This new journey comes, finally, as a relief, something I’ve been planning for ten years, and yet at the same time it’s a novelty. Not quite like anything I’ve done before. I suppose it’s like an extended road trip in some ways.
Ten years ago, when my nest emptied, I sold my house and wandered off, with very little planning…..and certainly not traveling light – I was lugging Guy’s snowboard, and I’d bought the world’s biggest suitcase. Guy had gone off to university in the US, and there were a thousand things to take over, as well as Christmas gifts – I went for New Year. I’d given away most of my furniture. Sold some stuff at car boot sales, the remains were stored in a garage, and Trixy was in kennels.
In April I was back, and at an impasse. For one thing I was excruciatingly aware of how the travels had eaten into the money from the house sale, and I was unaware of the possibilities of working online in any form, to fund my travels. My lifelong wanderlust had never died, though it had been partly sated by emigration, and the challenges and happiness of motherhood, but it was rising ferociously. Then I got a job offer, out of the blue, so, in panic, I did the conventional thing, and bought an apartment (in El Médano as it happens) and kind of settled down………because, you know, that was the sensible thing to do. I, actually, did travel around Europe and the US east coast that year, in bits and pieces. Somewhere I have a diary I kept – a real one, which tied with a bow, and in which I wrote in pen! Though I’d enjoyed the year unreservedly, I wrote on December 31st, there was something missing. I decided that it had almost been too “nice.”
For two months after closing my diary and tying the ribbon, that thought plagued me. Pleasant as life was, I was restless, and haunted by the feeling that I was missing out on something important. I liked my apartment, my sons were settled, my work was easy, friendships un-demanding. Isn’t this a desirable state of being?
Life was comfortable, and as we know, comfort zones can be killers. I needed for things to wrong, or at least to have the potential to go wrong. Otherwise this pleasant but boring pattern might continue for the rest of my life…..that’s the reality of on the cusp of 60……that’s what happens to people…….they stop …….. they atrophy.
In March I put the apartment up for sale, and in April I moved out. My plans were utterly amorphous. I was getting away from an agreeable prison, not running towards something concrete. I wandered some of the east coast of the US for three months or so, and then guilt got the better of me, and I returned to Tenerife to reunite with my dog. We spent two months living at the beach in the picture above, La Tejita, which is close by El Médano. We rose before daybreak, walked and paddled and swam, and during the day, when it was hot, I passed my time repacking the boxes which I been storing in this same apartment since April, until I’d whittled it all down some more.
This is to say that it was my third round of deciding what to toss or what to keep, during this particular phase in my life; once, when I sold the house; again when I sold the apartment, and now three times. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy. The physical evidence of a lifetime’s memories is hard to discard. Each time I learned, and I lessened my ties to material trivia, favorite mugs, paintings, even books. That last there? That’s the second hardest clearing out to achieve. It goes without saying that the younger you are if you do this, the easier this process is. It was something which emigrating had already taught me, and divorce had confirmed, but what I’d built up in my time here was far more precious than stuff I’d left behind in England in 1987, because these treasures were my most important memories, those of my kids growing up.
I put the residue in storage and set off again – England, France, Italy, mainland Spain, with another, brief, guilt-driven trip back to the island to check on my dog. I stayed away until January, when my money had almost run out, and it was obvious that I needed to earn some more to fuel more traveling. A dead-end job again – because how can anyone take you seriously for a “proper” job when you can’t hide the fact that you have ants in your pants? No money left to buy an apartment, and certainly not wanting to commit to a mortgage, I rented, yawned and settled back into a similar pattern. The job was such a joke a five-year old could have held it down, and it offered me plenty of opportunity for vicarious travel, sometimes entire days when nothing happened, and I scoured Rolf Potts or Boots ‘n’ All. These blogs were much younger and rawer then, and full of the binding compulsion to travel. The younger generation had conquered the ins and outs of the world, had surged through the gateways opened up by the beats and hippies of the 60s.
I learned about the technology of it all. I swapped my desktop for a laptop, bought a digital camera, and made bucket lists. I was, actually, going back to a younger version of me. All of these dreams which had been gently and willingly stored away during motherhood, came tumbling out. And then; something happened; and in a sense the world came to me for a while.
I’d become a Red Cross volunteer in late 2005. My dreams for the future had included volunteer work. It was something I’d explored at 19, chickened out of, and long regretted. For reasons which would take far too long to explain here, I became totally absorbed by the work for the next two and half years. I was fulfilled, despite the soul-destroying jobs (I swapped one dead-end for another during the time). During these years I began an OU course, and an ESL teaching course, I moved house twice, and did numerous courses with the Red Cross. My social life was vibrant, if not what I was used to. I made amazing friendships. I met dozens and dozens of folk from around the world, from a myriad backgrounds. I was learning and gaining twice as much as I was giving. I pushed myself to physical and mental limits, and didn’t exhaust them. My travel dreams were happily shelved in my happiness. The only negative in my world was that I couldn’t get over to visit Guy in the US. In personal terms I learned that I had much more inside of me still to be explored. In material terms the moving house and changing jobs left me broke……or so I thought.
As the project wound down I began to write again…..and the rest of the story? Well, you can probably piece it together from this blog, because that’s more or less the point at which it began. Dead-end job number two dissolved, and that’s when I thought I was really broke (wrong again) but in its farewell it furnished me with my camera. I moved house again. Since then the travel bug has loomed large in my life, and, like any illness or obsession, been a source of frustration. There have been a few trips, which have served to stoke the fires. I have studied and learned, although the OU course had to be abandoned through lack of funds. A little under two years ago the final (?) crunch – learning that without making social security contributions for another two years (which I can’t afford) there is no pension. I moved house again. Each move meant re-evaluation of my possessions. You would think that perhaps there was nothing left to evaluate? To be fair, at the outset I had quite a lot more than many folk ever have.
So, here I am again, It seems to me that this time the paring down has gone about as far as I am willing to go. The things I collected since 1996 are mostly gone. Two kinds of things remain: the things which really do hold memories, gifts from my kids, my favorite Christmas decorations, letters, postcards, the paintings of five-year-olds, my mom’s favorite dress, and such stuff; and books. I’ve sold dozens, I’ve given away more to the local charities which sell them secondhand on the markets to raise funds. Yet still about 20 boxes remain to go into storage, and another two boxes are packed to take with me. In this digital age, which I feel I’ve embraced willingly, I still love my books.
The deciding and discarding is almost done. Some packing remains. As to the dreaming? Well, in my mind’s eye there is a house on a beach, where all my books and precious things are kept. I return to this house every now and then, to rest and enjoy the peace. Financially, it’s just that, a dream. I can’t travel and have a home like that, but in the words of the song:
“You gotta have a dream.
If you don’t have a dream.
How ya gonna have a dream come true?”