I owe you a couple stories about Nova Scotia, and you’ll get them. I have other stories of other places to tell too. But it’s been a frantic summer of friends, family, and couchsurfing.
I’m a tired nomad. A very tired nomad.
But today, the last day of summer, brings a time of renewal and contemplation, an end of one phase and a return to myself.
Tomorrow I begin housesitting for a friend, a waterfront home up-island. Secluded, beautiful, quiet. My inner-introvert needs it. Oh, what heaven it will be.
I remember being 10,000 kilometres away – literally –sitting there, staring at Sarajevo’s mountains, hesitantly writing out my itinerary for these last four months, and the resulting abject fear I felt about conceding control so I could stay in a variety of other peoples’ beds, in their homes – how it would mean compartmentalizing my life into theirs.
To go without the ability to just withdraw into myself and have my own space are at odds with who I am. Without that, I can’t be the writer I need to be. And that’s been absent for months now. Literally months.
And here I am, on the cusp of not only having that back, but just 18 days away from a whole new chapter of my life: Asia.
New tests, new experiences, new foods, new cultures; new, new, new.
But coming here, to Victoria, and being here right now, well, it’s meaningful. It’s poignant and powerful in ways I can’t, and maybe won’t, explain in detail to you.
This city by the sea is the first place I ever came where I said “Hey. I’m going here. This is the life I want.”
And it’s the first time I was told by most people that I was making a mistake.
Deep down inside, I knew it was right. Everyone told me it’d be boring and dull, that I’d loathe it and should test it out before committing.
I didn’t test it out, and it wasn’t boring or dull. It was where I came when I was broken, and it put me back together again. Coming here was like finding myself.
And I learned my instincts were good.
It was here I walked away from socializing and set myself an audacious goal: Travel the world.
I told nearly no one about my travel plans until autumn, 2014, more than a year after I decided I would do it. And when I did, I got exactly the reaction I expected: Nearly no one believed me. Everyone doubted me or thought I was wrong or thought I was crazy, or just expected me not to follow through with it, because we so often beak off about things we “plan” to do, yet don’t.
And this is that place, for me. I come back to Victoria and it symbolizes everything I accomplished. It’s a giant “I told you so” to everyone who ever doubted me. I told you so. I did this.
So here I am, reconnecting with that sense of calm I found here upon moving here in 2012. When I moved in 2012, I’d been angry for years. Angry, frustrated, jealous, resentful. My life wasn’t what I wanted, I didn’t know what I desired or needed. I was a huge disappointment, a giant failure. The life I dreamed about wasn’t even a cohesive idea, let alone a plan.
And, so, I began taking long walks by the ocean, where I’d think and ponder, staring at the horizons as I resolved to be a better person, to find or at least understand the concept of happiness.
But what is happiness, and how do we get there?
For me, it meant moving to a home I loved. My character Art Deco apartment was a cumulation of every goal I’d ever had. A place close to nature, close to the city, with a wonderful view, with stunning architecture, which showcased the beautiful things I’d spent a lifetime earning.
And then something dawned on me: Achieving everything I ever wanted wasn’t making me as happy as I wanted to be. Was the stuff part of being happy, or not? Was the home the key to happiness? Apparently not.
Today, as my second anniversary of being home-free by choice looms, I can tell you I’m not yet “happy.” But I have more happy moments. I have more occasions of going “Wow. This is my life.” There are more times when I think there isn’t stuff missing in my life, that instead I realize just how much more I long to do and see.
I have stresses, I have debts, I have bills to pay and things to square up. Like anyone with such clouds over their heads, happiness will elude me until I have resolved these.
And yet moments of incredible gratitude find me. Often.
Today, I know from whence I’ve come and I still have no clue where I’ll end up or what path my life will take, but the next step leads to Bali. I have such incredible optimism for my year to come. Nerves, sure. Anxiousness, you bet. But optimism too. Everything that has come my way has made me better, smarter, more resilient.
I know less about my future than I ever have, after two years of realizing just how seldom I was right about expectations and plans. Know what? I’m okay with that.
There’s something incredible about realizing life’s an open slate and everything is possible. I keep getting asked what’s next after I travel. I haven’t got a clue. Life will let me know when the time is right.
Bend like the willow, but don’t break. That’s some Confucian wisdom for ya. I am a willow. I’ll bend where the wind takes me. Bending ain’t so bad.
So here I am, on the last day of summer, in the city that transitioned me to who I am now. I think there’s a nice cold beer in a shop somewhere that’s crying out to be drank in the sun on an oceanside cliff as this nomad stares out at the same horizons that first taught me something bigger and infinitely possible waited out there for me.
What’s bigger than you? What’s possible for you? What are you doing today to get you there tomorrow, or next month, or next year?
Remember, I worked for 2.5 years to get this dream off the ground. I’ll tell you how often I regret the sacrifices I made for those 900-plus days: Not once. Not ever. Not now, not then, not tomorrow.
Do the work. Get there. Enjoy it. It’s on you. No one can get you there but you.