My 2017 review, (Giving up almost everything I know for sure, to travel the world), was quite unusual. By December we were well into our travels, experiencing all kinds of interesting and exciting moments from the road. My regular process of reflection and goal setting did not feel necessary. Trying to stay within budget was the only real thing I kept track of. I was essentially free to live in the moment, taking each day as it came without worry of long-term consequences.
Since coming home, I’ve tried to keep one foot on the road of a traveller. Obviously that is a metaphor for the idea of ‘creating a life I don’t need a vacation from.‘ That key insight is one of the most important things I learned from travel. Being present in the moment, filling up my reservoir of joy and then living from that precious center, has been my focus. I will admit, some days I am far more successful at this than others. So, I feel compelled to honour what is working well for me through the yearly review process.
Waking up on New Year’s Day to a couple of teenagers with Bali belly, I have never felt so frightened. I felt a trembling in my body which I could not control. I finally knew that feeling of fear for real, not the manufactured crisis’s so common in the corporate world. I questioned if we should have ever left home. Halfway through our month in the tropical island paradise suddenly seemed rather trivial. Worrying about sick family members feels the same, no matter where you are. But as our time in Bali wound down, I discovered something very important about how people live and experience joy. (Start by taking a few steps in their shoes, let alone walking a mile.)
February tested our ability to roll with the punches in another way. This time nobody was sick, but we got stuck in Hong Kong. Not a bad place to wait out paperwork issues, but you never want to be detained, when you would rather be someplace else.
We made the long trek down to Cape Town in South Africa and learned many valuable lessons, first hand. Water shortages, endemic poverty, mixed with natural beauty and wild animals we had never seen before. Imagine going for a walk on the beach and having to be wary of baboons sharing the same stretch of sand!
Our 7,000km overland trip across Europe started in Lisbon in mid-March. There was supposed to be warmer average temperatures by that point in the year, but alas the days were still quite cool. We were forced to acquire some extra provisions in the form of warm clothes to tide us over. Either our position would reach far enough South or the days would be getting longer into Spring.
My birthday in April saw us is Split, Croatia and the days were warm enough to ride a Harley through the twisting roads along the sea. We didn’t do that, but many others, from around the world enjoyed the opportunity. By this point it was accepted that the four of us had to enjoy the new sights in our own way. Not everyone wants to do the same thing, just like riding a motorcycle is not universally enjoyable.
The divide between Europe and Asia straddles one ancient city which I found fascinating. Istanbul is foreign and exotic, yet familiar at the same time. The stone architecture and narrow streets would be at home in most old European cities which had wealth, power and status during construction. Yet, the Grand Bazaar is distinctly Turkish and could exist in that form, nowhere in the West.
The rest of May was spent in Greece, with a good chunk of time spent exploring the birthplace of democracy in Athens. The ancient sites which are ruins being reconstructed and the buildings which still stand are the places where public discourse formed the foundation of how we live in the West today. I treasure the time we spent in the capital and out on the island of Crete.
June held major transitions. First it was back to the English-speaking world for the first time since we left home. Landing at Manchester airport, we could not help but smile as we could understand what everyone was saying, all around us. We were graciously hosted by a family who opened their home and hearts to us. I could not remember the last time we had such royal treatment, possibly never.
After a quick stopover in London to officially end our foreign travels, we made the last flight of the trip back to where we started in Canada. It ended up being a busy few weeks, reconnecting with family and enjoying the celebration of life for my paternal Grandfather.
We returned to our house, which was a good reminder for how much we liked it! I thought it could go either way. I was not sure if we would decide to stay or be on the hunt to move. Turns out we were all ready to settle down and live the local life we had left behind. For now, we are rooted to this patch of earth.
Within a few days of returning home I started a new job with a very long commute. That was not a situation I could have imagined being excited about before leaving to travel. Back then, I was not open to big changes with different ways of doing things. Now, after 6 months on the new job, I still don’t love the idea of the commute and was happy to have a break from it, but all-in-all it is not that bad. I have so much time each day to myself. For the better part of three hours I can talk to no one and be in my own space, learning, reading and writing. I have actually come to cherish this routine of ‘me’ time.
As I look back on 2018, the central questions are what went well, what went wrong and what do I plan to change?
I am happy with most of how my year unfolded. Of course, I would not have asked for some things to occur, but there was always a silver lining. I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. I know that sounds cliché, but it is the truth. Travel changes a person and there is no way to shortcut those lessons. I might have wished for a bigger budget, while we were moving about, but now I’m glad funds were limited. Nothing breeds creativity like guard rails.
Not everything about being a nomad was a good thing. There were times of profound homesickness. We missed our lives with all the day-to-day, normal routines. Yet, we knew nothing would be exactly the same when we returned. How could it? We changed. All of us returned home, different people. Even if we can’t tell you precisely why, we feel it. Only those who have wandered will understand.
I would love to hit the road again, but I feel a calling in 2019 which I want to answer. I need to be on firm ground in order to reach my next set of goals, as do my kids. My husband was always a reluctant traveler, so I think he takes what comes, breathing a sigh of relief that my wanderlust has been quenched, for now.
Thank you for reading my thoughts on creativity. Each day, I hope to get a little closer to understanding how to design a lifestyle I don’t need a vacation from. I believe that focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives is an important aspect of happiness and ultimately wellness.
There are a couple of interesting projects on the horizon in 2019. The travel book will be digitally published by the summer. A creativity retreat is on the docket for the Fall.
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Latest posts by Christine Westermark (see all)
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