Every few days, I think of a new possible combination of places to go in my first year abroad. Overnight, I had a nine-hour sleep but awoke with a headache as the forces of weather good and evil battle it out and days of sun establish themselves off the coast here.
This headache and the dread with which I approach work also makes it possible for me to daydream about the life I might be leading one year from now.
I’m pretty firm on where I’ll be in my first three months. It’s Croatia. After that, that’s when matters change. Will I do Northern Spain and Portugal, then France, then Prague, as I first thought? I don’t know.
This week I’m imagining a different route. Pack up around now in January, 2016, spend a couple days in Venice, then make my way down through Spain, staying here and there, exploring Andalusia a bit before spending a bit in Tarifa, especially with a car rental. (If you’ve ever read the wonderful tale about following your dreams, The Alchemist, it largely takes place around there.)
I found a 330-year-old building I want to stay in for a bit in Tarifa. Amazing architecture, and to live inside a building that predates the first German settlers arriving in North America, where someone might have sat reading the first edition of the just-published in 1684 Principia by Sir Isaac Newton… I mean, this is mind-boggling stuff to someone still impressed her apartment is from 1931.
Then a ferry to Morocco, specifically Tangier, where I’ve found a B&B decorated to 1800s Moroccan glory. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and would be a real splurge, but Morocco is my dream trip. Like, dream trip.
I have a little town on the coast of Morocco I’d like to stay in, possibly for up to a month, just writing, relaxing, photographing the water, eating Berber food, and planning my future.
This would take me to about April or May, avoiding the hottest part of North Africa’s year. Then, off to who knows where? Perhaps Prague, Georgia, and other less-scorchy places for the summer months.
The best part of not committing to a plan is being able to dream of the endless opportunities I might have to explore and wander. All of them are good. All of them are enticing.
Dreaming is a lovely thing.
For now, time to work.
Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier’s ports.
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.