Tag Archives: travel

In Which Steff Travels the World

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Hey, all!

My travel plans are coming together nicely, and so it is time to launch my Indiegogo campaign.

I don’t want you to GIVE me money, I want to earn it. I’ll send you things, or you can subscribe to my blog, or heck, you can come hang out with me in Europe.

I think my campaign explains it all well enough. Please have a look by clicking here. And please also watch the video! I popped my video-making cherry on that and I’m excited to up my game when I go abroad. I think movies might be a fun other diversion!

If you’re not yet following my travel blog, you can do that here.

Meanwhile, you can watch the video over on my campaign, or right here:

Travelling: The Writer’s Master Class

I wrote this late last Friday night and have only gotten around to editing it now. As of today, the numbers below are right — 90 days until I’m homeless and a world traveller. If you’re not following my travel blog, you should.

It’s hard to find great movies on writers. Funny, that.

But I guess it’s such an internal experience that it’s very hard to relay that visually or in any other way. It’s why a movie like Eat Pray Love can suck so hard while the book is a delight to read.

So it’s with great enjoyment that I’m watching Jane Campion’s biopic on New Zealand author Janet Frame, who I’d never even heard about, despite read. Don’t let my ignorance dissuade you of her import; her list of writing awards spans nearly six decades and would be intimidating to nearly any writer. An Angel At My Table is the name of both the film and the corresponding books.

Frame was unique, to put it lightly, and suffered mental illness in varying (but it turns out manageable) degrees. She was due for a lobotomy when word came that her first book of poems was an award-winning publication, and some wise doctor realized her malaise was also the source of her brilliance.

I’m at the point where she’s coming into her own as a writer but is still troubled by the demons of anxiety and other illnesses, and like any proper writer, she is only her complete self when writing.

 

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons. My first stop in my travels.

London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons.

Doing what a writer’s born to do

It makes me think that a writer who isn’t writing is a person who can never be happy. Without writing, we’re haunted. If we can’t do what we are, then what are we to be, if not cursed?

I write. Boy, do I write. I can’t say I don’t write. Know how many words I’ve written since April 1st, about 90 days? Over 70,000. Maybe over 80K. Until this quarter, I never knew how much a writer I am. I set a goal, then I blew way past it, so much so that I’ll be the writer anomaly when I travel, as I’ll be completely debt-free.

Strangely though, with all that production going into paid blogging and other professional endeavours, plus some unpaid personal blogging, I have to tell you… I really wish I had some time to write.

There’s writing for the dollars, then there’s writing for the soul, and there’s very little of the latter I’ve been able to execute, only because I’m so riddled by the chase of the almighty buck that I’m too full of emotional holes to really write what I wanna.

Zagreb_1_Ilica

Creative Commons image from Sobrecroacia.com. Ilica Street, Zagreb, my second stop on my travels, and near where I’ll live for three weeks, except for a short stint in the next town — which is… see the next picture!

 

Stealing back my time

In the movie, Janet Frame has just launched herself on her first international voyage. She’s told, to be a better writer, she needs to travel and expand her horizons.

It calls to mind what I wrote about how my travels are, even if others don’t say it, essentially most writers’ dream life. Go abroad. Travel slow. Soak in the world. Record it. Process it. Love it.

That’s writing for you, it’s a writer’s master class — travel.

I’m 90 days away from that life. Travel. No appointments, no obligations, no friends, no family, nothing but a schedule to meet for work, the ability to be in some exotic place for a month or so, and enough time in the day to write for an hour or two EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe more! Tee-hee-hee!

Ask me if I’m more excited about the distraction-free time to chase a writing-first life or the opportunity to see the world for five years, and I would honestly struggle to choose. I love the idea of both so completely that it blows my mind I’m getting both at the same time.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com's list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com’s list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!

Writing is not a “hobby”

I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s all gone whizzing past in a blur of survival and perseverance. Seldom have I had a chance to percolate and absorb it. I haven’t processed half the emotions I’ve felt over the years.

To some, they might say I need therapy. But the writers, they know. They know I need silence, a phone that doesn’t ring and a door that doesn’t knock. They know I need a window with a view, a desk at a good height, and fingers that won’t weary from a day or a year or a life of pounding out the truth.

It’s better than therapy, writing. It’s more honest, and it’s less selfish, in a way.* Put it down, push it into the world, and watch it resonate with others. When one taps into how fucked up they are, shares it with the world, resulting in a cacophony of voices rising to say how much it resonated with them — that’s the original therapy group session.

Something tells me, though, that landing on the far shores of the Atlantic isn’t going to be when and where I realize what a mess I am — it’ll be where I realize how together I’ve got it.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I'll be spending 4 weeks this fall -- stop number 4. And this photo's from Sobrecroacia.com.

Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I’ll be spending 4 weeks this fall — stop number 4. And this photo’s from Sobrecroacia.com.

Choosing passion

It doesn’t matter how I think I’ll do. My expectations don’t matter either. In about 105 days, after I’ve whirlwinded through Vancouver and London, UK, it’ll be my chance to see exactly how it unfolds. But there are no doubts in my mind about travelling improving me as a writer.

There haven’t been many opportunities in my life to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just writing for myself, let lone more, but the few times I’ve had that, my writing has been top-notch and I’ve been enormously proud of it. It’s a whole ‘nother writing level when you’ve got the time, focus, and dedication to achieve consistency.

This is what I hope to experience again. A chance to become more plugged into words and flow. I want the noise and distraction of life to evaporate, and the cadence of something exciting and new to fuel what I write.

What’s that they say about asking and receiving? 100 days.

*But therapy is awesome if you can afford it. For real.

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.

A Roasted Chicken Kinda Day

Some days — grey-sky, nothin’-doin’ kinda Sundays (or stat Mondays) — are made for puttering around the home, listening to some podcasts, cleaning, cooking. And those are the days made for roasting chicken. Thank you, cosmos.

Got me a fatty of a bird I’m gonna roast up soon. Tuck some sundried tomato & basil butter under the skin, roast it on a bed of celery, carrots, leek, and all kinda onions. Puree most of ‘em after for the most veggie-licious gravy ever. That, a little stock, some pretentious jelly for flavour. Boom. So good.

I will miss days like this when I’m abroad, but I know I’ll also do an amazing job of making a “new version” of this. I picture myself on a rainstormy day finding a way to make comfort food that smacks of home. I’m bringing maple syrup with me, bitches. The Quebec stuff. Real deal. Oh, yeah.

Food is an emotional thing. Just like roasted chicken, things like Yorkshire pudding evoke my childhood. Pouding chomeur takes me right back to being 8 and standing on a chair to look in the oven at the carmelly-mapley Quebecois version of a sticky toffee pudding baking on Sunday nights.

I can’t buy that memory anywhere else. Same thing with the roasted chickens, stews, breads, all those smells I remember from my childhood kitchen. My mom and dad weren’t the BEST cooks, but they sure put their effort into it and we ate pretty well. And all the muffins you could dream of.

Here’s a story for you. Best.

We went away for a day when we were kids, only to come home and find a ladder against the left-open living room window. The grand theft item? Muffins my mom had made. A couple of the neighbour kids came in, helped themselves. Couple glasses used for milk left on the counter was the big evidence. AHA! My first Sherlockian encounter.

It was the neighbours in the kitchen with a butter knife!

Chicken with all the fats.

Chicken with all the fats.

T & D, trouble-making brothers up the block, were sent over to meekly apologize. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went home with muffins in-hand post-apology too. It was that kind of a neighbourhood.

I’m hoping I luck into reasonably well-stocked kitchens. I’m tempted to bring a silicone muffin tin with me on my travels. (I already have the meat thermometer I’m bringing!) I mean, muffins are serious and there ain’t a storebought muffin in the world I think holds up to a solid home-baked one. Emotional food, indeed.

That will be one of the great aspects to my travels, for me anyhow, is that I want to learn how to do all the cookin’ of what I’m eatin’. I want to be pushy and friendly and get myself invited to family get-togethers. How cool would that be? Politely elbow my way into the kitchen. Watch how it gets done.

And I will just die if I get to go to those big meat-a-paloozas. Grill pits, underground fire pits, brick ovens, over an open flame. Whatever, man. If it involves primal meat cooking in the great outdoors, I will find a way to get there. I will need to connect with serious foodies in every town and not take no for an answer.

I can do this!

But for now, I’m capping this grey day with a roasted bird. It’ll be nice salads and other treats, all week. I’m enjoying cooking these days.

Enjoy the home pleasures while I can, right?

By the way, I’ve got the domain reserved for what will be my travel blog. You can go ahead and bookmark it, and it’ll take you here in the maintime. It’s called The Full Nomad.

“Going full nomad” is gonna be a “thing.” Mark my words!

Pondering the Pineapple Express

The “Pineapple Express” isn’t just a stoner movie that’ll have you hitting the Cheetos, it’s a weather phenomenon that instills dread in the hearts of West Coasters.

It’s days of unseasonal warm weather coupled with dreary heavy clouds, battering rains, and sometimes winds. It’s not like monsoons in the tropics, it’s just medium-to-heavy rain that seems endless, for days. With the humidity between 90-100%, it feels like you’re walking around in a wet paperbag for three to six days straight.

There’s some localized weather phenomena that affects where I am, Victoria, BC, where “the shadow of Mount Rainier” is said to save us from about 50% of the rain that falls in Vancouver. We might be just across the strait, less than 100km from Vancouver, BC, but they’re a rainforest, and downtown Victoria ain’t. Half the rain, baby.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria's Clover Point.

Between the rain, back in 2013 on Victoria’s Clover Point.

But you wouldn’t know it on days like these. Not because of all the rain, but because all the clouds sock us in and that moisture’s still THERE, it’s just holding out to put out for Vancouver. I guess Victoria doesn’t drive a flash enough car to woo the likes of this rain.

Still, like a school boy on a hot date, those clouds are fit to explode, and I feel the pressure as it slowly rolls overtop this island, starting its dump further up the coast as it lays into Vancouver.

It pounds behind my eyes and the back of my head. I can even feel the little shifts. Clouds clear in a patch above me momentarily, and so will my head. Rain resumes, so does the foggy brain. It’s baffling.

They call these “low-pressure fronts.” It’s evident even in the people. We trudge and grumble. There’s a “rainy-day hunch,” too. We don’t even know we’re doing it — it just happens when walking down the street in heavy rain. It’s a forward slouch with a hunching of the shoulders, and it effectively ensures more like a 60-40 rain-split, where your back gets most of the wetting action.

‘Cept those days where you’re walking into a headwind and then you’re just screwed, bro. Done. Those are the days you get rain-soaked straight up to mid-thigh. God help you if you’re not wearing water-resistant clothing, or better yet, Goretex. I’m not the only former Vancouverite who’s had 2-3 layers of clothes all get soaked under a “rainproof” jacket on the very bad, no good, wrong rain day.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

One of THOSE days. I dared to shoot photos in the wind and rain. Luckily *my* gear worked. But 95km winds will give you THIS face.

We grumble and whine and moan, but this rain becomes a part of us. Day after day it grows prohibitive and inconvenient, not to mention mind-numbing and depressing, but the odd heavy rain becomes something we almost cannot live without.

I loved to the Yukon in 1994 and spent the year living in Whitehorse. When you think “Yukon,” you think endless snow, so naturally it must get quite a bit of moisture, right? But you’d be wrong. It’s incredibly dry. It snows in October, then pretty much just stays dry and sunny and cold until April, when it rains a couple times and the snow finally melts.

I’d moved there in October, after Vancouver’d had a three-month dry spell. By the time I saw and smelled rain again, it was the following April and I hadn’t seen rain in 10 months. I cried, I was so happy to see it.

So today as the rain pounds and batters the streets, and I sit with all my windows open while enjoying the unseasonal warmth, I’m loathing the dreariness despite enjoying its idle, and dreaming of when I will live in a place with more sun than rain in winter, and wondering if I might miss these Pineapple Expresses one day.

After all, there’s a catharsis that comes with rain. Like if it rains any harder it’ll even wash away my sins. It’s soul-soothing and permissive. My inner-Catholic is a big fan of rain and all its symbolic cleanliness.

I feel I’ll be betraying all my lineage by escaping this climate. From the Barra Islands Camerons in the Outer Hebrides to my Viking MacNeills, Irish Monks, and my Breton line, they’re all foul-weathered people. They overcame the challenges of the land, sea, and skies, and thrived in it.

I have the luxury of failing them all and wimping out. City-folk. Pah!

As a result, I’ll be letting the rain dictate my weekend. Food, cleaning, writing, sloth, Netflix, drinking, reclusion. All fine and glorious things. All behind the rain-streaked windows, wearing comfy jammies and sporting bedhead.

No shame, man. No shame.

Imagining Where In The World I Am: En Route to Morocco?

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.

Photo by Odolphie, looking toward Spain from Tangier’s ports.