Granny Goes Gap

hmmm so at last i receive acknowledgement that my travel piece is to be published. i find this news inspires me to write again after many weeks without words. coincidentally, i was asked the day before yesterday, do you write a blog? and i said no. maybe it is time to start again.  

but what will my final piece look like i wonder? it may not bear much resemblance to my initial writing. 

write about your travel experiences to given prompts was the invitation. they liked what i wrote but insisted on changes, wanted to make it more uniform to fit with other peoples writing. i found it a difficult process, i had to agree changes in wording that they suggested, which just didnt feel like me and take out date references, as they would make it age and their journals must be timeless. 

i now await my copy to arrive. i think my piece will be presented as a series of questions, questions asked to each of five individuals in turn and i wonder if others experienced the same difficulties as myself, that their emotionally constructed words were also deconstructed. i considered withdrawing but an esteemed writer friend explained that this is the way it is. so i conceded and submitted. 

some friends now want to read my piece but i find i dont want them to read the chopped up, not me, me. so here are my original words and perhaps i will share the final article in due course.

Granny Goes Gap!

A disappointment when I was 45 left me lost and directionless until a chance conversation with an Aussie tempted me. My girls were both at uni so I booked a years unpaid leave and rented out my house. I lived with camel racers travelling red deserts and dust storms, worked on a prawn trawler, hitched a 2500k journey with road trains, slept in my swag, in water culverts, in cattle yards. I felt feral, I belonged to the earth and lived in the moment.

The year ended, I came home but couldn’t bear money or living a city life. Happen-chance saw me on an ice breaker crossing the frozen Baltic looking for the Northern Lights in Arctic Finland. Whilst there, I watched pilkkiminnen (ice fishing),  competed in the Open European Yukigassen Championships (snowball fighting), lived with Sami reindeer herders, ate raw dried reindeer meat, wondered at muskox on the plains, drank moonshine and later, fell in love with the midnight sun. Four months on, a 66 degree parallel north marker made my heart jolt and I headed home.

I have hankered for that timeless, in betweenness ever since. 

In 2013 I retired from a lifetime of teaching. My son in law was terminally ill and I had two beautiful grandchildren, I began to see my life closing down. I was wild swimming, mountain biking, making original textiles but it wasn’t enough. 2016, brought my 60th birthday and time to reflect. I remembered my travelling moments, the never never land of living each minute, by itself and for itself. I was ready to shed some of the obligations that go with parenthood and grandparenthood.

Whilst searching Google for the Hebrides, it offered me the Faroe Islands. Faroe Islands, I asked myself, where were they? I ended up taking a summer long workaway placement there in June 2016 but stayed just two weeks before going walkabout. 

Two months later I was on an overnight ferry to Jutland, where the Kattegat and Skagerrak seas squabble and fight with each other. I walked on drifting sand dunes and went island hopping, until one sandy island after another nearly suffocated me, so I went to Sweden where I drank with the have nots.

It is now nearly October, I’ve been home for a week. I can tell you stories about Faroese salmon farms, swimming in 8 degree oceans, both sides of the whaling story, tales of guys rowing the Atlantic, being dive-bombed by arctic skuas, how puffins stumble-plunge land. Those memories stay. The difficulties of accommodation, costs and loneliness fade. I feel free, I have broken the mould I had created for myself.

I’m heading for Cornwall, I leave a week today, my house is rented out, I have no accommodation booked. I’m planning northern Spain and Portugal in the spring. Why? Sometimes life just needs shaking. A girl I meet talks of Alaska, a friend takes a train across Canada, another bikes Mongolia and I start to dream big. Coastal Labrador communities by boat. I am 60 years young.

Listen, really listen to your heart and let serendipity in. The hardest part is the decision. Book the flight, rent out the house, turn misfortune into opportunity. Once you set yourself free, your journey will carry a momentum of its own. 

Just do it xx

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