It’s nearly go-time. I’m not counting the days as often now because it’s scaring the crap out of me.
It’s 28 days till I’m home-free and I give up my keys to the landlord. My home is officially rented to someone else already. This weekend, I’m taking down photos, packing boxes, and having frequent mini-anxiety attacks.
But sometimes those heart palpitations, shivers, and gasps are a brand of excitement I’ve never known. They come when a flash hits me and I realize soon travel will be my life. Every day, I’ll have the gift of waking and seeing new things. Anything from ordering a coffee to taking a bus will be an “experience,” versus just another day of living back home in Canada. I’ll need the help of strangers on a daily basis.
Often, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s all coming very quickly, and I’ve much left to do.
Becoming who I dreamt I’d be
I have read, and dreamt, of travelling all my life. I remember being 15 and lying on my front lawn, reading Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China. Before I turned 20, I had read travel books on places like Tuscany and Morocco. In my early 20s, I was trying to write a novel set in Prague. (It was shit. My pretentious youth.)
But all the travel I’ve done in my life has been to live in the Yukon and do a decade of road-tripping from Alaska to California and inland to the Prairies. I saw England when I was 17 but I took it for granted, because I likely thought it was only the beginning of my travelling.
Well, I was right — it was the beginning. I just didn’t plan to have it go on “pause” for so long.
As a kid, I took a plane every year or two and it was no big deal. The last time I was on a plane was October, 2013, and before that, it was over Christmas, 1996. That was a 17-year hiatus. I never would have dreamed I’d travel as little as I did. But then, I never would’ve dreamed my 30s would be as punishing as they were.
Tick-tock, 28 days to slip away
As the 28-day countdown begins, the tidal wave of emotions I’ve had are getting more pronounced.
I don’t know if other people would feel the whirlpool effect I feel inside these days. I’m a sensitive and contemplative person at any time. I’m a writer trained in journalism; I’m all about the human condition, even when I’m the one embroiled in it. Then again, how many people get to feel this at all, ever?
Today, I write to you knowing that I have worked as hard as I could have for longer than I imagined I could. I have prepared better for this adventure than I ever dreamed I would.
To tell you the truth, I thought I’d be leaving on a wing and a prayer, with my crappy old luggage, toting a half-broken laptop, and with a mentality that I was running away from my life because I couldn’t hack it in the ever-pricier Vancouver. I didn’t think Id be able to stay in nice apartments, rent cars, or live it up, but my standard of living as I travel can, and will, befit a woman in her 40s who doesn’t want to cut corners.
Surprisingly, I’ll earn more money in 2015 than I have in any year of my life, more than double what I made any year before my 35th year. I’ve paid off ⅓ of a year of rent abroad already, bought fancy top-of-the-line gear where I could, and am even protecting myself by appointing legal representatives at home before I leave.
My last dance with Stuff
I have been buying lots of things, lately. A spending tear leading up to going away. GEAR, baby. Soon I’ll buy all new clothes too — easier done when it’s 2 sweaters, 4 t-shirts, 3 long-sleeve shirts, a week each of undies and socks, and a pair of shoes. After all, that’s about all I plan to take with me as I travel the world.
It’s a big change from the last decade of my life, when I lived off Thrift Shops. I couldn’t afford full-priced items in regular stores. I repaired things with duct tape or just jerry-rigged a solution. Like how, despite earning more money last year than any year previous, I have spent 15 months sliding my heavy mortar & pestle in front of my toaster oven every day, to keep the broken door closed when I make toast or broil stuff. Why? Partly on principle, because the oven still works great despite the busted hinge, but also just because I’ve grown accustomed to finding a way to make do with what I have.
So then why buy all-new everything now? Well, I feel like I deserve it. I’ve worked for it. It’s all I’ll own. I’m not buying anything else, except maybe some art to ship home for a future abode. When your whole life is in a suitcase, why not have the luxury of all of it being new and a novelty when you leave? Replace that feeling of sacrifice with some “ooh! shiny!” for a few weeks.
To that end, I’ve used nothing that I’ve bought for travelling. Not a bit. I want it to be new and exciting when I leave.
In the meantime, I’m still using my broken toaster oven, my crappy cookware, and the plate set I bought for $15 nearly a decade ago. I wear 10-year-old hole-y t-shirts and floor-stained pajama bottoms. I’m packing away things I want to keep for my future and finding myself surprised in that I think I may not even have a lowly 10 boxes I swore I’d cull my life down to — I may have fewer.
Reconciling my past before my future begins
It’s strange what happens when you realize the life you’ve led in no way compares to your life ahead. It’s easier to let go of my past than I thought it would be. It’ll leave much more room for finding treasures on my travels and shipping them home for Life After Wandering.
I wish I could bottle these strange mixed emotions to save for a jaded future day — a heady swirl mourning the life I’m leaving, shivers I get when thinking of my life ahead. I wish I could share them with you. It’s a kind of excitement and longing I never knew existed, largely because I was trapped in the monotony of debt and fear that became my life for so long.
Today, there’s nothing but gratitude that I had this foolish idea that changing my life was entirely up to me. That I could believe it then and choose to believe it every day since boggles my mind, considering how much I gave up believing in myself for so many years.
I know there should be a beginning, middle, and end to a post like this, but my whole life feels incomplete every single day right now — how can I possibly come up with an ending?
This, my friends, is just the beginning of the end and the beginning of the beginning. The end is yet to be written. Let’s see how it unfolds.
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