Seeking an Unexpected Life

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A windstorm rages. I lapsed into imagining myself standing on far shores as a storm rages on the Adriatic Sea. So different yet the same.

I look at photographs of places my people hailed from over the ages — like the Outer Hebrides’ rocky scrub of an island called Barra, a short trip away from the Mecca of Scotch, Islay and its peat bogs, home to both my Scottish Camerons and my Viking MacNeills, or Prince Edward Island, or the shores of County Galway, or even Normandy in France — and all those oceans look the same.

It’s what we all relate to, be it 500 years ago or just last week. An immensity and awe hits when one truly ponders the vastness of the oceans and what it once took to traverse them. I sometimes enjoy thinking about this, how there are aspects to my travels that won’t seem that different at all. Any time I feel too lost or adrift, I can find a beach shore or lakeside, stand, stare, and realize how similar it is to places I’ve been before.

Lake Michigan with a storm coming. Photo by John Menard, aka JMenard48 on Flickr.

Lake Michigan with a storm coming. Photo by John Menard, aka JMenard48 on Flickr.

Great Expectations

When I asked on Twitter recently what would folks like to see me write about regarding Travels To Come, someone said it’d be interesting to hear about my “expectations.”

You know that bleary-eyed groggy feeling you get after a really good, deep sleep, where it takes a few minutes to adjust? I sort of expect that feeling a lot over the next few years.

An awakening. Emotionally, physically, you name it, I expect to wake up in every way.

I haven’t had a “great” life — but it’s not been bad, either. I’ve been lucky. My parents loved us, they never mistreated us. They are your standard flawed humans and made mistakes, but that’s how life rolls. We never really wanted for anything. We weren’t rich, but we had comforts.

I still remember the shock I experienced when I visited an Asian friend who had a family of 7 in a small three-bedroom home, and thinking they had a hard life. I was so ignorant of what “struggle” was that a crowded home seemed like a hardship to me then.

Today, I know better. I know folks who’ve survived horrific abuses, crimes, addictions, poverty, and everything else that plagues humanity. I know that my hardships are a joke compared to others.

And yet I expect my eyes to open further. It’s one thing to see Baraka video footage with a haunting Philip Glass score over people picking through city dumps for subsistence scraps for survival, but it’s a whole other thing to stand there with the sun beating down on you as the putrid stench of rot and decay fills the air, coating your nostrils, while you fight the taste of vomit in your mouth. I think I understand poverty now, but I know I ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Pacific Ocean, as seen from the International Space Station.

The Pacific Ocean, as seen from the International Space Station.

Lost On A Map

I have read travelogues and social history my whole life, yet I will learn extremes of everything I ever thought I knew. I will learn about people and places every single day and marvel constantly about how different we all are while being completely the same no matter where we live.

I expect to understand how lost I can feel while knowing exactly where I am. I expect my phone’s GPS to be the most ironic thing ever as I slowly lose touch with having any sense of place in the world.

I hope to surprise myself at how quickly I can pick up phrases and terms in foreign languages and adapt to maps and twisty streets with unreliable addresses.

I expect to become a happier, better, more open-minded, less bitter version of myself. I expect to become more patient, less stressed, constantly amused.

But most of all, I expect to become the writer I always wanted to be. I think I’ll really fall in love with humanity’s complexity and the vast oceans of the human condition. I believe I’ll fall under the spell of history and culture, devouring books and writing more than I ever have. I hope to rediscover wonder and mystery, passion and joy.

Bruce Anderson's photo submitted to the BMC Ecology competition in 2012, who share the photo with this explanation: “Blue Tide. Seasonal winds can cause the upwelling of nutrients which in turn can cause plankton populations to bloom as "red tides." Here, a dinoflagellate population (Noctiluca sp.) turns the ocean a luminous blue colour as the disturbance by the wind triggers a light-generating chemical reaction. The production of light is thought to attract fish predators that prey on potential predators of the dinoflagellates.”

Bruce Anderson’s photo submitted to the BMC Ecology competition in 2012, who share the photo with this explanation: “Blue Tide. Seasonal winds can cause the upwelling of nutrients which in turn can cause plankton populations to bloom as “red tides.” Here, a dinoflagellate population (Noctiluca sp.) turns the ocean a luminous blue colour as the disturbance by the wind triggers a light-generating chemical reaction. The production of light is thought to attract fish predators that prey on potential predators of the dinoflagellates.”

Gratitude with No Fixed Address

I expect to remember often that I should be dead, thanks to accidents and close calls suffered a decade ago, and that every experience I’ll have, I waited a lifetime to enjoy. I expect to never forget gratitude.

Truthfully, I have no specific expectations for anywhere. I have learned my preconceptions are nearly entirely wrong. As smart as I am, as well-read as I try to be at times, I’m usually so bloody wrong about what’s to come that expectations are often for naught anyhow.

I have hopes, like what it might smell like truffle-hunting at night in an Istrian forest, what the critters in the trees would sound like as we dig up earth. Or how three classical musicians playing on a street corner in Prague on a summer night might sound like as I close in on them from several blocks away, the music bouncing off those centuries-old buildings. And I’ve dreamt of so many more of those little moments.

As I drift off at night, I imagine vignettes that would be a magical to experience, but I don’t get attached to those. They’re to my upcoming life what Cinderella is to love. Not gonna happen, and that’s okay, still a lovely dream. I generally find reality — once you blend smells, sounds, the journey to/from the moments — always outperforms the imagined sequence.

Entitled "Doom Sky" by Delyth Angharad on Flickr, aka WelshPixie.

Entitled “Doom Sky” by Delyth Angharad on Flickr, aka WelshPixie.

Travel: Best When Unexpected

I can’t even fathom what lies ahead. Because I like the simple life — good food, people, wine, weather, photography, writing — good times should be easily found anywhere across the “old world” societies where “slow” lifestyles still exist. I want that. I want the life that’s full of meaningful pauses and appreciation, and I hope my kindness and smile help me stumble into these situations the world over.

What I do expect is to be a completely different person in five years. A wiser, smarter, more impassioned, more considerate, more easy-going version of myself. I expect to write better, photograph better, and feel once again like I’m part of a magical, wonderful planet.

Newness excites me. It’s something I don’t enjoy much these days because I’ve lived in BC all my life. I know I’ll tire of newness after a while on the road, feeling like I’m caught a web I spun but can’t leave. Then something amazing will happen and I’ll remember how blessed I am for my experiences.

I expect to be homesick, lonely, scared, and all kinds of other negatives as time goes on, because that’s the nature of who we are. We want what we don’t have.

This is part of why I’ve allowed myself to live in a repetitive these days. I know I’ll remember this era fondly at times, but then I’ll also remember how much I was longing for more.

Today I yearn for a life where every day has potential to surprise me. To meet people every day I will likely never see again — to have only one chance, one moment, to see who they are and what they bring to life. I’ll enjoy that challenge, the carpe diem of transient life.

So what do I expect? To live a life that defies expectations.


If you want to support my travels in exchange for cool stuff, please check out my Indiegogo campaign here.
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Showing 2 comments
  • Liz G.
    Reply

    Steffani, I look forward to your adventure and your translation of it into writing. A thought: how different would it be for you if you didn’t have/want to share it globally?

    • Steffani Cameron
      Steffani Cameron
      Reply

      Hey, Liz!

      Not sure what you mean, how different would it be if I didn’t want to share it?

      I’m a writer to the core of my DNA, I don’t grok this. Share is what I do!

      Even the non-writers I know are filled with regret for not writing more during their trips. I think not sharing it makes it less of a memory/experience.

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