“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
I consider myself to be among the 38 million luckiest people on the planet – those who get to call Canada Home. There are many who will argue that it is not perfect, and although I agree there is always room for improvement, when I look at the other 194 countries that currently exist in the world, there is not a single one of them in which I would prefer to live full time. That does not change the fact that, given the opportunity, I would gladly and enthusiastically pack my suitcase and head to almost any one of those other 194 countries tomorrow.
I am fortunate enough to have been to 9 out of 10 provinces in this beautiful country of ours and have even lived in 3. I am missing only Newfoundland, but if you ask anyone who has been there, it is an absolute travesty that it is the one I have yet to see. Rest assured I will be rectifying that as soon as humanly possible. I have also not been to any of our 3 territories – a situation I plan to change in the extremely near future as well. When I do the math, it always surprises me just how few countries I have actually visited. Although I feel well-traveled, the truth is I have only been to 9 countries outside of my own. That leaves 185 to go.
There is nothing I enjoy more than traveling. And I absolutely love going it alone. For all the anxiety I deal with on a daily basis in my regular life, I am a completely different person when I am exploring the globe. At home, simply making a routine phone call to a patient or customer service can elicit such panic that it often requires hours of psyching myself up to summon the courage to get to dialing. But cold calling a random hospital in the UK to set up an international placement during physio school took me all of 7 minutes to accomplish. A month and a half later I was off to Europe all by myself with only a name on a piece of paper as a contact and a flat I had rented online. I spent my weekends exploring the English countryside (alone) and even sussed out the tiny little town in Yorkshire where my grandfather spent the first 20-ish years of his life before deciding Canada was where he too, wanted to live.
There is something incredibly therapeutic about traveling for me. While on some trips I enjoy the company of friends or even the occasional partner, there is nothing as empowering as having to sort yourself out on your own in a foreign country – especially if you don’t happen to speak the language. I am lucky in that I am more or less fluently bilingual in English and French (although that didn’t stop ward managers in my London hospital or taxi drivers in Paris from claiming they didn’t understand a word I said), and I can get by in Spanish – at least enough to order food or ask for directions – but when I found myself in the tiny town of Ferrara, Italy, I realized just how much you can accomplish with only a genuine smile and frequent use of the word Prego.
When I travel, I am not the slightest bit hesitant to dine alone. And I will happily eat (almost) anything at least once. I love to go to small hole in the wall restaurants and ask the server (who sometimes turns out to be the actual owner) to “surprise me”. I am not shy to strike up conversations with anyone willing to talk with me, whereas at home that would be my worst nightmare. In fact, I have learned the hard way that I can be a little too trusting when I travel. I have been known to tell strangers the name of my hotel (sidebar: do not do that) and I came closer than I would like to admit to being abducted in Venice. Thankfully, on that particular trip I had made a friend, and between the two of us, we were able to create a scene big enough to get out of that situation, although she almost ended up in the canal in the process. I have since made some adjustments to the way I talk to strangers, but even that experience hasn’t deterred me from working on my ever-expanding bucket list of destinations.
My family calls me a Travel Diva which is not a completely fair assessment. I absolutely do enjoy creature comforts, but they are by no means a pre-requisite for a successful experience. Right now, what I want more than anything on this planet is to go on some sort of humanitarian endeavour. I would love to spend a year or more traveling to places in need of physiotherapists (or yoga teachers, or English teachers, or whatever other skills I may have to offer). Unfortunately, with all the responsibilities I have on my plate here at the moment, the type of financial and time commitments that would entail makes it not quite yet feasible. However, if the Universe is willing, I will definitely be doing exactly that in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.
Sauvignon comes from the French word sauvage meaning wild, and although most of the people who know me in my daily life probably wouldn’t use that particular term to describe me, it is very much a part of who I am at my core. I am deathly afraid of roots. I have never owned a residence in my life because I am terrified of not being able to make a quick escape. My record getaway occurred after my last major break-up. I had cleared out my life, quit my job, and left the province in less than 12 hours flat (Don’t get me wrong – I did all of that with the proper permission from my employer and landlord. My OCD wouldn’t have had it any other way).
I have set up my entire life in a way that allows me to take off at a moment’s notice if the need or opportunity arises. This includes in part, my decision not to have children. Now that is a controversy I never fully anticipated. I am still gobsmacked by the sheer number of people who believe it is their right to tell me how selfish I am for that particular life choice – including men! Even now, at 43 years of age, not a month goes by when someone doesn’t ask me if I have children. When I say no, they respond with some variation of “Don’t worry – you just haven’t met the right man yet.”
Children aside, I also have chosen a career path that makes me very employable just about everywhere. And each day I continue to take steps to make myself even more professionally nomadic. My closest friends are already widespread geographically, and the best parts of my personality seem to thrive when I am not tied down in a relationship. I would absolutely be content to spend the rest of my days living out of my suitcase.
I am aware I have a history of running from situations that no longer serve my purpose. I have an approximate shelf life of 2 years in any one scenario before I start to get the itch to move on. And yet, here I am beginning my third year in both my current location and occupation. In the past, I have run from people and places. But I am learning that as much as I love to travel, running away is not the key to happiness. Everything we need to be happy is located within us and if we aren’t happy where we are, there is a very good chance we will not be any happier somewhere new once the novelty wears off. The flip side of that is that we all have something valuable to contribute anywhere on this planet if we go there with the right attitude and an open mind. So, my new mindset is to run to things with the goal of maintaining an anchor in a relatively permanent location.
As a yogi, there is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance involved with traveling. We know flight is terrible for the environment, so it’s hard to justify the means to that end. It also doesn’t help that I am deathly afraid of (as in I can’t sleep for a full 2 nights before) flying. But I genuinely believe experiencing diverse cultures creates an entirely different level of compassion and empathy for our fellow humans. If we can combine that with doing something good wherever we go, conscientious travel just might be worth it.
It seems odd to be writing about my love of travel when the world is currently closed due to a global pandemic. And yet, I have never wanted to be part of something more in my entire life. In my next life I will be an epidemiologist or an environmental scientist, or some other world health ambassador. In the meantime, the 5 year plan is to sort out a way to spend 6 months of the year in my cherished homeland, and the other 6 as a nomad, hopefully contributing to the betterment of the global situation one stop at a time.
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