Yes! I have had that moment, and in Eureka! I began this particular journey, physically and metaphorically, almost a year ago, not knowing where it would take me or how far I would travel before I would find what I was looking for or lay to rest my troubles. And, as it always happens, it just snuck up on me. (I had to check if “snuck” was even a word. Being British by birth, “sneaked” seemed to be the correct choice, but I have discovered that even Brits use “snuck” now. But I digress.) There I was going about whatever it is I have been doing for the past eleven months, when lo and behold, there it was. So subtle I almost missed it, but so pivotal that I’m thrilled I didn’t.
I know my intention was to travel and write travel articles and sell photos, but I haven’t managed to do either. Actually, I have had several articles published and have more on the go, but I haven’t made a cent from any of them. I have travelled enough now, and in various ways, to keep me writing for quite a long time. As for my photography, well let’s just say I now know the value of the tripod! So has this been a failed experiment? Absolutely not! As many travel writers will tell you, you don’t have to be constantly on the move to be a success. I needed to learn that, but in the process, I have exposed myself to a multitude of situations I would otherwise not have experienced. And what is life, if not a culmination of experiences?
Writing articles about what is familiar and close to home is much more practical than what I attempted to do. In fact, being a local expert will garner more credibility with editors. But, hey, I can still do that. And I do believe I have some insights to offer those who would consider embarking on an earthly journey as a solo older female. However, being constantly on the move is not all it is cracked up to be. There is definitely something to be said for having a home, family and community. And I desperately miss all of that. I have no regrets in having taken this route because I now understand the true value of staying in one place. It is wonderful to experience the world and all it has to offer, but with no-one to share it with and no home to return to, it can lose some of its appeal. However, don’t imagine I will stop travelling. As a matter of fact, I will be travelling to Costa Rica in September, where I will be joined by my brother from Scotland.
But this was not solely a bodily trek. It had a threefold purpose, that of travelling for the sake of travelling, and then to explore the possibility of moving to warmer climes, (which, if anyone is interested, is much easier and more affordable than you may think) and lastly, this was a pilgrimage for my heart and soul. I find it interesting that I unintentionally missed Northern California on my way to Mexico. I made a spur of the moment decision to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at the commencement of my wanderings. Had I not detoured to Utah I may never have even made it as far as San Francisco. Northern California is where my life with Greg began and I realized, once I had set out, that I was revisiting the places we had been together. But this area was the most meaningful. And this was where I located a friend from those days, almost forty years later. It was all meant to be. I had been searching the internet for her but was having no luck. So I then decided to visit the store her late husband had founded, in the hope of talking to his business partner. Knowing how things work in business, I knew it was very unlikely that I would find him there. But I had to try. I asked one of the associates if the owner was in. She answered by directing me to someone else who would know how to get in touch with him. I began by asking for Dan, but then told her that I really wanted to find Sheila. “Sheila?” she asked, “Sheila is upstairs working.” Oh my goodness! We talked for perhaps half an hour, as she was indeed working, but that was all it took. And, just as she made an impression on me all those years ago, something took place in those few moments that settled my weary soul. Communing with this lady helped me look at my reflection and remember who I am, and always will be. I cannot continue this way of living because I can’t live for myself, by myself. I don’t know how to do that. So I will return to the only place I can really call home because that is where my heart is. My heart is with those I love, my family, my friends. Not sure how I will manage to live since I gave up everything that was my life last year, but I will find a way. I still loathe Canada’s frigid weather, and if I can escape it, I will.
Once I left Eureka I no longer had the desire to stop along the way. I made my way up the coast as much as possible, which I hope to revisit someday with someone to share the experience with. (No, I’m not looking for a husband! I could do this with a friend or family member.) The ruggedness of the coast from Northern California, through Oregon and on to Washington draws me in, the rawness of the landscape, exposed rock, trees blown eternally sideways, the thrashing of the surf, broken shells scattered on the sand and rocks, and the wheeling and reeling of seabirds reaches into the core of me. I was born by the sea, albeit the North Sea, and it is as much a part of me as I am of it. I had thought I would be settling down somewhere by the sea, but for now, my home will be close to my children. I will always long for and return to the sea, but I can wait for those times.
On I drove until I reached Canada, the anticipation building until I finally reached Blaine, Washington, where I crossed over. That was the moment I felt the need to get out and kiss the ground, the ground where I would find my family again, but it was late, cold and dark, so I made the connection telepathically. Presently I am in Greater Vancouver awaiting the graduation of my daughter, Bethany, and spending a bit of time with extended family.
Nerah has been absolutely incredible. Cats, as most of you know, are not animals who like to have to do things any way but their own way, according to their own particular schedule. So this has been a real challenge for her. Constantly changing our place of abode, stealth camping in supermarket parking lots, rest stops or at the side of the road, staying in RV parks or state campgrounds, Airbnbs or cheap motels, dealing with changes in weather, from very, very cold, to extremely hot, and being confronted by street dogs and stray cats, she has bravely faced it all. She knows her motorhome and I can always rely on her to return to it, wherever we are. There have been a few tense hours when I wasn’t sure of that, but she has proven herself. I will be very relieved when I can once again provide her with a decent home where she can relax, knowing she can curl up in a snuggly spot and not have the scenery change before she wakes up again. Yes, she is a cat and does all those irritating cat things, like sitting on my laptop when I’m trying to get work done, but I think that considering what I have put her through, it’s fair.
And I will ever be grateful for my Calgary Public Library membership. Driving for hours gets pretty tedious, but having access to audiobooks to listen to has been invaluable. Being alone with my thoughts has been enlightening and I highly recommend that everyone take time away from the busyness of their lives to get in touch with who they are. I am, by nature, an introvert, so that part was fairly easy, but I needed those audiobooks to stop me from going a wee bit batty.
I have another idea! “Here we go again”, I hear you say with a sigh. But I think this is a much more realistic way of me making a living while still having the flexibility for travel and staying close to my family. I’m actually excited about being a homebody again. I won’t jinx this prospect by laying it out at present. I will be needing some time to bring it all together. I just want to reiterate to those of you who may think that being footloose and fancy-free is the climax to a full and varied life, it is not what you imagine it to be, particularly when you are alone, pushing 60 and have generations behind you. We are all different, and some may long for that, but I do believe that, unless you have a really terrible relationship with your family, they will always be the most important aspect of our lives, more so as time passes. I have a tendency to be extreme in all that I undertake, instead of doing things by degrees. While I was raising my family, I did it with all my heart. Then, when I decided to try something new, I didn’t just tiptoe around the edges. Not me! I sold my house, quit my job and embarked on this solo journey. Would I do it again? No. Would I do it again with someone else? Definitely, though I will be working hard at establishing a home base for myself. I have no life partner anymore, so my children are the reason for my being. I never had a career because my children were my career. My husband didn’t want me to work outside the home, but anyone who thinks that being a full-time home-maker consists of kicking back and watching soaps all afternoon, hey, we didn’t even have a TV. I worked harder than most people I know, and I savoured every moment. I may have been “just” a housewife, but I am not ashamed. I am a mother, a nurturer, a cheerleader, an advocate. That may not sound like much, but, if I have anything at all to be proud of, that is it. How I turn those qualities into a way of living while combining it with travel remains to be seen. It has been my dilemma since the beginning of widowhood.
What I am trying to say, in essence, is that we should all follow our dreams, even if following them doesn’t work out. We would never know if we didn’t try. Some may never dream to travel the world and that’s fine. It isn’t for everyone. But still, follow where your heart takes you, even if it is back home.
“Many people die with their music still in them.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr