My apprehension lies exactly in how precious these memories have become. I fear returning to a place I have loved so deeply and earnestly. There is a sliver of vulnerability to returning to a place one is certain she has loved and revisiting it with older eyes. What if the colors do not match my memories? What if my way of seeing them has changed? In many ways, my fear of return lies in revisiting the impressions of my younger self.

This is my new monthly column in July’s ISSUE Magazine, which comes out today. 

A Contracted Life is intended as a place to explore the negative spaces in life — the things a person don’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t do. A reflection of regrets, remorse and the remembered omissions, stopgaps and stumbles – that don’t necessarily detract from a full life. 

I write about the myth of how to do Europe right that I had been feeding myself for so long before I travelled, and all the ways I didn’t live up to those myths. Click here to read.
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot S95
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Exposure: 1/1000th
  • Focal Length: 28mm

This is my new monthly column in July’s ISSUE Magazine, which comes out today. 

A Contracted Life is intended as a place to explore the negative spaces in life — the things a person don’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t do. A reflection of regrets, remorse and the remembered omissions, stopgaps and stumbles – that don’t necessarily detract from a full life. 

I write about the myth of how to do Europe right that I had been feeding myself for so long before I travelled, and all the ways I didn’t live up to those myths. Click here to read.

there's always a poem

Everywhere on the Internet, I have small chats and big chats with friends I have missed, the heavy weights in my heart, and I tie them to my balloons, kites to carry me forward. The lake in Neuchatel is an excellent crystal ball, the sun and stars through my bedroom window an excellent television, and the black cat tiptoeing along a high balcony an oracle, oblivious as I watch it on my own tip toes from the kitchen window. My heart has begun the process of missing the present.

If ever I write anything more substantial than my jumble of blog posts and tweets, I am sure I will have to dedicate it to Cass, because whatever she does when we communicate seems to unlock whatever it is blocking my hand from the keyboard (the title of this post belongs to her, a parenthetical statement made in our Skype chat yesterday). 

I think it’s hard to be in your twenties and go into Europe to travel without at least a small toiletry bag of expectations. There’s a lot of myths fed to people my age and maybe as a young woman who grew up almost entirely in a small country that most people still don’t know about (it feels like), I bought into this Europe myth more than most.

Did I come here thinking it was going to change who I am, that travelling in Europe was going to give me great, juicy anecdotes and adventures - neat and whole narratives I could peg to my self worth, that I could repeat to friends and strangers who will then become my friends because hey, I went to Europe and had all that fun! Yeah, I did. I tried to pretend I didn’t for a while, but I did, I did. I was hoping for a boy, I was hoping for skinny dipping, I was hoping for unbridled joy so big it blew out any of my inherent moroseness and introspectiveness. Even if just for a few significant moments. 

This is a lot of “whining” from someone who’s lucky enough to have the resources to travel here and stay here for three months, pretty much no strings attached, with the support of a sister with a pretty good job and stable home life within which she has carved me a space. And after all this is over, I go home to my father’s house, another safety net. I know! Oh my goodness, I know! I’m just in my twenties and I have emotions coming out my ears, forgive me. 

So far, there’s no boy, I haven’t yet swam in a body of water (naked OR clothed) and my joys are smaller, deeper and inexplicably hard to explain. They’re not gems I can pour out of a bag so everyone else can see them sparkle, they’re just mine. It’s easier for me to write when I’ve had a few grey days, when I’ve had a streak of duvet caves and dark moods  so the stuff that comes out often makes it seem like that’s my whole life, that’s my whole existence in this faraway, wonderful place where I can see the Alps from my window. 

So what has “Europe” been for me? I shouldn’t start this list now when I’m still on this trip, but so far I know it is gratitude, excitement, fear, boredom, guilt, awe, humility, melancholy and a constant itch. It makes me speechless, it triggers my camera finger, and it makes me repeat myself. It makes me keep trying to articulate. 

slap dash

non-specific:

Syar and I send each other regular bursts of static re: travelling, third culture kids, heimweh, anywhere but here - the thing I keep talking, living, breathing, working towards, the spirit of whatever this blog is devoted to capturing. This post on wanderlust is equal parts interesting and infuriating - it’s beautifully written but bless your parochial socks, ladies, and ease up on the ‘everything is exotic!!’ vibe. Digging this comment, though:

My comfort zone is the liminal place, where I’m either just arriving or on my way out. My real challenge has been learning who I am when I’m staying still and building the kind of community everyone else seems to want to escape from. 

Welcome to the last two years. Wanting to leave can eclipse the here-and-now and swallow up your entire life, if you let it. So I learned to let it go. And now even with my thesis deadline, and the boredom of hermitude, and the faint sense I’m sacrificing so much for the dumb and unknown, things are really effing great. I have my health and travel money and beasting self-confidence. I have giddy crushes that are reassuringly stupid, and I have the arse-end of a terrible summer, and I have memories of people at events that led to tears and joy and love. And I have closure with the city, finally, and with myself

My departure date is too soon and there are loose ends to tie up and favours to beg and words to write, so many words. I am writing out everything I already know and it’s an awful mess of sarcasm and rage and scorn and sincerity. Not enough thoughts and too many feelings, but somehow it works.

I’ve been playing around with the naming of things. Today I invented jetflag as something to describe feeling forever out of sync with the places you move through, and knowing you have to keep pushing through it. I’ve been looking for the next adventure since the moment I came back two long years ago. Thanks to Sydney I’ve learned how to be content; now I’m ready to learn how to thrive. 

'I feel like I need to get away,' she wrote in that email, 'so I can figure out what I am…' If you strip away all the support, the family, the friends, the brown-eyed lover who brings you apple cider on Sunday afternoons, then you will be left with just yourself for once. What’s that like? Get to know that for a while. Figure that out. Come home a long time from now with more strength, better posture, great understanding.

[…]

So you want to go away. I do, too, unendingly, ferociously — let’s talk about it. I want to see and do spectacular things in my life. Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls, traveling the length of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, kissing at the top of the Eiffel Tower… I want to string experiences together like souvenir key chains, so I jangle with adventure when I walk. I want to hear other people’s stories. I want to learn new languages. I want to get into, then out of, my own head.

We want, we want, we want. At home, in the air, on the move, I want without sense or satisfaction. And after becoming an expert in wanting, I have no experience in resolution — so if we’re having a conversation here, then you tell me what to do next. I know how to be home and, now, how to go away. But how do you do both? How do you board planes, see volcanoes, immerse yourself in foreign worlds yet keep the people you love and your place among them? Can you travel trailing relationships behind you and trust they won’t get damaged? Can you go away without deserting what you left behind?

cartography for beginners

non-specific:

[…]

…this girl was incredibly happy because her heart had found the right place, but it felt like her soul was dying in the limits of her city. She’d grown up but she needed to grow out, and so she decided to stretch her boundaries until they crossed oceans and came to include maple and mountains and wild geese and pine. She lost hours in the move but she also lost something else, and she couldn’t figure out what it was. Steadily these confused thoughts shrank into a hard knot of anxiety; when she tried to take it apart she loosened the bonds that told her where the limits of her self lay, lost even more of herself, then lost the girl, and then she fell apart.

We know where this is going. I’m getting better. I’m going to redraw everything I’ve known about myself, especially in relation to other people. There’s a lot more to cover, it’s cartography for beginners and this emotional geography has endless conflicts of ownership and I’m taking the analogy too far. But I’ve pinned a map of the world on my wall so I can trace known coastlines and say ‘this is where I was’, and then find the tiny point that marks this city and say ‘this is where I am’, and then I’ll lift my hands from the map and where there are no fingerprints I’ll say ‘this is where I’ll be’. There’ll be more pressed against the names of North American cities by the end of this trip, and with time I’ll add more until the entire sheet is webbed with whorls and valleys in my name. And the internal map I carry should reflect that, I hope, until I’ve charted the edges of this unknown land and called it my own.

Things seen on my train to Ballarat

- A bright gold statue of either a Chinese emperor, or Buddha.
- An upside down car in the middle of a field.
- Legs walking on the footpath that disappear as soon as I look. Ghosts in the suburb.
- A man in an orange vest and a hat standing on a hill, the first short wave of the trip.
- First horse of the trip: chestnut, with a black tail and mane.
- Second orange vested man with a blue cap on. He leaned back against a car and his partner leaned forward on the roof on the other side. Second short wave.
- a caramel horse and her speckled white foal.
- A house that looks like a Pokemon. Round, bulbous, many-windowed. Station name forgotten.
- Cows.
- Goat or dog?
- Donkeys?
- A yellow VW bus! Little Miss Sunshine-like.
- A teenage boy dressed in white, standing on top of a dirt pile, holding a white shovel.