Friday, November 4, 2011

"Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." John Steinback, Travels with Charley.

I woke up this morning to an email forwarded from Mum for a 20% discount at Barnes & Nobles. Overwhelmed from spending all day yesterday cooking soups and trying to use up farm produce in the fridge before they go bad - at least we now have a freezer full of end-of-season deliciousness - I decided to take advantage of a trip out of the house. I went with the intention of wanting to buy Yotam Ottolenghi's other cook book but no such luck. I stood and stared in the cookbook section for at least half an hour, my head tilted trying to read the vertical titles of the tightly packed shelves of books and trying to figure out how they were ordered. The labels said by author, but it seemed like by subject....anyways and actually, I wasn't really that impressed with their book selection. Some of the books I wanted to buy just as "staples" of good cookbooks, some I wanted to buy to write down the recipes at home then return but they are probably online anyways, and other than that I felt a little seen-that, done-that. I wandered away, not empty handed though - one cheese book I have since become infatuated with that I couldn't resist buying, 20% off yah!! and another one I cannot disclose in case a certain someone is reading this and might receive it as a gift.

So, as I clearly have enough food at home to not need any more stimulating recipe incentives, I reconfigured my (financial) priorities and dragged myself away from my usual B&N spot to the travel section. Quickly, a new sense of exhilaration came over me as I browsed these shelves and my arms filled up with books with titles like Living Abroad in Australia, Only Pack What You Can Carry, In A Sunburned Country, The Songlines, A Woman Alone, Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust, Tales of a Female Nomad, Never Trust a Thin Chef (ok that one was about Italy)...I wanted to not only learn and be inspired by these books' trips and stories, but I had this intoxicating excitement that I too would be able to write and narrate my own, full of my own future trips and stories. I couldn't possibly afford all these, and why would you when there is such thing as a library? Off I went (cheese book and gift book in the bag) to the Portsmouth Library. Their collection wasn't quite as good as B&N but enough to get me started.

It's funny how 2 months can feel so far away, thinking about all the days in between that have to occur before that anticipated day arrives (regardless of all the little logistical things to do in between) but then standing in between stacks of bookshelves of endless stories makes you just wish time could slow down so that you could have enough time to read, learn, absorb, and be inspired by all that surrounds you? Wanting two impossible things at the same time is quite astounding.

I came across a book I had read over a year ago when I was in Portsmouth trying, again, to find where to go and what to do with my life. I guess with a year of travel experience and confidence behind me, the book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, stuck out and seemed a bit more relevant. (Unfortunately the book about how to travel lightly did not resonate so well. For all those study trips and stages in Italy where I had a shoulder bag and everyone else lugged suitcases behind them, this information was just common-sense wordage on a page to me. I tried desperately to take reasonable notes in pre-trip preparation: passport copies, suitcase lock, int'l converters....ummmmm!) Luckily, the author of Vagabonding, Rolf Potts, seemed to read my mind and somewhat related and made sense of all the mumble-jumble in my head that I am trying to sort out and explain, even to justify, to others, and to myself.
Let me see if I can explain. I'm kinda paraphrasing from the book slash incorporating my own thoughts.

Travel, it says, should not be about an escape or boredom, (although those sound like pretty good motivators and I've thought about those justifying grounds myself, questioning my own excuses or reasons for wanting to go to Australia) but it's more about passion, curiosity, and adventure. It's not about making some rebellion against social norms and what I should be doing, but instead trying to make my own sense within this life. Traveling is a personal reflection upon one's own life and I think it's obvious that people get different things out of it (observation from 26 of us traveling/living together for a year). And at the same time, I am not at all making any judgements or thoughtswhatsoever about what anyone else is doing, or not doing. It's not a social wave hello/goodbye or some sort of high ground, it's purely personal that demands a complete reflection upon myself. This is my life and everyone needs to live their own, the way they have to or want to.  I noticed when I left for Italy, and throughout my travels, a lot of people would say how jealous they were and wish they could travel too and were living vicariously through my blog and my facebook pictures.  Everyone has their own life boxes to tick off their priorities, and everyone does what is prevalently, essentially the most important to them. Something led me here.

I don't think I'm being irresponsible or self-indulgent; clearly I openly admit I do not have the financial means to do much, but I have been making little sacrifices, adjustments, and more thoughtful moves and purchases as I walk through these last couple months in a more deliberate, prioritized way. Yes, I've frozen a lot of bread, I've made a lot of soup and stuck it in the freezer to last through these next couple weeks, I don't go out much, I even dyed my hair a boring-librarian color so I wouldn't have to pay for highlight touch-ups in the future. Sacrifices! This has nothing to do with anyone else but my individual feat to...I don't know...hopefully improve my life in relation to myself, not to others. So when I say my goal isn't to move up the corporate ladder, that doesn't mean anything towards you, it's just not me...maybe I can even say not my goal "yet." Who Knows.

Life is too short to passively wait around for unknown circumstances to decide our future. I have no idea what I want to do with my life, with my education, but I like the different stages I've created along the way, learning and experiencing new things, meeting new people, and hopefully they'll all lead to something great. The book says the hardest part is deciding to go at all. I don't know about that. It was pretty easy for me, I was pretty convinced, I think since the 3rd grade - those penguins are calling my name! HA. I've been moving around a lot since I graduated - two years in NYC, 13 months in Portsmouth, 1 year in Italy, 3 months in Ireland, and another 7 months in Portsmouth, I'm antsy for what's next and to be an adult not living at home (love you mum and dad). So, Why Not? Financial logistics and obligations are the hardest thing for me, but since I have decided to go, life starts now with the planning, the researching, the saving, the anticipation. The daring uncertainty, the promising promises, the welcomed enthusiasm, the potential opportunities, the prospective stories are just exhilarating. Embracing those good with the bad makes me feel alive. At the same time it's looking towards the future and what I'll learn abroad (will my Irish accent come out when I hear Australian ones?), cultivating new interests (how long did I linger in the B&N travel section and then on to the library? all in one day? and now I'm writing about it!) as well as facing fears (many) and changing habits (read sacrifices above) to make the future more accessible.

I don't have a plan. I'm down for whatever, I'll make it work. I think I have a starting destination, I hope I do because it would be great despite any unnecessary pressure. I am officially an Australian WWOOF member, so I can live/eat for free in exchange for work ^ Awesome ^ I am ok with not having a plan though. I kinda like the uncertainty, I like having the willingness to be able to improvise, and most importantly, I think I have the confidence to do so. As the book says, having a positive attitude is way more important than having a set itinerary. Agreed. I'm excited about doing something completely on my own, having to figure it out myself, to tick off those spots you must see before you die (I'm not buying that book), trying and seeing new things, and getting excited to do simple things like figuring out the bus  or buying fruit in a stumbled-upon market that are so commonplace but because you're in a new place and did it all by yourself, it'll be like a little kid doing it for the first time. But I'll be 28 and loving life.

So wherever life takes me, wherever Australia takes me, and for whatever reasons brought me there, I'm excited. "The sheer wealth of options may seem overwhelming" - YES but ultimately I hope to find what drove me there (literally, it wasn't a $2,200 custom made limited edition rickshaw bike from Anthropologie), to make the trip for myself and what I believe I must do for my own life, and all the challenges and reasons and obstacles and awesome Instagram photos along the way, I know it's going to be worth it. I'll find this personal growth, awareness, and sensitivity the book talks about.....and if not, I'll be back in a month and figure out something else :)

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