So, I had an epiphany today. Lightbulb, Oprah singing, nerves zapping kinda “a-ha!” epiphany.
See, I’ve been so consumed, almost vexed, as I deliberate about Where To Next. I don’t mean where to tomorrow, or where to in two weeks, but where to after I’m done visiting Canada in October. My next 4ish months are lock-tight, solved already.
But then what?
I don’t know if other nomads battle with this, but I do. The whole world just sits there, taunting me. Where do I go? What do I do? Never mind which continent, but what country? What city? Shit, what NEIGHBOURHOOD do I live in?
And it’s more complicated than that, too.
Dammit, Jim, I’m a Nomad, Not a Soothsayer
Dear reader, think about this for a second. In any given 4 to 5-month period, how much do you personally grow or change? How much do your goals change, or your moods?
Now, imagine that, in that 5-month period, you move from big city Sarajevo to the fairytale town of Mostar, then sunny bliss in the Old Town of Split, Croatia, followed by a pub night in the suburbs of London, England. Then you take a flight across the Atlantic, have a whirlwind taxi-aided layover in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on a quest for nachos or poutine, whatever long-craved sin appeals most that day. Back on a plane, followed by a week of road-tripping in Nova Scotia, a gorgeous place fraught by hard economics. Then 5.5 weeks with your parents’ families you’ve never or seldom met, less than a year after your father’s death. Then three weeks housesitting in your favourite part of your home city you can’t afford to have be your home anymore. Followed by three weeks elsewhere with your beloved-but-aging aunt and uncle, and a week with friends nearby who you met through travel. Then 16 days housesitting on the waterfront in an isolated island home, a few days more in the big city…
And THEN you gotta travel somewhere.
Who Do You Think You Are?
The dilemma: How much have you changed from the first day of of travel? Who do you become between then and the end of that travel leg? After all that reckoning with dead parents’ families, all the places you’ve lived in and left, the people left behind, whatever contemplation you’ve done, and having yet another birthday, your 44th…
And that’s MY challenge.
Who will I be, and where will I want to be that person? What will most appeal to me after all that heavy mental-lifting and travel?
No wonder I can’t commit to a plan right now. I have no idea what version of Steff I’m making the plans for, epiphany be damned.
I see something like this and I’m all OMIGOD I LOVE THIS (snap•snap•snap). But I sat here 10 minutes, just enjoying the spot. Probably 2-3 dozen tourists wandered through, zero photos. Only one other person took photos. But this is how people live inside the 1700-year-old Emperor Diocletian Palace. This is life, culture. This is the photo. But hey. I’ll take the picture. You enjoy your walk. 🙂
From There and Back Again
Changing countries isn’t so bad, but switching gears after going home is a doozy, because it’s like a reboot on me and my life. I go home, see folks I know in their nice, cushy, comfortable lives. A little change here, a little drama there, but things haven’t changed remarkably. But, me, I’ve been travelling and having experiences you can’t buy or fake or opt into, unless you get on a plane and go there, and not for a week or two, but for a month or two in each place.
Soon, I’ll write a recap of my last eight months, and it’ll include 14 cities and 9 countries, not including any of my Steff Does Bi-Coastal Canada For A Summer.
That’ll include surgery in Albania, medical terror in Morocco, “Dead Mom Jukebox Day” in Athens. Christmas on a Greek Island, my Lost in Jazz Budapest experience of overwork and no touristing. Bucket-list Prague, a quirky little mountain town south of it. A night in Madrid before two in London, hanging on the cusp of fear over medical unknowns. Then, the highs, like getting published in the Washington Post, new corporate clients, new freelance opportunities, and much more.
But I have zero idea how much that’s affected me until I’m back home in Vancouver, Canada.
Now, More Discombobulation Than Ever!
Ever been on a ship at sea for an extended time? It lolls and rocks and rolls over waves. At first, you’re discombobulated, but soon that rhythm washes into you and you become one with the ship’s motions. Your gait shifts, your muscles adapt, and by the end of the trip, you’re barely conscious that you’ve affected sea legs for the seafaring.
But then it ends and you step onto the wharf. Wobbly, again discombobulated, staggering a little weirdly. Your center of gravity has shifted and walking on land, something you’ve done every waking day of your life before the ship, feels foreign to you. For a few minutes, you’re relearning to do the most natural thing in the world.
In a way, that’s what returning to Vancouver does for me. I’m suddenly aware of how much I’ve seen, how far I’ve gone, and I slowly realize how much I’ve changed. And then I regroup and get ready to do it all over again.
A Change is Always Gonna Come
Because, the truth is, how I change is at once monumental and imperceptible. There’s a quiet strength that can’t be expressed. A jaded familiarity with how alike yet different the whole world is. There are so many ways everything changes, so many injustices, so many amusements.
You, the comfortable folks in their lives at home, you change too. It just comes at you a little slower. When one is in the life of travel, they’ve forced themselves into the fray. It’s the speed-walking equivalent of life-change. It looks like you’re going through the same motions as everyone else, but, oof, you get there so much faster.
Not that it’s superior to life at home. Just, sooner or later, I’ll need to come to a full stop for a while, breathe deeply, process all of this.
In the meantime, I need to figure out what’s next. And preferably where I can process, even for just a little while.
Having an epiphany is great, but don’t mean any questions get answered, because I’m nowhere closer to my decision than I was eight hours ago.
Great analogy there. And I think you’re absolutely right – things are going to happen in the next 4 months that will let you know where you need to go next. Let it unfold. 🙂
Heh, thanks on the analogy. I felt it was really apt once I came up with it. 😉
But I have to decide sooner than later. I’m definitely going to Asia. I think I will go to the place I have the lowest expectations for, Ubud, Bali, and stay in a rice paddy to relax for a month, then head off. Part of that is climate-related. Too soon in Thailand or Vietnam and I can run into Monsoon season!
But I gotta decide in order to get the good apartments and get a good flight price, otherwise I can be out of great lodgings and be stuck paying a couple hundred more on a flight. It’s all timely stuff. I’ll make a choice in the next 3-4 weeks.
This post comes close to home and I know what you’re up against. I may have told you I went to Mexico for two weeks in March ’69 and came home three years later. Working in Japan I was headed for Australia, but the P&O liner was leaving pronto and the next ship took me the long way to Israel. When I did get home all old friends were finishing university and/or married and couldn’t/wouldn’t believe most of my stories, all true. I’ve still got itchy feet, my kids have itchy feet and all grandchildren have passports that they have used recently. I don’t think you’ll ever regret your travels; I never have.
You gave me a bit of backstory but that was after my WaPo article, I think, and I would be under the knife three weeks later in Albania, so a lot of details are pretty groggy there. Heck of a story. You might find this article fascinating! A follower/friend sent it to me via Facebook!
It’s so lovely following your journey with all the ups and downs, and how you reflect and respond. Your photographs always draw me in, you seem to capture so much at the right moment. Enjoy being back in Canada for the next whil.