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Monday, May 22, 2017

Soft Brexit

As the United Kingdom debates how "hard" or "soft" to exit the European Union, we are easing our way out of the U.K.

In my personal history, England occupies an odd space. It was the first country I ever visited outside my country of birth, but I wasn't on a tour through Europe like other college-aged Americans. Instead, my father and I stayed for three months (a mini-sabbatical). By the time we went on a two-week visit to Italy, Monaco, and France, returning to England felt familiar, even though we were leaving it the very next day. England, specifically Oxford, was thus the first place I ever felt both "home" and "not home," the way I have felt about an increasing number of places in my life.

I have a habit of traveling thus far on an international trip and then stopping. I came back to England, but stopped, staying on a six-month work permit and traveling to Scotland and Ireland. I did graduate study at Oxford. Each time, I was living (temporarily) in the new country, not just touring around or spending most of my time in London. When I emigrated to Canada, of course, I stopped in Toronto. It was my plan to stay in Canada forever, not just keep traveling. I lived there for many years without ever even visiting vast areas of the country. It seems I am more of a migrant than a tourist.

What we're leaving
For all those months spent in Oxford, I never spent a single night in Greater London until this last time. How many visitors can say that? Naturally, I stopped in London, and have been based here (with plenty of travel "abroad") for more than seven years. It has been home and not home.

So about our last few days in England, I cannot write exactly as a traveler, nor as a resident. We went "up north," by which the English mean "not London," to see family. Not my blood relatives, but T's family. I am related to them and not related.

I have become British--by residence and marriage [sic]--and not British. I have the same Right of Abode as any British citizen, but as soon as I open my mouth, the question is always, "Where are you from?" And I guess I should get used to it, because that is the question that travelers everywhere are asked.

After that first six-month stay in England, I wrote about the positives and the negatives and how, when it was all over, I felt more American than ever. Now that I have immigrated (again), I realize how much of me has become Canadian.

Next stop, Kilimanjaro!
Suketu Mehta wrote: “It was when I realised I had a new nationality: I was in exile. I am an adulterous resident: when I am in one city, I am dreaming of the other. I am an exile, citizen of the country of longing.” But for me, the experience is more positive than exile or adulterous imply. I have felt at home in the house we have emptied, yet I can hardly wait to move on.

Two women, six continents. Thank you for reading along.
Wise words at uncle's house

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Letting go

I feel I should write a post on the eve of our going, because this is a bigger trip than any I've ever been on before. In fact, it's not really a trip, in the sense of traveling someplace and then returning. The house we normally come back to will be lived in by somebody else, and there is no return ticket.

Indietraveller.co reckons that most longterm travelers spent much more time than they need to planning their itinerary in advance, while devoting too little time to packing well. I am starting to wonder though if we have erred in the opposite direction. A long period of time has gone into preparation and getting the backpack exactly right, while almost every detail of our itinerary is up in the air! Or sea, or overland.

The "before" picture
This morning when I was running errand #1,000,000, I glanced through the window of an independent coffeeshop (yes, they exist) and saw a guy who looked pretty carefree. He was sitting on a stool with his laptop out, looking as if he were musing on something rather than doing work. He was wearing a casual cap and flip flops. Perhaps a traveling writer, I thought, making his lightweight way around the world.

Around the corner in front of the coffeeshop, I saw a woman with a duffel bag who looked considerably more haggard. I don't think she was homeless, in the indefinite sense that none of us would choose; but she did look as if both she and her bag had been on the road too long. I am now wondering if I am more likely to look like that in months or years.

When you live in a house, you're in danger of tucking stuff away and forgetting you ever had it. I'd never lived in a house before, since my parents' growing up, so I was in for a shock. Thank goodness I started lists of tasks and sorting through papers, etc. in my study (also known as Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs) months ago. Otherwise the temptation would be just to throw everything in the recycling center when we make our final (?) visit this afternoon.

Other than one unfortunate incident with the potato masher, though, it's been pretty smooth sailing. The guy at the storage center helpfully suggested that as we have multiple industrial-sized rolls of bubble wrap, if the stress of moving gets too much we can always use some for stress relief. We may yet make use of that!

George Carlin used to go on about "stuff" and I know what he means. I was feeling pretty good about the fact that for every box we are storing, another box's worth has been donated to charity or at worst recycled. We have not gotten rid of all the furniture however, so the real test will be when the big items are moved. Good luck to the men tomorrow. 

If you don't hear from The Discreet Traveler again, I'll be bouncing around the unit padded with bubble wrap.