“I want to see something new and for it to ‘wow’ me, take my breath away. I’m ready for that something new. I’m beyond ready.” Me: sometime last year.
My whole being ached with the need for new experiences, new sights and places. I may have written them on my Facebook page or profile. I may have written them in an email to a friend, or I may have just typed them out and kept the file, which I found just now, to remind me. I don’t remember, but I do remember that feeling. I’m guessing that lots of you will have felt it too.
This time last year my life was very pleasant. I was living in El Médano in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, a town that I liked a lot. I was teaching ESL. I had a pleasant social life. I ran on the beach in the morning. I was writing pretty much as much as I am writing now. For the first time in a long time both of my sons had landed jobs they really loved, and were looking forward to exciting things in the months ahead.
I was 66, and my life could have gone on that way forever. But, pleasant as it was, did a lifetime of same old, same old really appeal to me? Of course it didn’t! It doesn’t matter how much you’ve been able to travel, if you were born with wanderlust, as so many of us are, then you can never settle down. You actually need to keep moving around, to challenge yourself, both mentally and physically.
“To Dream the Impossible Dream” Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha (or at least lyricist Joe Darion!)
For a while, I had two obstacles, which had prevented me from moving on. One was Trixy, and the other was lack of funds. My last travels had been way too extravagant, and had left me with debt, on top of that I’d been made redundant at 63 which had meant there was no pension for me in Spain, so the picture wasn’t rosy, and it looked like I might never do any real traveling again.
It was attending the 2012 World Travel Market in London which planted the seed of my odyssey. It germinated over last winter. First, I had to devise a way in which I could travel with Trixy, and secondly it had to cost nothing! Hmmm, impossible?
Well, no, because I’m doing it now, and that sehensucht, that longing, if it is still around, is sulking in a corner of my heart somewhere, because right now there is little to feed it.
The travel must needs be slow, because my outgoings can’t go beyond what they were before. That means that I have to find long-term lets rather than vacation-type rentals. Long terms are cheaper because a landlord is guaranteed a set period, whilst vacation lets are rarely filled for 52 weeks per year. This bothers me not at all, because I love slow travel. I love to try to get under the skin of a place.
The travel also needs to be by car and boat, because the cost of flying Trixy anywhere is prohibitive. Since I already had my blog title, IslandMomma, then islands it had to be, and since I was already in the Canary Islands, then what better place to start? Although I’d visited 5 of the 7 main islands, I didn’t really know them.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
It’s true. Maybe when what you hope for presents itself you don’t recognize it, because it isn’t what you imagined. You need to want it enough, and you need to have your eyes and heart open wide to see it when it comes, because it may come in diguise.
Ten years ago, when I began scheming and dreaming, spending hours of my dead-end job reading blogs like Rolf Potts or Boots ‘n’ All, I didn’t see myself doing exactly this. In my mind’s eye I was watching gorillas in Uganda or tramping the Amazon forests or even sailing somewhere. And, had I been cleverer with my money, I would have done at least some of those things the first time I wandered away, when my nest officially emptied. Perhaps I didn’t want them enough, or perhaps I’d been spoiled by too much comfort over the years; or, perhaps, some gremlin in my brain was sabotaging me, knowing what a chicken I was, so that my money running out would be the excuse I needed for not being brave enough to follow my travel dreams.
The seed growing in my brain, the universe came to my aid in the form of C and N, two students who found me early last summer. I’ve never advertised, barely looked for teaching work, students, somehow, have always found me. I could trace back their route. I could say if it wasn’t for S, who recommended them; and if it wasn’t for MA who had recommended me to her; and if it wasn’t for the circumstances in which I’d met MA…..and so on. I suppose all we ever have done has lead us to this precise second in our lives.
I mentioned in my first meeting with C and N, to discuss a schedule for their classes, that I wouldn’t be teaching beyond summer, as I was intending to move on. At that time I had no firm plans, just this sprouting idea. They said they had friends who had an apartment in La Gomera, and I had one of those moments when I knew with complete clarity and happiness that this was my future. If I made a movie of my life, there would be colorful, wee fireworks going off all around my head.
Thus it was in the black pre-dawn in early October, Trixy and I, and a ridiculous amount of ‘stuff’ rumbled onto the ferry for La Gomera. It was a disappointingly short, but aesthetically appropriate, journey to start a new life, what with the sunrise over the Atlantic, and the tunnels to what seemed like an alternative universe.
The apartment turned out to be another dreamlike element in this journey which the Universe was now positively propeling me towards.
“……Eating the Lotus, day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;”
Alfred Lord Tennyson “The Lotus Eaters”
Floating on a wave of happiness from a month of delightful travel, La Gomera became for me a continuation of the same, as sunny day merged into sunny day. I wandered, I ate, I sat by the ocean to work, but I did little research, or much to move on the status quo my life was in – again!
And life was, once more, very pleasant. I discovered that village life had depths I hadn’t envisaged…. Bars which played blues and opera; others which offered original cuisine, not to mention fashion shows, salsa classes, and other novel evenings; visitors and locals who led interesting lives, not at all the quiet stay-at-homes you might envisage. Then there was the truly lush and spectacular scenery, worthy of Lord of the Rings; magic forests and hidden valleys, secluded coves and pounding waves. There was cheese and wine, chickpea stews, sweet potatoes, aubergines fried and drizzled with palm honey, and when the weather turned in late December, delicious watercress soups.
Some lotus eating took place, if not literally, then figuratively. Then came the worst winter in Canarian memory. I’ve seen heavy rains on the islands before, but wave after wave of the wet stuff, driven by fierce winds lashed the archipelago, and it began to dawn on me that in my trance I hadn’t taken enough snaps, and I determined as soon as the weather lifted to be back on track. Basically – didn’t happen. I left La Gomera to its mists and mysteries as I faced the sunrise over Tenerife on the ferry in early March.
A brief trip to those other isles in my life, the British ones, and another ferry, and another, until, bleary-eyed, on Thursday morning, Fuerteventura appeared on the horizon, both literally and on my personal horizon.
I chose this island next for several reasons. My itinerary is loose (I need to go back to La Gomera to complete an untold number of half-written stories for one thing), so I’m planning as I go along. Firstly I was looking for a complete contrast, and between the dense and enchanted forests of La Gomera and the white sands and gentle mountains, there couldn’t be much more of that. Secondly, I needed some sunshine – I really hadn’t realized how much I love the sun! Thirdly, there was another of those serendipitous moments, when I was told of this house share in a quiet village, another of those moments when the Universe gave me a push.
So here I am. Three days in, already feasted on seafood, some coastline explored, some lovely people met, and enjoying the light. This time there will be no lotus eating. For one thing my arrangements are for a very specific period. There is no chance of extending. I’ve had several points in my life where I have thought my life was idyllic and I didn’t want it to change – the thing is that it does change, and you can’t stop all of the changes, so it’s best to move on when you sense that the time is right. The lotus eating dulls your instincts, not maybe as much as the monotony so many folk endure does, but even contentment can have a price.