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

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.

This quotation from Anais Nin resonated with me from the moment I first read it.

This quotation from Anais Nin resonated with me from the moment I first read it.

In March I put the apartment up for sale, and in April I moved out. My plans were utterly amorphous. I was getting away from an agreeable prison, not running towards something concrete. I wandered some of the east coast of the US for three months or so, and then guilt got the better of me, and I returned to Tenerife to reunite with my dog. We spent two months living at the beach in the picture above, La Tejita, which is close by El Médano. We rose before daybreak, walked and paddled and swam, and during the day, when it was hot, I passed my time repacking the boxes which I been storing in this same apartment since April, until I’d whittled it all down some more.

This is to say that it was my third round of deciding what to toss or what to keep, during this particular phase in my life; once, when I sold the house; again when I sold the apartment, and now three times. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy. The physical evidence of a lifetime’s memories is hard to discard. Each time I learned, and I lessened my ties to material trivia, favorite mugs, paintings, even books. That last there? That’s the second hardest clearing out to achieve. It goes without saying that the younger you are if you do this, the easier this process is. It was something which emigrating had already taught me, and divorce had confirmed,  but what I’d built up in my time here was far more precious than stuff I’d left behind in England in 1987, because these treasures were my most important memories, those of my kids growing up.

I put the residue in storage and set off again – England, France, Italy, mainland Spain, with another, brief, guilt-driven trip back to the island to check on my dog. I stayed away until January, when my money had almost run out, and it was obvious that I needed to earn some more to fuel more traveling. A dead-end job again – because how can anyone take you seriously for a “proper” job when you can’t hide the fact that you have ants in your pants? No money left to buy an apartment, and certainly not wanting to commit to a mortgage, I rented, yawned and settled back into a similar pattern.  The job was such a joke a five-year old could have held it down, and it offered me plenty of opportunity for vicarious travel, sometimes entire days when nothing happened, and I scoured Rolf Potts or Boots ‘n’ All. These blogs were much younger and rawer then, and full of the binding compulsion to travel. The younger generation had conquered the ins and outs of the world, had surged through the gateways opened up by the beats and hippies of the 60s.

I learned about the technology of it all. I swapped my desktop for a laptop, bought a digital camera, and made bucket lists. I was, actually, going back to a younger version of me. All of these dreams which had been gently and willingly stored away during motherhood, came tumbling out. And then;  something happened; and in a sense the world came to me for a while.

I’d become a Red Cross volunteer in late 2005. My dreams for the future had included volunteer work. It was something I’d explored at 19, chickened out of, and long regretted. For reasons which would take far too long to explain here, I became totally absorbed by the work for the next two and half years. I was fulfilled, despite the soul-destroying jobs (I swapped one dead-end for another during the time). During these years I began an OU course, and an ESL teaching course, I moved house twice, and did numerous courses with the Red Cross. My social life was vibrant, if not what I was used to. I made amazing friendships. I met dozens and dozens of folk from around the world, from a myriad backgrounds. I was learning and gaining twice as much as I was giving. I pushed myself to physical and mental limits, and didn’t exhaust them. My travel dreams were happily shelved in my happiness. The only negative in my world was that I couldn’t get over to visit Guy in the US.  In personal terms I learned that I had much more inside of me still to be explored. In material terms the moving house and changing jobs left me broke……or so I thought.

I've loved El Médano. I couldn't have lived anywhere better for me over the last couple of years.

I’ve loved El Médano. I couldn’t have lived anywhere better for me over the last couple of years.

As the project wound down I began to write again…..and the rest of the story? Well, you can probably piece it together from this blog, because that’s more or less the point at which it began. Dead-end job number two dissolved, and that’s when I thought I was really broke (wrong again) but in its farewell it furnished me with my camera.  I moved house again. Since then the travel bug has loomed large in my life, and, like any illness or obsession,  been a source of frustration. There have been a few trips, which have served to stoke the fires. I have studied and learned, although the OU course had to be abandoned through lack of funds. A little under two years ago the final (?) crunch – learning that without making social security contributions for another two years (which I can’t afford) there is no pension. I moved house again. Each move meant re-evaluation of my possessions. You would think that perhaps there was nothing left to evaluate? To be fair, at the outset I had quite a lot more than many folk ever have.

So, here I am again, It seems to me that this time the paring down has gone about as far as I am willing to go. The things I collected since 1996 are mostly gone. Two kinds of things remain: the things which really do hold memories, gifts from  my kids, my favorite Christmas decorations, letters, postcards, the paintings of five-year-olds, my mom’s favorite dress, and such stuff; and books. I’ve sold dozens, I’ve given away more to the local charities which sell them secondhand on the markets to raise funds. Yet still about 20 boxes remain to go into storage, and another two boxes are packed to take with me. In this digital age, which I feel I’ve embraced willingly, I still love my books.

My travels may never be as daring or far flung as Peter Matthiessen's but I utterly understand this quotation

My travels may never be as daring or far flung as Peter Matthiessen’s but I utterly understand this quotation

The deciding and discarding is almost done. Some packing remains. As to the dreaming? Well, in my mind’s eye there is a house on a beach, where all my books and precious things are kept. I return to this house every now and then, to rest and enjoy the peace. Financially, it’s just that, a dream. I can’t travel and have a home like that, but in the words of the song:

“You gotta have a dream.

If you don’t have a dream.

How ya gonna have a dream come true?”


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

14 thoughts on “Deciding, Discarding and Dreaming

  1. I hope everything goes well for you in this time of transition. Your post resonated with me. I too have caught the travel bug!

  2. Thank you so much. It does seem as if the universe is responding this time. Perhaps it will challenge my resolve too, but que sera, sera. Beware of the bug – it can be expensive, though!

  3. I’ve tried to think of something profound & inspirational to say – but failed. So I’ll just revert to my original thoughts of how much I admire your decision to embark on a new adventure and wish you well with journey(ies) 🙂

    • Honestly, Sue, I do think a lot of hype is written about traveling. So many blogs now, and so many think they are the first to have discovered it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a passion (for want of a more original word!) for me, but it isn’t the only lifestyle.

      What’s right for some, isn’t necessarily the right way of life for everyone. I wanted to do this from being very, very young. It seems like a natural progression. When I had kids I was over the moon to stay at home and make a home for them. I found it challenging and rewarding and it made me incrediably happy, so I wouldn’t knock anyone who continues that lifestyle after the nest is emptied. It’s a personal choice. Tons of people come here from other countries, and this is it, you know, they are where they want to be. That’s perfect too. Everyone has their own story, as, I’m quite sure you know!

      Then again, to everything there is a season too.

      Given my druthers I’d have a small base, but I can’t afford it, so right now it’s not an option.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. It’s appreciated 🙂

  4. wish I could do all the getting shut of stuff even if not travelling. feel it would ‘lighten my load’. your travels will be our travels! hope Trix is up for it too? you will be pleased to know I got grand daughter muddy today and handling soil and worms recently too. sidebar to all this is I’m knackered!

  5. What a good granma you are 😉 It does, indeed, make me smile!

    There’s a lot to be said for decluttering, and it’s the fashion, isn’t it. I’ve been a notorious impulse buyer in my time (possibly making up for being a frustated traveler), and there has been a lot to wade through. Considering that in 1996 I began over with just my personal stuff, I accumulated far too much in a short time. The only things I’ve recently disposed of I now regret is a cd collection, and some of the books. I doubt that I’ll ever download absolutely every song again!

    It’s also taken me ten years to get to this stage, and I also doubt I could ever jettison it all, though some do. We shall see! It definitely does somehow make you feel lighter to have less. Less cleaning for one thing. That said, as I said to Sue about traveling, everyone has their own ideas. I love to see quaint, country cottages full of flowers and antiques and printed cushions, but I don’t think I could live with that any more. But there’s no harm at all if you don’t feel burdened. Many of my friends love their stuff – it represents a lifetime, and holds precious memories. I get that.

  6. I am happy for you to be realising your dreams. these days my thoughts often wander along the lines of ‘ well that is not going to happen’. i.e. always wanted to plant an orchard (o.k. in dreams it was alongside a perfect stone built country cottage) but have to think of other things to replace that dream. also, things still get done by ‘committee’ and we’ve all experienced how stagnating that can be right! so you go for it girl.

    • Letting the Byrds speak for me 🙂

      Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season) by The Byrds
      To everything – turn, turn, turn
      There is a season – turn, turn, turn
      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to be born, a time to die
      A time to plant, a time to reap
      A time to kill, a time to heal
      A time to laugh, a time to weep

      To everything – turn, turn, turn
      There is a season – turn, turn, turn
      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to build up, a time to break down
      A time to dance, a time to mourn
      A time to cast away stones
      A time to gather stones together

      To everything – turn, turn, turn
      There is a season – turn, turn, turn
      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time of war, a time of peace
      A time of love, a time of hate
      A time you may embrace
      A time to refrain from embracing

      To everything – turn, turn, turn
      There is a season – turn, turn, turn
      And a time for every purpose under heaven

      A time to gain, a time to lose
      A time to rend, a time to sew
      A time to love, a time to hate
      A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

  7. thanks for that Linda, very apt. just hope you haven’t infringed any copy write laws on my account LOL. the clouds parted yesterday for a few hours!

  8. well, your last week has arrived, and maybe you are starting to see all the things why you should stay/go even more clearly. hope your next destination is everything you want it to be. your readers are waiting…….

  9. I really like your photos. Also, I’d like to ask a question – actually a couple – if I may. Are you fluent in Spanish, and is it necessary to have a good command of Spanish to live on Tenerife? Maybe one part of the island (north coast?) is more heavily populated with ex-pat Brits (I’m American), so might that be a better choice as a location for someone to settle if he doesn’t speak Spanish?

    • Hi, Robert.Actually it’s the south which is heavily populate by expats – from all over Europe in winter in fact – but, yes, there are loads of English people u who live in the south. Many come just for winter because of the very mild climate. Whether or not you need to speak Spanish depends on what you want to do. If you are going to look for work, then I would say that these days it is pretty necessary, but if not, then you wouldn’t have a huge problem not speaking the language. There are dozens of “gestors” – who are financial/legal advisors, who can help you with paperwork (that’s their function) – who speak English. As to the rest it depends on how involved you want to be with local life and community of course. You will definitely see and understand more of the culture if you speak some Spanish. I’m nowhere near fluent, but have enough to, say, understand a museum tour or take courses.

  10. Great! That answers my question. Thank you very much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s