I've been thinking about journeys lately. Geographical and temporal and mental and physical. I guess it’s only fitting, being a geographer and all. Places and movement in and between places is my jam.
However, despite my academic pre-occupation with movement between places, in my everyday life I get very hung up on destinations.
“it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
Somehow, I got this mixed up. My approach to life planning, thus far, is basically to settle into every destination. I get nice and comfortable in my little squat and forget to go out and look around. I seem to prefer to sit in the corner and complain about missing the colours and people I remember seeing on the way in, having conveniently forgotten there is a bus stop just down the alley. Or worse yet, refuse to believe there is anything outside my tiny world.
This is becoming problematic.
I’m not saying I want to live a life of aimless roaming. That would be exhausting. At the ripe old age of 33, I’m too old for that. I like my comforts and routine. But I’m also too young to be accepting that this is always how it will always be or that I am running out of time and have missed the boat, so to speak.
Seven years ago, I was sure I would settle into a nice little college town in a nice little house, with some cats and a library and become that eccentric professor at the end of the hall. I planned to travel, but I never really thought about buying the tickets or how I would manage it on my own.
I had been working toward this particular version of life for a good while and it seemed like it would happen.
Then, my university department denied me entry to their doctoral program. A few months later, I failed my master’s degree defence. My carefully crafted world was falling apart. And I was dating a guy who couldn't care less.
At the bottom of this well, at seemingly the worst possible time, I got on a plane to Africa. I was going with a friend to make good on a declaration we had made four years prior during a sleep-deprived study session. Note: memorizing fossils in the wee hours of the morning can drive you a little batty.
That journey forever changed my life.
The feeling of being in Africa, of travelling down those bumpy, red roads playing with random kids who just appear, walking through markets and witnessing the collapse of an economy, has all but disappeared. Or at least the immediacy of it has faded.
Sadly, something more than scenery and smells faded. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I got a hint of it in Morocco, but I think I was too sick to really focus.
I think it is something akin to peeking behind a curtain, seeing the wizard for who he is. A talented showman making the best of a difficult situation.
Maybe that is a bit heavy.
Two years ago, my world kind of fell apart again. However, and here’s the part I’m struggling with, it was the pre-Africa part of my life which fell apart. The half of my life directly linked to my African journey was fantastic. It was the stuff of childhood dreams wished for, but never expected; an international romance turned marriage, living abroad and travelling the world.
Africa changed my life, but I didn’t change my plan to fit that life.
“the best laid plans of mice and men, oft times go astray”
You said it.
What I want to get back to, if I ever really had it in the first place, is to have an itinerary but be willing to deviate if the possibility arises or an interesting road beckons. I don’t want to wear blinders and I don’t want to flit from place to place.
Is that possible?
I mean in day to day life, not just travel-metaphors.
Photos: Stone Town in Zanzibar, Kande in Malawi, somewhere in Mozambique?