Category Archives: Travel

Happiness and Grabbiness

[I wrote this in Paris, however it has languished in the digital depths of my iPad until now!]

The first time it happened, I was in Paris. I was sitting in this gorgeous little ‘tea house’ in a square next to the George Pompidou Centre. Having failed miserably in my attempt at appreciating modern art, I had left the strange, space-age Pompidou building for the piazza-square off to the side. This square has the most bizarre water feature in its centre – a large, waist-height pool made of marble, with bizarre graffiti-like art statues sticking out of it – bright red lips, a large treble clef, a rainbow skull. A very Parisian street-cool feel.

The square was brimming with people. School had just let out, so there were childish yells and giggles and games going on everywhere. A street artist was drawing Charlie Chaplin in chalk on the pavement. Another was playing piano accordion, which perhaps the locals think of as cheesy, but which I love because it so strongly says you are in France, you are in France.

I was at my tea-house table, overlooking this tableaux, sipping my latte, eating a croissant and writing in my journal. I had been on a little roll with the writing (aren’t those glorious? When you can just feel the goodness flow from you without effort into the pages? All the more delicious when it’s written by hand in a gorgeous leather-bound journal!)

And then it hit me.

Smacked me in the face.

The realisation that This is it. This is your dream, Jessica. This is what you have dreamed of and longed for and wished for for so very long – sitting in a Parisian cafe, writing. You are doing it. Right now. You are living your dream.

And then, of course, following this moment of self conscious awareness, this happened:

Quick, quick, concentrate. Soak all this in. Make the most of this. This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Concentrate! Do not let this moment get away!

The very moment!

I’ve had this a few times over the past few months – the very sudden, smack-you-in-the-face realisation that I am ‘living my dream’. Usually, it will be in moments while I am sitting in a cafe over a coffee and a croissant, writing. All of a sudden I would be struck by the knowledge that this is *exactly* what I have wanted for so long, I am living it right now. And then I am filled with a slight panic, followed by determination to hold on to the moment as long as I can, lest it slip away. And of course, as soon as that happens, all the magic of the moment is lost.

It can be a very scary thing, to fulfill your goals or achieve your dreams. Or to find yourself doing what it is that you have been dreaming of for years. In my reckoning, the reasons are twofold. First of all, you now have something to lose. And we humans are programmed to be terrified of losing anything. We will go out of our way to avoid loss and the anticipated pain and suffering which accompanies it (hell, the entire advertising industry is based on this tenet). Happiness must mean you have something to lose, right?

And secondly, the other reason, is that you realise that you’re still exactly the same person. Warts and hurts and all. So very often, we think to ourselves ‘I will be happy when…’ (I lose the weight, I get the book deal, I get to Europe). So what happens when you finally get to Europe? Or lose weight? Or sign a multimillion dollar book deal? Without fail, you will find that you are still you. The old truism ‘wherever you go, there you are’ also applies to this situation. Whatever you achieve, you’re still you. Unless you have been working to iron out the kinks of your human blueprint along the way, you are still going to have the same muck under the surface, even if you do now have the multimillion dollar contract or the size eight ass or the European holiday.

So in these moments where I become happy and then scared and then grabby, I am trying to be kind to myself. To tell myself to take deep breaths, aiming for re-immersion in the moment. Deep breaths, because all there is is the moment. Just deep breaths.

And that’s all I’ve got. But it’s helping…

Leaving town

[This was written in Barcelona, but languished in the digital depths of my iPad until now!]

It’s very easy to get a bit panicked when you’re traveling and it comes time to leave a city - but i love it so much, but it’s so beautiful, but I don’t want to leave, but there’s still so much to do, but I haven’t seen everything, but I haven’t done everything, but I don’t wanna go!

The day I left Barcelona was the most beautiful, bright, sunny day, after a trip plagued by grey skies, bitter cold, and endless freaking drizzle. I absolutely did not want to desert this new city, which I was finally starting to figure out.

Finally I’d figured out where to get good tapas and how to ignore the overly aggressive attentive shopkeepers and how to wander around the Barri Gotic without getting lost (or at least, how to do it without looking lost!).

My final morning, I went to a cafe that I’d been to a few times for breakfast, and the waitress greeted me like an old friend (and made a joke about how I always seemed so busy, working away on my laptop. The need for busyness has not yet deserted me). Why would I want to leave here and have to start all over again in some strange new city? I don’t care how pretty Girona, Paris and Rome promise to be, do any lovely curly-haired waitresses in those places know me and my order?

No.

Well, not yet.

Even as I travel, it is easy to recognise the rooting and nesting that I still tend towards, even as I profess to want to be footloose and fancy-free. I still end up with ‘regulars’ and ‘locals’ – establishments that I’ve ‘figured out’, feel comfortable in, and where I know the price range. I still end up re-visiting places that I love and feel a connection with (I visited Barcelona’s Cathedral five times).

In only ten days, I made the city a home, of sorts.

As I sit here and contemplate never coming back (seriously – there’s so much of the world I haven’t seen yet. Is it realistic to think I will come back to Barcelona? I’d like to think so, but I don’t know.) I am also struck by that strange panic of the worrying traveler – Will I remember it all? Have I soaked it in enough? Can I peel back my eye-lids any further and imprint this image permanently on my retinas and in my mind? Have I taken enough photographs so that I can communicate to everyone back home just how wonderful this place is?

Of course not. That never happens.

But.

I do know that I love this city, and it is great that I don’t want to leave, that there is more to do. It would be disappointing if a city did reveal all its secrets in one mere trip. The great cities never stop revealing their secrets.

So with sadness I leave Barcelona. And with anticipation (and a very heavy backpack), I head to Girona. More of the world awaits.

Very happy, with paella!


Little love notes – Travel edition!

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

 

Dear Wonderful-Kind-Amazing Peeps,

I’m back! After three months wandering around Europe, I am officially back home in Brisbane. I had an absolute ball, it was massively growth-inducing, and my cup did overfloweth with incredible experiences. That said, I am also thrilled to be home. (In fact, today is my first day working for my new boss [me] at my new work [my house]! Super exciting! I’ll be filling you all in on that very soon.)

I still have a bunch of travel-related stories to tell, that somehow I never got around to putting into words. Well, into any form of intelligible words that a person other than me could understand – basically, my journal is a mass of random sentence-scribbles and brainstorm-maps, which I intend to decipher and elaborate on in the coming weeks! So even though the actual trip is over, there’ll be some more travel stuff appearing on the blog, as well as loads of other stuff, as all the new parts of my life (new work, new house, new perspective) unfold.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say that I have received so many lovely little love notes from so many readers. Even as blogging took a backseat to living, people continued to write beautiful messages, and I appreciate every single one. I am really looking forward to being able to catch up on all my correspondence and reply to people, but please know that I have greatly appreciated your words. When I was far away on the other side of the world, it was incredible to feel such a warm connection with others, most of whom I’ve never even ‘met’ except on these here interwebs. It certainly is a wonderful community that we are all a part of, and I feel privileged and humbled that such kind-hearted, intelligent people take the time to read my words.

With massive love,

Jess

Dear Chocolate Croissant,
Oh how your flaky goodness fills me with delight! I have eaten way more of you than I ever thought I would – back home, I’m so strict with my food, so rigid and regimented. But you have proven to be the catalyst for my relaxing about it all. Who in their right mind would voluntarily choose not to partake in your buttery, airy deliciousness? I like you better in France – with your modest line of firm chocolate filling – rather than the more generous dollops of Nutella that fill your Italian brethren. But honestly, I’ll eat you all. Sometimes multiple times a day. Dear Mr Chocolate Croissant, in the immortal words of a certain Ms T Swift, you belong with me…

Dear Positano,
Wow. You’re a bit of a show-off, aren’t you? Seriously dude, every morning I wake up to your cliffs and your waters and your distant horizons, I am a little bit gobsmacked all over again by your almost-indecent beauty. You are overwhelming, in the best possible way. I feel as though we should make our relationship a little more permanent. I don’t want this to be a mere holiday fling, a four-night stand of intense passion, only for you to never call. Fancy a couple of extra Australian citizens as newfound residents for good?!!

Dear Time,
You keep marching ever onwards, and like always, I keep trying to grab hold of you and pull you back. Sometimes I panic when I feel how quickly you stride, and sometimes I waste time cajoling you to hurry the hell up. There is, of course, nothing to do but accept you exactly as you are. I am working on this. Thanks for the lessons.

Dear Breath,
Thanks for helping out with the above Time-related issues. You are always there for me, if only I could remember this sooner.

Dear Hugs,
How great are you guys?!!

Fiery and Crumbly and Football

Barcelona feels like a city with fire in its belly. Somehow, the city seems to be united in a struggle against… something. Itself? Time? Everything. Everyone.

This is nothing new. The city of Barcelona has been in a constant struggle to assert its independence and right to self-determination almost since the dawn of Spain. The capital of the Catalunya region, but the second-best, passed-over sibling of the firstborn son, Madrid. People here consider themselves Catalans first, Spanish second. If at all. Catalan, not Spanish, is the language spoken here (and, if you foolishly try to engage your waiter in conversational Spanish picked up from your Rick Steves’ guidebook, he might tell you rather tartly that they are completely different languages, and that Catalan is actually closer to Italian than it is to Spanish. Duh!)

Flags on the Ramblas

One example of this united fiery struggle, obvious for all who walk the streets to see, is not played out in the stuffy halls of Parliament where one might expect a fight for sovereignty to take place. No, it takes place in a far more accessible arena. For where better to play out centuries (millennia?) of political and religious rivalry than on the big, green, grassy football field.

It’s all about the soccer.

I arrived in the city on the day of reckoning. FC Barça, that hallowed team who carry the region’s heavy expectations, versus ye olde rival, Real Madrid. Barça is owned by its members. Some
170, 000 Catalans buy season tickets each year, and for the small price of 177 Euros, they get to own a part of the club. They ARE the club.

I was in a jet-lagged stupor the night of the match. But I could still see the excitement everywhere – bars overflowed with over-excited men consuming lots of beer. Scarves and mittens and beanies in the Barça scarlet and blue could be seen everywhere (actual Barça jerseys were not so obvious, hidden beneath the massive coats required to fend off the unseasonably cold weather).

Like all things Spanish, it did not start until late. In my hometown, Brisbane Roar starts all their games at around 7pm. In Spain, they don’t start til 9pm. Of course. And after thirty hours of transit, my fogginess and thick-headedness was only going to be cured by some serious sleep. So, as much as I wanted to watch this bloody battle go down, bed beckoned more.

I awoke the next morning, ventured out very early (damn jet lag) onto La Ramblas, and was greeted by a grey-black day. Not just the weather – frigid, gelid, effing cold – but the mood – grey, black, unhappy.

Over my morning coffee and pastry, I asked the waiter what the score had been, having already figured out that a loss had occurred. “Why you try to make me sad, Miss Kangaroo-lady? Why you make me remember this?” he questioned, only half jokingly. “It was TRAG-edy, that’s what it was. TRAG-E-DY.”

“Did Madrid deserve to win?” I asked, rather foolishly.

“Madrid NEVER deserve to win!” he said, looking at the strange kangaroo-lady in front of him as though it was the dumbest question on earth. He then proceeded to give me a long explanation about why Barca had lost, when they should have won. Apparently (and this is a football lay-person paraphrasing a very passionate diatribe, delivered quickly and feverishly through a thick Catalan accent), the usual manager of Barça, who has been instrumental in the team’s ongoing success and achievement, has gone and unfortunately gotten himself cancer. Which is unfortunate for him, and very unfortunate for the team. For the replacement manager is not good, not good at all. Not enough experience, you see. And this is not good for Barcelona as a whole, not good at all.

And all of this was making the general Catalan population very, very concerned.

Lucky for me, there was a rematch a few days later, for the European league. On Saturday, I jostled my way into a random bar that had proclaimed its possession of a big screen TV on multiple blackboards out on the street. Managing to sneakily score myself a bar stool (stalk and pounce, stalk and pounce), I was then able to sit amongst the local peeps and watch the spectacle for myself.

It was madness. Yelling, screaming, the Barça war cry. (It’s very complex. It goes something like this: Barça! Barça! Barçaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!) Way too much beer. Lots of testosterone. Lots of general shouting and gesticulating. These people are seriously passionate about their fotbal.

And again, lots of disappointment.

The bar man had been giving me good-natured cheek, calling me ‘Skippy’. (Always with the kangaroos!) I decided to give my own back. “That’s twice in one week, isn’t it?” (Accompanied by a dashing smile, of course. Always smile when you are poking the bear!)

“Don’t look at me!” he intoned. Half fake, half fierce. “Is it you bringing us bad luck? You arrived the day we lost, you are still here and we lose again! Maybe Skippy is responsible!”

He then proceeded to pour me a shot of some scary looking liquor. He made me shout Barça, Barça, Barçaaaaaaaaaa, then drink. Taking one for the team, he explained. To get rid of the bad luck, you see. (A tradition I am perfectly happy to embrace, it must be said!)

Liquor downed, and the bar now filled with depressed and drunk spectators, I took my leave. “You’ll be back later, yeah?” the bar man asked. Smiling and nodding is much easier than explaining that the hour of 9.30pm, combined with quite a few glasses of wine (plus a gratis shot or two!) meant I was close to bedtime. Any self-respecting Catalan would likely scoff at this infantile hour of retirement, but I turned in anyway.

I will have left Spain by the time the two rivals face again. Perhaps this means there is hope for Barça after all. Cheers to that.

Old city, Barcelona

Why I needed a second date with Barcelona

Barcelona has got under my skin. I didn’t think it would, at first. At first it felt too rough and raw. I was a bit… affronted. Confronted. Back-to-fronted. All of which are, of course, the reasons we say we want to go traveling in the first place. And yet the reality of them can be very overwhelming. Disconcerting. Unpleasant, even.

When I arrived in Barcelona, it was to unseasonably cold, miserable, grisly weather. (Oh, and killer jet lag. But that is to be expected when flying from Australia!)

The city seemed so in your face. Waiters and maître d’s who are almost aggressive in their ‘invitation’ to you to look at their menu. Shopkeepers who are so persistent in their attentions that I kept purchasing things more out of wanting them to leave me alone than anything else. And males on the street who pay me far more attention than I ever receive in Australia (seriously, it’s bizarre!).

On top of this, I was openly scolded a few times. A waiter who berated me for sitting at a particular table (which, I might add, another waiter had guided me to). A taxi driver who got remarkably aggressive when I wanted to pay by card and asked for a receipt. And I unknowingly took the wrong orange from a pile in the market, and in my too-delicate jet-lagged state, nearly wanted to cry when the woman scolded me like a naughty and stupid child for a full two minutes.

And I was scared. So scared. Of everything, but mainly pick-pockets. Let me tell you, if you are a chica travelling alone to Barcelona, be warned: do not trawl through travel blogs devoted to the subject of personal safety in this enchanted city. For it will scare the bejeebers out of you. Be-JEE-bers. Endless tales of stolen wallets, handbags and luggage may have you regretting your decision to travel there on your lonesome ownsome. There’s a reason for this plethora of pick-pockets, by the way. Laws against personal theft are lenient – non-existent if the offender is under 18 – making it difficult for police to enforce. Combine this with the fact that the economy has been hit hard and unemployment is presently at 26 (twenty six!) per cent. All factors combined, pick-pocketing is not so much an act of mischief, but an accepted profession. Whilst violent crime is low, your belongings are more likely to be nicked in Barcelona than any other European city.

But slowly I figure it out. I ignore all beggars. As much as that breaks my heart. I get better at simply leaving a store (without parting with any dineros) when a shop assistant is being pushy. And I lock the zipper of my bag every time I use it.

And I get off the Ramblas, which is key.

La Ramblas in the morning

The Ramblas is the main strip of Barcelona. It’s lined with bars, restaurants and stalls; theatres, churches, museums; a market, the metro and numerous street performers… Basically, it’s a traveller’s mecca. All of my guidebooks had said it was a fun place to hang out, that the bars were great, that there were heaps of exciting things to do. And even more convincing, I had had two separate, unconnected friends tell me that La Ramblas was their favourite place, that it was likely where I’d end up every night because it was the coolest, funnest, most adjectivally-abundant part of the city to hang out in.

Heeding such exuberant advice, I booked my accommodation right next to the famed strip, an excellent central position, and proceeded to explore it, expecting wonders and marvels and a truly Catalan experience.

What I found, however, did not float my boat. Sure, there is plenty to see and do, and you should indeed visit La Ramblas during your time in the Big B. However, you should then just as quickly get off it. I spent two days trying to take in all its pleasures, as my friends had assured me this was the best Barcelona had to offer, but I found them distinctly wanting. It felt like a superficial hammed-up imprint of Catalan culture. Spanish culture, even (which is very different to Catalan).

This was not the character-filled gothic city of my imaginings. This was a highly touristic area where you could easily find yourself in a bar where more people spoke English than Catalan. Where all the menus have paella and sangria on them, neither of which are native to the region, but which are served anyway to satisfy unaware-and-insistent tourist demand. Where party-ready lads from other parts of Europe come for testosterone-fuelled bucks’ nights (Hola Niels and Lewis!)…

In hindsight, I should have realised way earlier that it was not what I was after, that it was a manufactured version, that it was not-quite-real. It was – for those of you from the land of Oz – akin to visiting the Gold Coast and spending all your time on Cavill Avenue. Sure, it’s fun for a bit, and plays an iconic role in the identity of the GC, but the real beauty of that city can only be experienced by getting away from that touristic zone and out into the more truthful places.

My enjoyment of the city skyrocketed as soon as I began exploring beyond the tourist-and-English-language-friendly borders of the Ramblas – the trendy El Born district, the upmarket Passeig de Gracias, the many sites of Montjuic…

But it was the Gothic Quarter in particular that sang to me. I experienced a moment of near-cathartic peace and pleasure inside the unexpectedly tranquil and amazing cloister of the Church of Santa Anna. I had an orgasmic cultural conniption over the impromptu guerilla opera concert I stumbled upon in a random alleyway near the Arc de Bisbe. And I re-visited the 13 geese inside the cloister of Barcelona Cathedral five times (one goose for each of St Eulalia’s torments!). (Ummm, in case you can’t tell, I love cloisters, they are my new favourite thing!)

The cloister inside Barcelona’s Cathedral

I fell in love with the dark and twisty old city. This Barcelona is one where every twisting passageway gives way to an amazing church or plaza or Roman ruin. The street corners are populated by millennia-old fountains, twisted-and-gnarled iron work and street performers of every persuasion. I stumbled into hidden courtyards and hidden tapas bars. I saw walls covered in glorious decorative tiles and walls pockmarked by civil war artillery and walls covered in urine. In short, it was everything that I had imagined, and more. I devoted a large amount of time to just wandering through its wonders, each time seeing something new, each time slowly finding my way a bit better and also getting that little bit more lost.

It was wonderful.

I also fell in love with everything Gaudi, a man who designed such beautiful and bizarre and over-the-top architecture that it gave us our English word ‘gaudy’. Yet somehow, his work manages to exist absolutely perfectly – harmoniously, even -  in the Barcelona streetscape.

Gaudi’s Casa Battlo on the right. This house is kah-RAY-zee!

So the message of all of this is that if you are traveling somewhere and staying within your comfort zones, then you’re not doing it right. That if you’re not enjoying a city, venture further, deeper, wider. And that Barcelona is wonderful. Just wonderful.

It wasn’t love at first sight. But sometimes a second look is well worth it.

Have you been to Barcelona?

Very happy selfie. In Park Guell, a park designed by Antoni Gaudi and filled with crazy awesome architecture…

And I´m off…

By the time you are reading this, I will be on a plane. Thanks to the wonders of WordPress scheduling, I wrote this a few days ago, just summing up how I’d been feeling in the lead up to this Most Momentous Occasion.

In a word, crazy.

Crazy-excited, crazy-scared, crazy-crazy-filled-with-anticipation!

This is my first proper trip overseas, at the grand old age of 29. When I say first ‘proper’ trip, I’m not counting the trip to New Zealand a few years back. Not because it wasn’t great (I am in love with the land of the long white cloud, and I could live there one day. I seriously loved it), but because most Australians and New Zealanders will concede that… it doesn’t really count. Our lovely neighbours just across the way share so many similarities with us, and us with them, that it’s not really a culture shock to visit there. I think its easy for us to feel at home over there. And what I want right now is a culture shock to smack me in the face. You know. Like getting hit in the head with a croissant.

It’s not that I’ve never wanted to travel before, it’s just that I never had occasion to go before. And what I mean by that, is that I never had anybody to go with. I always wanted to go with someone. Which isn’t unusual at all. But whenever friends were off doing the backpacking thing, there was something going on in my life that made it not a good time. And my long-term boyfriend during my early twenties was never much interested in travel. And seeing as one´s partner is the most convenient travel-buddy, when my partner didn’t want to, I let it slip off my radar. (And didn’t much mind, it must be said).

And then, of course, there was the whole ‘having depression for years-and-years-and-years’ thing, which meant that I could hardly face living life day to day in a city which I’d known forever, let alone trying to do so in a foreign face-smacking city. (Although, that said, with the glorious ruby-tinted vision of hindsight, I now wonder whether for that very reason it wouldn’t have been the best thing in the world for me back then. Perhaps being smacked around the head a few times with a baguette may have spurred me into action and recovery? Who knows?!)

Fast forward a bunch of years to last year. 2012. Where I have a crazy-beautiful-wonderful boyfriend who is into travel. We start talking about it. Then we start talking about it a little more. Then I start picking up travel brochures and we start looking at them together. Then we spend a lovely little night on the couch together looking at all the places we want to go and looking up potential flights etc.

And then, in that way that sometimes happens in relationships, we somehow come to each be operating under different understandings. We had what is known as a ‘miscommunication’ based on an ‘assumption’. And you know what they say about assumptions – we all fall on our asses (wait, is that it?).

I suddenly realised that I was operating under the assumption that we were going traveling together. That we were exploring options about where we would go. But we were definitely going!

Whereas he was operating on the assumption that we we exploring options about what we were doing in general. Travel was one of many options.

He was looking at travel brochures in an exploratory surgery kind of way. Whereas I was deciding between heart and lungs, but had already fully committed to the cardio-thoracic region.

And I only realised the error of my assumptive ways after he said something once that indicated that his priorities had changed – travel was important to him, but buying a house (which had been something he had wanted for a really long time) was taking clear precedence on his List.

When I realised this, at first I was kind of angry. Which was totally fun for him, let me tell you. After a proper, grown-up discussion, it became clear how we’d come to have these different ass-umptions. Turns out we communicate a leeeetle bit differently sometimes. He’ll throw ideas around and explore things out loud. It’s how he rolls. I, on the other hand, as a chronic planner, latch onto things and build castles on those ideas, not realising that the foundations are built on sand.

After our Most Grown-Up Discussion, I stopped being angry, cos it wasn’t either of our faults, and I fully understood his desire for a house (hell, it was such a close second on my list I could have been quite easily swayed onto the same path).

And then I started being sad, because I started to think that I had lost my opportunity to travel again. I finally had this beautiful, perfect partner, but the timing wasn’t right again. And this time I did mourn for the fact that travel was, once again, not a possibility.

See, it had never occurred to me that I could go by myself.

I don’t quite know why, seeing as I am a fiercely independent, strong-willed, headstrong person.

But there you go. It just wasn’t on my radar as a possibility, even.

What happened, was my boyfriend. (I hope this doesn’t get gushy). Basically, he opened my mind to the possibility that I could do it by myself. That I could do whatever I wanted, in fact. That I could do anything. (He’s that special). Basically, he encouraged me to actively pursue the dreams that had been brewing for a long time, but that I had always found convenient excuses for not following.

Somehow, I managed to hear him, and realise he was absolutely right.

And so I decided what I wanted to do and set about taking all those little steps along the way to make it a reality.

I decided Europe. I decided three months. I decided to quit my job. And I did all those things.

And here I am on a plane.

I’ve said to my boy a few times, thank goodness for moments of boldness and for non-refundable deposits. It is only the combination of these two things that have seen me continue with my original plan. Cos in the interceding few months, I’ve definitely had moments of fear so intense, that I would have jumped on the opportunity to take it all back. (You know those moments. They’re the ones accompanied by a dry mouth, a roiling stomach, palpable panic and a loud inner voice inside your head saying ‘what the hell were you thinking, Jessie? Three months, are you CRAY-ZEE?!!’)

But, like I said, here I am on a plane. Bound for Barcelona. If the last few weeks are anything to go by, this very second I am probably a champagne-bottle of excitement, about to fizz over on to everyone around me. I also probably have tapeworms of fear doing nasty things to the butterflies in my stomach. I also probably had a few tears in the car saying goodbye to my Mum (I love my Mum!), and then probably shed more than a few saying goodbye to Adam. Who seriously made all this possible. Or who made me believe it was all possible. And who I will miss with every cell and butterfly and tapeworm.

But now it’s just time to be excited. I think it’s totally normal to be scared, but that that’s why we do it. That that’s half the value. The scaredness can just flow along in the background as long as it needs to, but the rest of me is going to focus on all the awesomery around me.

 

Patience is a virtue

So I may have mentioned that at the end of February, I’M LEAVING MY JOB! AND GOING TRAVELING! AND STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS! (Phew! Fist pump! Exhale!)

The point of this musing is not to ramble about my various new directions, but to talk about patience. Because I have another few weeks at my job before I leave. And if I succumb to the enormous impatience that is periodically raging and swelling inside of me, then I ain’t gonna be a very pleasant person to be around for the next few weeks.

It is no coincidence that the first self-growthy goal that I am tackling for the new year is meditation. And I consider this pursuit somewhat of a community service (big of me, I know!). I am embracing meditation and the calm, centred, peaceful feeling that it brings, hoping that it will balance out the insane levels of burbling excitement that occasionally threaten to spill over and consume both me and everyone around me.

Not that I think that there’s anything wrong with excitement and anticipation. In their way, they can be totally delicious. The last few days before my boyfriend and I are reunited each time he comes home from his fly-in-fly-out job are sometimes really quite sacred moments of heightened awareness and love. (Sometimes, however, they are just freaking frustrating.)

And I am really grateful to have so many things in my life at the moment that I am looking forward to. It is an amazing, amazing time, and I haven’t felt this excited for I don’t know how long.

But this excitement and anticipation also makes me kind of wary. John Demartini talks in a few of his books about every feeling, by necessity, and by their essence, having an opposite. What goes up, must come down. You can’t experience joy without sorrow, bravery without meekness, elation without despair.

And I suppose I would really like to be experiencing these insanely exciting times without being quite so attached or emotionally heightened. Because I am so excited right now that I am a little bit scared that I might just burst or bottom out or blow up. I’d like to have just a little more of the ‘observer’ in me and be a little less of the fully-succumb-to-every-fleeting-emotion-like-a-crazy-hormonal-teenager type gal.

Hence the meditation.

Hence the practical action steps that I am trying to tie myself to, in order to sink my energies into actually achieving travel-related things rather than just swirling in an excited thought-vortex. You know, like ‘book train ticket from Girona to Paris’. And ‘buy a camera’. And ‘decide how many pairs of undies you’ll actually need for three months, noting that you’re not great at doing laundry’.

And hence the recognition that patience is necessary. And it is necessary to practice presence now. And that I do indeed believe that presence takes practice. And the word ‘practice’ implies that there will be ups and downs, fanfares and failings in the process. And it’s all okay.

I think that if I don’t start flexing the patience-slash-presence muscle now, I may find myself in Paris yearning to already be in Rome, or to be home, or to be in the arms of my boy, when I have spent the preceding three months longing for nothing but chocolate croissants and real champagne and cheesy-cheesy pizza.

What I am saying, my sweets, is that if I’m not frickin’ careful, I may end up spending the next four months not being where I am.

Which is less than ideal, to say the least. Especially when there are croissants to be savoured and schnapps to be sampled and pizzas that I have not yet met.

Really, I wish to be exactly where I am, wherever that may be. That is my wish for me.

I want to savour these last few weeks at work in all their frustrating glory. It is because of those feelings of frustration that I finally had the courage to make this book-a-ticket-and-leave, consequences-be-damned decision. I want to marinate in those feelings and bottle them up. Then I can unstopper them during the inevitable moments of frustration in my new working life and remind myself why I made my decision.


And I definitely want to be where I am on my travels. Be it at an airport waiting lounge or the Eiffel Tower or mid-mouthful of flaky chocolate pastry. Because to not be exactly where I am would be an unfortunate missing-of-the-point. A wasted opportunity. A cause of regret somewhere down the line.

And I am reminded of this:

‘No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.’ (Barbara Brown Taylor)

I don’t need to go anywhere, none of us do.

Traveling is super exciting and definitely important and crazy growth-inducing.

But all of this is also true of standing still…

 

This is me steering…

 

So I have exciting news. Very exciting news. I wrote a post a little while ago about how I wanted to go traveling next year but was having trouble committing to where and when and for how long.

About a month ago, I finally made the decision: At the end of February next year, I am going to Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Hungary for just under three months. By myself. Which is slightly scary.

As you can imagine, I am super excited.

 

 

And then, when I get back from my overseas traipsing, I won’t be returning to my job. I am going to be starting my own business. Finally doing something that sets my heart aflutter and my innards on fire. It is still taking shape in my mind, but it all revolves around writing. And this is almost more exciting than the travel itself. This will be me shaping my career by myself, my way. Which is slightly scary.

And, as you can imagine, I am super excited.

For so long, I have felt like I haven’t been making decisions actively. I have felt very much like I’ve been at the mercy of the swirling tides around me. I’ve felt like I’ve been acting at the whim of the surrounding forces – whether that was having an ex-partner with strong ideas about what he wanted, or doing a uni course just because I could get into it, or sticking around at a job that didn’t challenge me at all because it was convenient.

I think that a lot of this was based on not knowing what I wanted. Except, truth be told, I think I did know what I wanted, I just didn’t want to admit it. Because it’s not the path that I am supposed to take. Because it means not using my university degree. Because there is a whole lot more risk following creative pursuits. Because admitting meant that I could fail.

So this not knowing – or not admitting to myself what I did know – meant that I just didn’t make a whole lot of decisions full stop. I just went where the wind took me. I do not know how I came to miss out on this piece of Most Important Information, but here it is: I did not realise that I had the power to not only influence my life, but to actively create it. I just kind-of floundered along.

In fact, I have only realised that there was an alternative to this method of life-living in the past year or so. At the grand old age of 29, no less. And let me tell you, it has opened up a whole array of possibilities and opportunities that I had not let myself even hope for previously.

It was my wonderful boyfriend who actually illustrated this point to me. He wanted something really bad in his career. He had no experience, no skills and not really any contacts at all. And yet he made it happen.

And at first, I couldn’t figure it out: “But how did you do it?”

Him: “I just did it. I decided what I wanted and just did everything that I could do to make it happen.”

“But weren’t you scared?”

“Yeah.”

“Weren’t you worried that you might run out of money or that it might take forever or that it might not work?”

“Yeah.”

“Weren’t you worried that you might just fail and all of your efforts would have been for nothing?”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

“And just do it anyway.”

“But how do you do it?”

“You just do something.”

“Hmmmmmm…”

Somehow, watching him achieve what he wanted to do over the past year has helped me figure out that I can actually do that too, in my own life. He was super scared and risked a whole bunch and had to spend a lot of money to get there. But he still did it, and I can too. I don’t have to keep going on doing things that aren’t fulfilling me. I don’t have to spend my life in a supposedly ‘good’ job that makes my heart sink just a little more each day. I don’t have to settle for what is.

Instead, I can actively make choices and steer my life in the direction that I wish it to go.

These two decisions – travel and career - are so massive for me, and they are filling me with enormous amounts of hope and excitement. What I love about my life is that I am creating it. I may not have figured out all of the nuts-and-bolts yet, but my course is finally set in a direction where I want to go. Where I choose to go. This is me steering…

 

Granules of Wanderlust

 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover – Mark Twain.

 

I have grand travel plans for next year. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I have grand travel ideas and yearnings and longings and ponderings for next year. But ‘plans’? Strictly speaking, I do not have plans. You see, it turns out I’m a commitment-phobe. Not relationship-wise – totes committed to my beautiful boy (Ha! He hates the word ‘totes’!), but a commitment-phobe for generic, future-related things. Even, it turns out, for massively exciting, crazy-awesome future-related things like travel plans.

 

I’ve always been a commitment-phobe though. I’ve always been the girl who doesn’t want to buy tickets to see her favourite band in six months time because ‘I don’t know where I’ll be, I might not even be living in the same city by then.’ Yet I’ve lived in the same city for the past six years. I’m hesitant to commit to anything in a couple of months time, cos I don’t know if I’ll still be in the same job or still living in the same house or just… you know, still vibing my current vibe. And yet really, on proper examination, most of these things stay pretty damn constant for me.

 

I first had the germ of the idea for my Grand Travel Plans around my birthday. I realised that there were a heap of places that I really wanted to go-see-taste, and if I didn’t consciously start saving-planning-creating, I would never get to see them. Since then, I started a savings plan and compiled a list of places I want to go and have been lapping up all sorts of travel stories online (some really excellent, delicious, tantalising ones!) but now…

 

I have come to another baulking point!

 

Booking my flights. Which of course nails down your time frame, dictates which country you start in and end in and cements your financial commitment to the plan. I hope to go for three months, which means that I think I will be quitting my job. Which is a whole-nother-kettlebell of scary fish (an exciting kettlebell though, but still scary)…

 

So this is me here, on Wednesday 19 September, declaring to the world (or to my very small corner of it!) that by the end of October, I will book my flights. I am gettin’ this shiz done (in a timeframe that doesn’t freak me the hell out!).

 

Big fat yay and a pile of crackers. This is super exciting. Equal amounts of insane awesomeness and scare-the-pants-off-me crazy. But bring it on!

 

 

 

Images from here + Design Sponge
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