Posts Tagged ‘travel’
For as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to travel. Discover new places. Meet new people. Find out what’s beyond the horizon. Satisfy my ever-present curiosity.
I travel regularly for work, but it’s usually to the same places on the world. I’ve been on vacation to other places, but always only for a couple of weeks. Always as a visitor, never really as a nomad.
One of the things I would still like to do is give up life here in the west for a while and just be a nomad for a year or two, with nothing on me but a mid-size backpack. For some reason, I never took a gap year before or after uni.
It’s now actually possible for me to do this – I’ve got some reserves, no debts, no dependents or relationship – but I still struggle with actually going. I’m actually very happy where I am at the moment. Part of me is worried that taking a break will hurt my career, and that it’ll be hard to find a job as good as I have now when I return. So is this just fear for the unknown, should I just not be such a chicken and take that break while I can?
Currently playing: Brandi Carlile – Forever Young
I have written before that I am not the worlds’ biggest fan of US cities. There are but a few exceptions to the rule, and I recently discovered another one.
Most metropolitan areas in America seem to be spread out across huge areas of land – without a real city center – and they are impossible to navigate by foot or by public transport. There are a few exceptions. New York was fun, but expensive and on the busy side. I love San Francisco and Seattle, and I could see myself living in either if they weren’t on the other side of the globe.
So my expectations for New Orleans were pretty low. Not having read up on its history like the good ignorant tourist I am I was expecting another clunky high concrete-to-services-ratio kind of town, perhaps with a little relief in the form of an overly polished mall. Not so.
New Orleans is a greasy, dirty kind of city – in a good way. It’s old, and lived. It’s got history and atmosphere. There’s jazz on every corner, and lots of dive bars and strip clubs that stay open all night. Bourbon Street is a bit too touristy for my taste, but there are many other interesting streets nearby. We spent most of our free days walking alongside the river delta and about the city streets. I found a couple of nice bookstores – proper bookstores with barely any light, a handwritten register, wobbly stacks of books and barely any room to move. Being the addict I am, I bought more books than I will be able to read in the next 6 months. In the evenings, we hung out in the dive bars and absynthe houses, we drunk beer and other crazy stuff, and listened to jazz and fusion.
I will definitely return if I get the chance.
I love life on the road, but it’s also nice to have a place to call home again. The last six months had me travel across most of Europe in the midst of winter. I’ve slept on the couches and in the beds of my friends and strangers, at bed-and-breakfasts, in a rental apartment, a handful of night trains, several hotel rooms and a couple of hostel dorms. The introvert in me needs a break.
This week I moved into my new place, a single bedroom apartment in one of London’s southern boroughs. It’s not super cheap, or large, or in a great neighborhood – welcome to London – but it’s comfy, near one of the more active high streets, and – above all – mine. In terms of square feet (or square meters – whatever) it’s about a third the size of my flat in the Netherlands.
Before I moved out, I threw out as much stuff as I thought I could. A lot of furniture made its way to my sister, and what was left went to the local recycling or landfill. The remainder was packed “carefully” into three dozen boxes by the moving company, and then picked up and put in storage here in London. It’s sat in a warehouse for 5 months while I was doing my thing roaming about Europe, and I haven’t missed any of it. Perhaps it’s time to throw out more so my next move won’t be such a hassle.
It seems like a long time ago that I lived in the Netherlands. I can see myself staying in the UK for a couple more years, and then move elsewhere.
“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.”
― Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
I’m in love.
For about three weeks now I’ve been living in London. I knew I liked the place – I chose to move here after all – but it’s been even better than I had expected. Unlike the dozen times I’ve been here before – usually for between two days and a week – my stay here is now permanent, which makes it feel different. I’m not really in travel mode anymore; I cook at home (sometimes, and for certain values of “cook”), tourists have started asking me for directions (what spidey sense do they use to spot “locals”? is it the bowler hat?) and the bloody pedestrians that keep walking on the other side of the tunnel in the tube are starting to annoy me.
Londoners are an international bunch, and not as terribly reserved as their reputation makes them out to be, at least outside of public spaces. There are a handful of people here that I know, which is a great way to bootstrap my social circle. They’re not concentrated anywhere in particular, and the city is big enough that I don’t run into people who know me on every street corner. I don’t think I really understood how important that kind of anonymity is to me. It’s also good to challenge yourself and your insecurities sometimes; if anything can cure me of my shyness, it’s having to deal with lots of random strangers.
Waterstones in Oxford Street is heaven. I really should stay away from the place and stop compulsively buying more interesting books until I’ve worked my way through the current stack.
Beside that, there is enough to do here to keep me entertained. There are a handful pubs with interesting beers and people around the corner, restaurants and takeaway places in the next street over. If I so desired, I could spend every night at a good concert, play or meeting group for an obscure board game or programming language.
Readers browsing through the damaged library of Holland House in West London, wrecked by a bomb on 22 October 1940.
I’ve packed up my guitar, my books and my ridiculous shoe collection. Today I’m leaving the motherland to live abroad.
These memoirs begin “On March 2, 2003 at 4:12 pm, I disappeared. My name is isabella v., but it’s not. I’m twentysomething and I am an international fugitive.” I suppose that this could be seen to imply that my departure from “my life before” was something other than voluntary. I may have many regrets in life, and perhaps- on occasion- I even regret the decision I made in March of 2003 to flee. Despite this I would do it all over again.
No idea how true the story actually is, but who cares? I’d forgotten what a remarkable tale it is.