A coincidence, that song by The National appears on my playlist as I sit down to write this first blog post in more than a year, on my last evening in my own apartment. My apartment which is now tucked away in cardboard boxes, neatly cleaned and sterilised for someone else to operate in this winter. Trying to empty my fridge – it has me eating a peanut butter banana sandwich while drinking a Brooklyn brown ale – is the last box to tick before I’m ready to leave on the morrow. I have even packed my bag already which is disturbingly well prepared being me, but hey, this is probably gonna by my biggest adventure to come! Hopefully a handful of continents and double the amount of countries will be added to my list and there’s no harm in being set and ready. But there’s no butterflies in my belly tonight. I had a little tinge earlier today when I tasted the pre autumn rain for the first and last time this year, and yes, I am already smiling at the sheer amount of madness this winter is gonna bring. But this year has all been mad – the stillness sickness has not had a chance to get its grip on me. The last twelve months I have had three different jobs paralleled. I went to Italy twice, I spent a weekend meeting travelling friends in Berlin, visited Ireland for the first time and Scotland for the third. Got to work three weeks on the English riviera and then went to Helsinki to see the last gig of 22-pistepirkko. And now, first now, travelling season starts. Here I am, a walking, talking proof that travelling is not about money. It’s about a thousand other choices I have made throughout the years. It’s easier to get out when all your windows and doors are open. They just don’t seem to close no matter how I actually try to. If I should stay a while, I want something to stay for. I’m just not ready to work for it yet.
This time it was as bad as ever – I was on the airport bus in Italy, hadn’t even left the country before I spotted a little Facebook update from a travel friend of mine, a query about who would be up for West Africa in September. The very intense resentment I always feel leaving a place – no matter where I have been or where I am going, if only for a quarter of and hour or so – washed away in a boiling rush of blood through my body after I replied me me me! to her update. After that it was set. I don’t back out of things. If I get to cut your hair, you can cut mine. Doing some more hardcore travelling in West Africa with the very hopeful intent of getting into (south of) Mali is a long standing dream but I have been insecure to do it myself. I met Bronagh while diving in Honduras and then later also in Nicaragua where we spent some cloudy days together involving lots of Irish people, rum and Fleetwood Mac, now I do believe we’re on the same page of the travelling narrative. It’s comforting having company on a trip like this and it’s comforting knowing that she’s also a bad-ass solo female traveller since years back, and will not, as I recall, be pushed around by people trying to rip you off. Not to over- or underestimate West Africa, but I think a few places will be more appreciated if you’re not a novice. What later happened during the planning session was that still is really easy and cheap to fly to, costs about the same going through there as it does flying straight to Barcelona from where we’re flying out to Gambia. So a few extra days toga partying in Milano, hiking in Cinque terre and pesto-pastaing away in Genoa was easily added as a pre-travel excursion. Then I recalled I was supposed to visit my brother sometime during the year, who happens to live in Manila and suddenly a ticket to South East Asia was added. Whilst there why not just extend my vacation, do some diving, celebrate Christmas, maybe get some work, visit friends around the area, leech of good peoples goodness and then shamefully return when I’m out of money, full of energy.
I have no strict plan, it’s with travels as it is with life in general. Opportunities presents, and one just has to be free enough to be able to accept them. I can’t foresee nothing at this point. Last year I tried and I ended up learning and loving things and people I could never dream of. The wwoofing, the diving, the Spanish, things I’m still developing. The emotional roller-coaster of being outrageously furious with the same person you just realised you love was beyond terrifying for a long time. And just when I got a hang of it, it was over. All of it so useful, changed my life completely there and then. Now it’s about to change again, as it has constantly done since I became intelligent enough to learn to let go.