15 Mar Toronto bound
When I’m away, I become someone else. Instinct and spontaneity return. Without the stress of work, without the familiarity locking me into habits and patterns, I listen to my gut, which means, I also take risks. I become more, well, more me!
I eat at restaurants alone and I don’t care if people stare– they’re staring more from the fact the blond hair and fair skin scream, ‘I’m not a local!’ Especially in Indonesia last year when I had locals take pictures of me.
I also write, consistently. Almost every day when I can. And, it feels so good. It attaches me to what happened to me that day. Writing about it, thinking about it, reflecting, connects me to my life. I don’t do this at home enough–sure, it’s the ole, ‘I’m sooo busy,’ refrain. But I inevitably write more when I’m away because my day was so full of new things that I’m compelled to write about it. At home, some days, or even weeks can go by when I haven’t changed perceptions, or had a new thought or experience. It’s soul-crushing. Sure, it can’t be everyday that I have a great epiphany or mind-blowing experience, but mind-monotony can take over and it’s painful.
And, I’ve noticed that when I’m away one major thing that I do more: I go out of my way to talk to strangers. I’m sitting next to someone, I start speaking. That small exchange has often lead to talking for hours, having dinners together, or even, deciding to travel together. I did that last summer with Ellen from Holland– a wee conversation in Bali lead to meeting at the airport and tackling Yogyakarta together. Arriving into a pressure cooker of people, tuk-tuk drivers, intense heat, stares–she is blond, too! — and harassing drivers, ‘you want taxi? Taxi? Yes, taxi?’ we clung to one another in the chaos.
Ok, so this isn’t going to happen in Toronto. ‘Hey,’ I know we just met but let’s hop on a train!’ Can you imagine? No. But, taking this same spirit, can I engage people more?
For the first time in about 13 years, I have decided to stay home. Well, I’ll try to stay off a plane until I can’t handle it anymore and then run for it. But, I’m trying a little experiment. Can I take those same ‘traveling attitudes’ and apply them to Toronto, a city that is still relatively new to me? Can I meet strangers that turn into friends? Can I find new things that will inspire me to run back to my computer and write about it? And most importantly, can I find myself here in a way that I only can when I run away to a new place?
So, in attempt to find this person I become when I travel, I have decided to take a few risks in my backyard, so to speak. The first risk: competing in mountain biking. One problem with going away every summer is that I have to leave my bike at home. Sure, I often ride when I’m away, but never consistently. I never ride enough to improve, or become part of a riding community.
Risk two: learn a new language. Yes, after all this time I have never picked up more than a few lines of any language. And, considering my love of anything latin, Spanish is a good start. Plus, when dancing salsa, one must converse at times? Non? Si.
And yes, when the city is killing me, when I can’t stand the crowds anymore–which does happen quite a bit with me–I’m going to also write about Algonquin Park. I have a trip planned to stay in the rangers’ cabins for a week. Remote and removed. Ahh, smell that friggin fresh air now. Go for a hike in the nude? Why not. Ha, not in bug season though!
Ok, so that is enough planning, because I have to be open to the spontaneous, right? So, friends, in a few weeks, once my semester of teaching is finished, I will be documenting, and with some video thrown in bien sur, my Toronto trip. If you thought you knew this place, be prepared to be shocked. Ha. Well, ok, maybe not shocked, but at the very least, inspired to get out. Move. Take a bite of something weird, talk to someone, reveal yourself, take a leap of faith, and grow.