in saying it behind their back, I’m repelled from wanting to be friends with that person.

It’s very true that my eye for detail and memory for odd facts, coupled with good intuition, all make me apprehensive of making widespread friends.

I don’t need a lot of friends, though, is the whole point. That way, I can afford to be picky. The people I like, though, I really like ‘em. People who inspire me, make me laugh, and let me blow off steam when I’m talking to them, man, they’re keepers.

If I’ve ever seen the far side of midnight with you because: Good Conversation, you’re in that group. If you’ve dined in my home more than once, yup, you too. If I’ve gone out of my way to find the time for beers with you, then you’re in that crowd too.

It’s not really a small list, either.  I just see people infrequently, so it can seem like a fickle or short list. Not really. The world’s full of groovy souls, but as an introvert, I like to spend about 90% of my time alone. Literally.

Introversion isn’t a curse. I like being an introvert. It can be weird, because being around the RIGHT people, for me, is a super-energizing thing. It fills me with ideas and gives me the desire to write, which then flips the switch to me needing to be introverted and isolated again. Being around the wrong people can drain me and compel me to get lost in TV and movies. It’s a cyclical existence when one is a sometimes-social introvert.

I just had a few such great days over the holidays. I’ve seen many people this past week, but unfortunately it followed a really brutal three-week schedule, and I lost my social steam. (Which I saw coming and prepared for by committing to zero plans following Christmas.)

All this has made me think a lot about how introversion informs my life choices.

Like right now. I actually have enough money to sort of go somewhere, have a couple day adventure. Maybe rent a car, see the countryside. Me having “enough money” at Christmas is a remarkable change in historical trends, and yet I’m more than happy to spend it at home with Netflix, naps, fat pants, booze, and bedhead.

I realize that this dream I have of living around the world for five years means I will frequently have to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers more than I’ve ever done before. I know it’s a tall order — someone as introverted as me having to make that shift for a half-decade. That’s why I’m so enjoying this time alone now — because it won’t be a possibility for a long time, once I go.

I’ve enjoyed more seclusion than ever, living here in Victoria. It’s self-imposed. It’s lovely. I could have more friends here, I could have made an effort. I chose not to do so. I understood then, as I understand now, that this period of self-isolation might be a rare opportunity in my life. Will I be able to live in a city while enjoying almost complete isolation again in my lifetime? Likely not. Even falling in love and finding someone wonderful will mean that all comes to an end — the ability to self-isolate.

I am enjoying isolation today with the distinct knowledge THIS may never be a lifestyle I ever enjoy again. That’s not fatalism. It’s just choosing to enjoy the moment and appreciate it.

Of course I’ll still have periods of this. That’s very different than having three years of it. I’ve learned more about myself in this silence than I ever thought I could. It’s a wonderful thing for a writer.

My future travel life will require people, but I’ll find periods of isolation. I’m thinking of a house-sitting ad like “antisocial hermit writing books who likes wearing fat pants and bedhead seeks remote, isolated cottage for house-sitting opportunity” or such.

In the meantime, I fully understand this may be my last homebody Christmas for a long time. I’m savouring it. So, despite the weather having turned, despite pants being required for the next three days, despite it all — I shall venture out into this blustery winter day now.

I’ve begun my ebook write about my travel ambitions, things I’ll need to achieve beforehand, logistics of how I plan to live for five years abroad, and more. If you’d like to be on the list for when it comes out, sign up here. I’m too busy to send out frequent newsletters, so don’t worry about getting bombarded.

Man relaxes on a Croatian sidestreet, photo by zolakoma on Flickr. (Creative Commons.)

Here Yet So Far Away: Dreaming of Distances

I vacillate. Often. Back and forth, back and forth.

Why wait?” I ask. “Why stay? Why keep banging my head on this wall?”

A part of me wants to cut and run tomorrow. Today. Now. Zippity-doo-dah, gone like the wind.

But the pragmatic part of me clears her throat and says no, we stay. We see the summer through. Turn 42. Celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family together. Vote out Stephen Harper. Leave two days later, either in victory or defeat. That’s the ideal situation. See another shoulder season, enjoy another summer. Ensure I’ve laid solid freelance ground beneath my feet before I plunge.

Then, poof, off to Europe and chase the dream.

Prague's celebrated St. Charles Bridge, by Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

By Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

The Nutshell

Five years abroad. 89 days or less per country. Working my way through — keeping my job, my writing, all of it. Writing books. Photographing. Plodding the land, meeting the folk, noshing the foods. Write it from a first-person living-the-dream perspective. A literary treatment given with my voice.

The world through my eyes. Not travel guides, not tips. You want that shit, go read Lonely Planet. My journey will read as a mashup of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Bourdain — a weird lovechild / hybrid of edgy, insightful writing set in the here-and-now of someone trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.

[INSERT DREAM HERE]

When I go to bed, I don’t know where to dream of. Should I dream of two weeks on the hills in Tuscany, a writing/reading/eating retreat, growing fat(ter) on cheese and wine as I trudge the verdant slopes?

Maybe I should dream of working on a new ebook in a seaside port on a lesser-seen part of Portugal’s coast, where fishermen persuade me to get over my fear of seafood and eat fresh-from-the-sea local specialties, laughing at my timid ways and shoving wine at me to wash it down with?

Perhaps I should instead fall asleep imagining a bucket-list check-off of shooting Prague’s St. Charles Bridge in early autumn morning fog as steam rises from the river below, hatching a plan for eggs in some underground cellar joint for breakfast as warmth returns to my chilled photographer’s fingers?

Tonight, it’ll likely be dreaming of dining on Croatia’s Pag Island, drinking local wine to accompany the famous island cheese made from the milk of sheep who spend their lives roaming seaside cliffs eating salt-dusted wild herbs daily.

I’ll do all of these things, and many more. Someday. One day in the next six years, I will.

My dreams, they’re not outlandish. No five-star hotels or crazy excess. Not my style, never has been. My dreams are like people I favour — a good way to spend a little time. Filled with intrigue and wonder, appreciation and simplicity, lively and fun. That’s how I roll.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question…

Waiting for these times ahead, so hard. Especially knowing I can do this lifestyle less than I pay now. I can improve my quality of life while living my dream, and yet it’s on ice ten more months. The idea of the wait is killing me already. I’m not sure I’ll last that long.

Just weeks ago I asked myself: Can I be this person? Am I cut out to spend five years abroad? Am I willing to just up and sell my belongings to do this? Have I got the guts?

At that time, I had to convince myself. The part that said I can wasn’t as loud as the part that scoffed at the notion.

Now, it’s not about if I can do it — it’s that I have to do it. I have to take this chance. I need to sell everything. I need to get the fuck out, live the dream. I need to know I tried. And one country isn’t enough. Five countries isn’t enough. Five years, that may be enough.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The Little Traveller Who Could

When I took this apartment, I increased my monthly rent by 25% in one jump. It was a risk. Only a year before, I sold my bike just to buy groceries. Could I hack the increased expenditure? Was I capable of working that hard, seeking out opportunity? Could I up my game? Could I commit?

I decided I could. Sure, I doubted myself and had a lot of fear, but I decided I wanted to make it work. So I would do just that.

I’ve done better than I hoped. I’ve really led the good life in this apartment. My standard of living is better, my dreams are bigger, my confidence higher, my focus sharper. A year ago, I didn’t have the guts to tell folks about this travel dream of mine. Now I can’t shut the hell up.

That’s not to say I’m fearless with this adventure. I have a lot of fear. Lots. And I should. There’s so much unknown. There’s new cultures, places, risks, threats, adventures, mistakes — all just sitting there, waiting for me. I know that.

But I also know of what I’ve toughed out — all the misadventure and adversity of my thirties. And I kicked its ass.

I don’t know what gauntlets await me, what struggles might come. I just know they’re there. They’re always there. But so is the knowledge that whatever else I might be, I’m a survivor. I make it through, and I come out better. And sometimes I have fun during the mindfuck of it all. Because that’s who I am.

So, yes. Just weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. If I had it in me. Now I know I do. The more I learn about the places, the more I know I can hack it. Besides that, I’m smart enough, savvy enough, and I’m good with strangers. I have rarely-fallible intuition on folks that will serve me well.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

To Dream a Vivid Dream

I may not know what specifically to dream about when I lay myself down, but I’ve inklings of experiences I want. I want this craving I have right now, coupled with the heart-exploding anticipation of being amidst the travel zeitgeist. The brighter-than-bright saturation of moving fast or slow through worlds previously unknown to me. The kaleidoscope of color, places, and people swirling together around me. The feeling one gets from stopping to just be of a moment, in some strange great place. “I’ll never be here, like this, again.” And knowing it.

I dream of being confused by things like trying to buy vitamins and toothpaste in local shops, never knowing the same bed for longer than two months, shaking my head in confusion at foreign-language street directions, wheezing from running to catch planes/buses/trains, and always finding a new spot to see a sunset.

I long for the day when the boredom and routine of me being a hermit in my character apartment here/now seems like a great and distant fantasy. I think of the people I might meet who’ll indulge just a moment, or maybe for a stolen hour over coffees, to teach me their language.

I don’t need to dream of specifics. I dream of moments. Tiny moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. These vague and fleeting seconds will fuel me. I don’t want planned travels, just organic and whimsical detours. Dreamlike and surreal. Fed by impulse.

And with that, I have some wine that needs some drinking, and more travel shows to get lost in, as I tab through AirBNB listings and cost-of-living comparisons. Because this is what I do, these days. Haphazardly living in the present while stuck in the future.

I’ll be writing ebooks about these journeys. Sign up for my mailing list. I won’t be spamming you.