Changes – part 1
Alison has been an adventurous spirit all her adult life, me not so much: I immigrated to Canada from the U.K. when I was in my early 20’s and basically never went anywhere else apart from occasional trips back to England, and holidays in the United States.
All that changed after Alison and I married: we began taking six-week vacations every other year to different parts of the world: England and parts of Europe one trip, then Australia, the Cook Islands and North Vietnam for the next. Three weeks in Paris, a quick trip to Mexico. At that time even six weeks on the road seemed a long time to me. Once we became nomadic the trips kept getting longer and longer, stretching into months at a time away from our home base in Vancouver, even though we no longer had a home there. But there was part of me that was still treating these adventures as vacations: time away and then back “home” again. It was during our time in Vietnam, in 2010, that I first began to understand why people travel, and the traveller in me first began to awaken.
Our current venture involves a six-month trip around South America. For the first month or so I was still feeling that six months was a very long time to be away from “home”, but then on October 27 this year while we were in Piriapolis, Uruguay something shifted inside of me. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
I’ve loved the time we’ve spent in Piriapolis: lots of good food, good exercise and plenty of time to relax. I keep thinking about coming back to stay here for a few months, but then I think I’d get bored and stale if I was in the same place for such a long time. Also, it’s a very long way from Vancouver, so that probably wouldn’t work. It seems strange to me now in a number of ways to think about settling down to live in one place again: I really have become a nomad, at least for the time being. There’s nothing in me that wants to maintain a home or mow a lawn. The longest we’ve stayed anywhere in the recent past was in La Manzanilla and though I really needed most of our time there, I was also very ready to leave by the end – itchy feet. I still haven’t been anywhere, apart from Vancouver, that I could envisage as a permanent home.
At this point in my life, seventy-one years old, I feel and act much younger. I don’t think about my chronological age very often because it seems irrelevant to who I am and how I feel, and I’ve pretty much stopped ruminating about my various health issues that all seem to be manageable with a combination of allopathic and homeopathic medications. I’m healthy, I’m in a loving and supportive relationship, I have some dear friends, and I’m getting to see more of the world than I could have ever imagined seeing. Life is good and I feel very grateful for everything I have received and continue to receive. I’ve become a nomad, and right now I can’t imagine being anything else.
Changes – part 2
We’ve been on the road, nomadic, since September 2011. For the first two years the pattern for our travels was that we would decide the general area we wanted to go to and then Alison would begin to suggest some of the things we could go to see there. Her philosophy of travel was always “We’ve travelled all this way to this wonderful place, and there are all these amazing things to see and do here, so let’s go.” I was always reluctant initially to jump into any new adventure, partly because of money worries, and partly because of my fears that something bad might happen. But then eventually I would usually agree to go. Things slowly began to change when we were in Oaxaca in July this year. My backpack was stolen while I was having a good time watching an open-air performance. The biggest lesson of that event was that I needed to let go of an old teaching from my mother that it is not safe to feel joyful because if you do there’s sure to be sorrow just around the corner. That was the beginning of making a conscious decision to take the risk of enjoying the events we attended anyway, and then seeing if anything bad happened afterwards. What I soon discovered was that usually nothing bad happened, or if anything unexpected did happen it wasn’t because I’d enjoyed myself.
We went to Patagonia at the beginning of November this year. Before that we were in Buenos Aires for three weeks, and I was still a little hesitant about going to some of the places around town that we’d been warned about, like La Boca. But then something in me changed as soon as we got to El Calafate, the jumping-off town for seeing the glaciers of the great Southern Patagonia Ice Field. Suddenly I was the one wanting go on a new adventure every day: there were so many fabulous things to see and do, and I didn’t want to waste a second of our time there. We had 20 days in Patagonia and apart from taking two days off to recover when we both got colds, we were on the go all the time, and I loved every minute of it.
I like this new me: enthusiastic about life in a way I’ve never been up until now. I’ve got more life in me now than I had when I was in my 50’s, and I’m looking forward to even more great adventures as we continue our travels through South America. It ebbs and flows but the biggest thing is that I now experience a level of joy in life, in travelling, in exploring, that was never there before. As often as Alison these days I’m the one that says, “let’s go!”
PS from Alison: When we first started travelling even the mention of Africa brought a direct and emphatic no from Don. These days his response is sure, why not?
Photo of the day: Don at Iguazu right after our crazy boat ride into the falls
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.