Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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Traveling with Trixy: What I Learned from My Trip Part 2: Travels with a Dog

Trixy, my long-suffering and almost constant companion for most of this century….. let’s be honest, if not for Trixy I might be lounging on a Thai beach or puffing my way up to Machu Picchu right this minute…… might be. Click the link for Trix’s story.

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The most fundamental belief I hold is that everything is possible in some form or other, if you give it enough thought, want it enough, and are willing to make compromises, so when the foot itching became unbearable over a year ago, it became clear that the only way I could travel was with Trixy. Thus it was that she squeezed into my van at an unspeakably early hour on a dark morning last October, and nestled between bags and boxes, eager not to be left behind, wherever I was off to.

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Of Dream Homes and the Internet

Do you have a dream home? Oh, I don’t mean a house as such, though that would be a part of it, I mean a place. When you travel are you, even unconsciously,  looking for your dream home, that special place which ticks all the boxes in your heart and soul? Everywhere I’ve ever been I believe I’ve asked myself, “Could I live here?” The answer invariably is, “No,” but sometimes there’s a “Yes.” To date, however, the yeses have been too expensive, forbidden (no longterm visa) or too far away from aging family.

Generally for me it’s that middle thing, the not being allowed to live in my chosen spots. Deciding what to do a few days back, I made a list of what it would take to make my dream place. It is, of course, by the ocean, but with mountains within easy reach; it is multi-cultural, drawing color and passion from folk from many different backgrounds and nationalities;  there is good wi-fi; a variety of cuisines at reasonable prices available; it’s lively and has sports facilities; easy access to art is high on the list (bookshops, cinemas, theater, museums, concerts); it’s sophisticated (in the real sense of the word) in a laid back way. The climate is important, but if everything fell into place, and the seasons were as seasons ought to be (i.e. not 12 months of rain and cloud) then that might be less important. In fact, I guess, if enough boxes are ticked, then the ones which aren’t become less significant.Early morning El Médano

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Things I Am Learning from This Journey: No.1 I Am Addicted to Sunshine!

As I left the island of  La Gomera in early March the sun, seen throught the salty windows of the Armas ferry blazed a welcome, and then scurried behind onimous clouds. That was as much as I’d seen of it in that week.

March 3rd Ferry from La Gomera to Tenerife

March 3rd Ferry from La Gomera to Tenerife

The lazy, sunny, autumn days when I first arrived had given way to mostly bleakness in a valley famed for its lushness – so what do you expect, the green needs water.

Hermigua is quite breathtakingly beautiful, and certainly thoughts of coming back to stay crossed my mind. Every time I fell down that rabbit hole I was enchanted anew, and yet there was always this sense of  “making the most of it.” Granted, La Gomera was only the beginning of what I intended to be an indefinite journey, so I knew I would move on, regardless of how much the island tried to ensnare me. Yet the feeling was deeper than that too. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew that I wouldn’t be back to stay – and here is where I admit that, although I see my travels as being infinite, I don’t see them as being unending. In the sense that one day I would like to find somewhere to make a small base from whence to travel as long as I am able. A retreat.

Lush valleys of La Gomera, but see how, mid afternoon, only one side of the valley is in winter sunshine?

Lush valleys of La Gomera, but see how, mid afternoon, only one side of the valley is in winter sunshine?

What I wasn’t sure about was just why, since I adored this valley, I didn’t see it in my long-term future. I pondered this as the dark shape of the island of  Tenerife came into focus on the horizon, outlined by that rising sun.

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6 Months On The Road: And Still Decluttering!

Decluttering is a bit like striping a plaster from a wound, I’ve learned. You can do it quickly, and get over the pain quickly, or you can peel it off slowly and prolong the agony. It’s a lesson I thought I’d learned – but apparently not!

My old van was just chock-a-block with “stuff” when I set out in early October, and deep down I knew that I likely wouldn’t need/want all of it. The day I left, it took me a while in the pre-dawn chill to finish loading my van, and it was a squeeze for Trix – who didn’t seem to mind so long as she could curl up! It turns out that about a half of what I packed in was “not needed on voyage,” which is why I haven’t written a post entitled something like “What I Packed for My New Adventure,” or some such.

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The danger in traveling long-term by car or van or camper i.e. on wheels, is that you think you have so much room, so you can easily fit in those “just in case” items. Truth is, however, that even if you do have the room, there’s a lot of inconvenience to carting lots of stuff around with you. A journey is almost certainly a metaphor for life in this sense. I remind myself of this as I search, for the umpteenth time, for my car papers. They are MIA, and wherever they turn up, it’s for sure I can’t find them right now because -

I Brought Too Much!

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Too Much Lotus Eating in La Gomera; Time to Move On

“I want to see something new and for it to ‘wow’ me, take my breath away.  I’m ready for that something new.  I’m beyond ready.” Me: sometime last year.

My whole being ached with the need for new experiences, new sights and places.  I may have written them on my Facebook page or profile. I may have written them in an email to a friend, or I may have just typed them out and kept the file, which I found just now,  to remind me. I don’t remember, but I do remember that feeling. I’m guessing that lots of you will have felt it too.

This time last year my life was very pleasant. I was living in El Médano in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, a town that I liked a lot. I was teaching ESL. I had a pleasant social life. I ran on the beach in the morning. I was writing pretty much as much as I am writing now. For the first time in a long time both of my sons had landed jobs they really loved, and were looking forward to exciting things in the months ahead.

I was 66, and my life could have gone on that way forever. But, pleasant as it was, did a lifetime of same old, same old really appeal to me? Of course it didn’t! It doesn’t matter how much you’ve been able to travel, if you were born with wanderlust, as so many of us are, then you can never settle down. You actually need to keep moving around, to challenge yourself, both mentally and physically.

I've loved El Médano. I couldn't have lived anywhere better for the time I was there.

I’ve loved El Médano. I couldn’t have lived anywhere better for the time I was there.

“To Dream the Impossible Dream” Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha (or at least lyricist Joe Darion!)

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A Toast to 2013: Postcards to Myself

I don’t usually go in for rambling, retrospective, year-end posts, mainly because I think the Web groans under the weight of them at this time of year. What I do is this…….a photo roundup of personal memories of my year.

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2013 was a delightful year for me – seeing both my sons enjoying their chosen paths and having some wonderful visits with them; catching up with dear friends, long overdue; memorable times with friends who were geographically closer ; a beginning to the  more nomadic existence I’ve been craving; an acceptable upswing in the amount of travel, compared to recent years….and a quality of travel which still takes my breath away when I think about it.  Key words for the year: spring flowers, cheese, France, Ireland, amazing food adventures, mountains, greenery, London, La Gomera, Asturias.

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Whiling Away the Last Days of Summer in France & Facing Autumn in England

My bedroom window in France

My bedroom window in France

My eyes opened to this my first morning in France……it was ……..idyllic, like waking to a dream.

After spending the previous night on the cold benches of Barcelona airport, I’d slept like a log, shuffling off a tiredness which resulted not only from the previous night, but from lack of sleep on the two nights before that, waking early and going to bed late to get all my stuff into storage, Trixy into kennels, and complete all those tasks which seem so urgent when you know you’re going away, and have now faded into the past.

That gorgeous window was in my bedroom in my friends’ house. Wendy and Tarik made me feel utterly at home. We ate. We talked. We wandered. We talked. We explored. We talked. This was the longest Wendy and I had been together since sometime in the 70s, and the joys of learning all about the backstories of what we knew had happened in each other’s lives was palpable.

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Deciding, Discarding and Dreaming

This new journey comes, finally, as a relief, something I’ve been planning for ten years, and yet at the same time it’s a novelty.  Not quite like anything I’ve done before. I suppose it’s like an extended road trip in some ways.

Ten years ago, when my nest emptied, I sold my house and wandered off, with very little planning…..and certainly not traveling light – I was lugging Guy’s snowboard, and I’d bought the world’s biggest suitcase. Guy had gone off to university in the US, and there were a thousand things to take over, as well as Christmas gifts – I went for New Year. I’d given away most of my furniture. Sold some stuff at car boot sales, the remains were stored in a garage, and Trixy was in kennels.

In April I was back, and at an impasse. For one thing I was excruciatingly aware of how the travels had eaten into the money from the house sale, and I was unaware of the possibilities of working online in any form, to fund my travels. My lifelong wanderlust had never died, though it had been partly sated by emigration, and the challenges and happiness of motherhood, but it was rising ferociously.  Then I got a job offer, out of the blue, so, in panic,  I did the conventional thing, and bought an apartment (in El Médano as it happens) and kind of settled down………because, you know, that was the sensible thing to do. I, actually, did travel around Europe and the US east coast that year, in bits and pieces. Somewhere I have a diary I kept – a real one, which tied with a bow, and in which I wrote in pen!  Though I’d enjoyed the year unreservedly, I wrote on December 31st, there was something missing. I decided that it had almost been too “nice.”

There is no doubt that if you're ready to settle down, and you don't mind the breeze El Médano is a hypnotic place to choose.

There is no doubt that if you’re ready to settle down, and you don’t mind the breeze El Médano is a hypnotic place to choose.

For two months after closing my diary and tying the ribbon, that thought plagued me. Pleasant as life was, I was restless, and haunted by the feeling that I was missing out on something important. I liked my apartment, my sons were settled, my work was easy, friendships un-demanding. Isn’t this a desirable state of being?

Life was comfortable, and as we know, comfort zones can be killers. I needed for things to wrong, or at least to have the potential to go wrong. Otherwise this pleasant but boring pattern might continue for the rest of my life…..that’s the reality of  on the cusp of 60……that’s what happens to people…….they stop …….. they atrophy.

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Moving On

I know it’s boring, dropping hints about what one is going to do in the future. It wasn’t my intention to tease,  but truth is I’ve been dithering over this for almost a year now, and finally realized that I should heed the words I often preach to others:

“There is no such thing as a wrong decision. The hardest, the very hardest part of the decision is making it, once that it done you just have to take a deep breath and live with whatever the consequences are. There are bad decisions and good decisions, yes, but not wrong or right ones, because even the consequences of bad decisions result in something or other in our lives which turn out to be lessons. We can gain from every experience if only we open our eyes.”

Contemplating the ocean, or the future? Las Galletas a few months back

Contemplating the ocean, or the future? Las Galletas a few months back

Thinking back over changes in my life, the first enormous one was going to grammar school at 11. Granted it wasn’t entirely my decision, the state decided I go to grammar school, and I decided which one, but being thrust out of the comfort zone of my happy childhood into the big, wide world of a 1,000+ pupil school was daunting. After that life turned on my decisions; college, first job, subsequent jobs, relationship decisions, the decision to have first one child, then another, the decision to emigrate, to marry,  to divorce, to become a Red Cross volunteer, education undertaken, to stay in Tenerife. All of these decisions led me to where I now am. Then there were the smaller ones; house moves, pets (to have or not), weight loss, weight gain (definitely a subconscious decision!), mortgages, vacations, books read, music listened to, credit cards maxed out, movies watched (definitely some life influences there), people accepted or rejected,courses done, job decisions, and a million more: all strands in the lives we have lived, which make us what we are at the present moment.

La Gomera seen from the hillsides of west Tenerife

La Gomera seen from the hillsides of west Tenerife

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A Sense of Place ….Or Not

A Sense of Belonging. Travelers often don’t need that, preferring to be the observer, not getting too familiar or too comfortable.

Then again, perhaps we are simply looking for a place which makes us feel that way. Perhaps once we’ve scratched the surface of a place, and find it isn’t what we’d hoped or thought,  we move on, hoping to find it on some far-flung shore. Some travelers need to be in constant motion, skipping over places, perhaps returning, but like a bee at a flower to move on again. And again. I’m nothing like the traveler that some friends or acquiantences are, but I am, and almost always have been, constantly restless, and curious about what’s over the horizon.

The road winds

The road winds

This is to say that I don’t know where I belong.

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