Facing forward, looking back

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Happy New Year! I know it’s a bit late for New Year’s wishes, but I took the holidays off from blogging so I could concentrate on enjoying the break and the people and the food and the being home. (Aside: not true. I took the holidays off from blogging because I was generally lazy and unmotivated and indifferent to the notion of trying to string words together, but the end result is the same.)

It was a nice long break - a bit more than three weeks, and I got to spend some time in London and some time in Canada. The boat was tucked up right where I left it and there was very little drama in getting back on board. I lit the stove to get the chill off and it felt reassuringly like home. (My suitcase also found it nice to get home, especially because it had an unscheduled extra night in Istanbul before arriving a day and a half after I did.)

How cozy does this look? How could you NOT want to come home to this?

And now I’m back in Baku. It was hard coming back. This time around the job feels like less of an adventure and more of a chore, and it’s taken some effort to get my head back in the game. It’s mostly ok now, and we’ve moved out to the stadium this week so that’s distracting. And I’ve got a couple vacation days to use up, and pretty soon things will start moving so fast that the time will (I hope) fly by.

Last week, after getting all the unpacking done and stocking the cupboards again, I had a quiet evening and ended up spending a bit of time looking back. More specifically, I looked back at my old blog, Go See Run Eat Drink. I do this sometimes - open up the old blog and pick a country at random and go back and read all the posts from when I was there. It’s great to be reminded of all the places I saw and the people I met and the fun and crazy and amazing things I got to do. That was one of the reasons I decided to blog in the first place - so I could go back later and remember.

This time though, I went right back to the very first post. I started Go See Run Eat Drink way back in 2008 (before Barack Obama was elected the FIRST time) when I was at the beginning stages of a plan to quit a job I’d been at for eleven years, sell a house I’d had for a decade, and spend a year traveling around the world. At the time I was 39 years old and living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And though the blog did not go public until January 2009, that first post - for a select group of invited friends - was on July 30, 2008. That was six and a half years and 426 blog posts ago. (Astute GSREDGSWPL Readers will know that’s 275 at Go See Run Eat Drink and 151 at Go Stay Work Play Live. Oh, plus this one. 427.)

Test Pack Dat 004
Me on May 16, 2009. From this post about an experiment in packing my then-brand-new Aeronaut

I started reading from that first post and slowly moved forward in time, and it was wild. That far back I still wasn’t sure if I was really going to do it. Not at all sure if I’d really step off the cliff edge and pitch my life as I knew it in the bin and see what was out there. (Also back then I would have said “Throw my life in the garbage”).

Those first few posts are very different. Much shorter than an average post now (and with many fewer exotic locations and more frequent haircuts) but I could feel myself warming up a bit. Testing out gear, ordering luggage, planning the itinerary, and starting to deal with the thousand things that went along with wrapping up my life in a neat bundle. But over and over I could hear the hesitation. The reluctance to commit. I kept puttering on, researching one-bag travel, prowling Mountain Equipment Co-op, checking out package tours and gradually knocking the house into shape to sell, but not really doing anything irreversible like giving my notice at work.

Not that I wasn’t aware I was hedging. There was a post in October of 2008 that consisted almost entirely of just this quote:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

- W. H. Murray in "The Scottish Himalaya Expedition", 1951
As I was poking around Go See Run Eat Drink I also stumbled on a post I wrote but never published. The working title was simply “Anxiety” and was a kind of airing out of all my worries at the time. As I read it I couldn’t help but smile from my smug place in the future. Here, six years late, is that unpublished list of fears, along with comments from Future Pam about how it all turned out:
  • I'm scared my house will sit, unsold, until after my scheduled departure date. (It was fine. Sold quickly and easily.)
  • I'm scared that when or if my house does sell I won't get the price I need to make the budget for the trip work. (And it sold for a bit over the asking price.)
  • I'm scared about quitting my job - it's comfortable and pays well and I'm good at it and I like the people I work with. (All that was true but I’ve now found that same combination again and again in other situations. Well maybe not “comfortable” but everything else.)
  • I'm scared that I might give my notice at work and then something will make the trip fall through and then I'd have no job and no trip. (Obviously that didn’t happen.)
  • I'm scared about finding a new job. (This took longer than I thought, but then again I was starting from scratch in a new country and I was ridiculously ambitious about how long it would take.)
  • I'm scared about starting a new job and not being very good at it, at least at first. (It was fine. It turns out I really am actually pretty good at what I do regardless of what country it’s in.)
  • I'm scared a new job will never be as good as the old job. (Wow, was this ever wrong. Not that the old place was bad. But, well… this.)
  • I'm scared about giving up a lot of my stuff. (As I later predicted, and as EVERYONE who’s done this says, I got back to my 5’ x 10’ storage space and thought, “Why do I have all this STUFF??”. And now I live in the space of four-and-a-half tatami mats. And yet I still rent a storage space...)
  • I'm scared the trip won't be as great as it sounds. (*derisive snort*)
  • I'm scared I might be trying to fit in too much traveling in too little time. (I definitely did that. But now sometimes when I go somewhere I stay for months.)
  • I'm scared that I'll get locked into an itinerary and not be able to change. (Nope.)
  • I'm scared that I might wimp out. (Didn’t)
  • I'm scared that I won't wimp out. (Didn’t)
  • I'm scared that if I do wimp out, I'll never see Petra, or the pyramids, or the Great Wall, or ever actually leave Winnipeg and move my life forward (professionally and personally). (I saw all those places and more. And my life has moved leaps and bounds. And then more bounds. And anther leap or two after that.)
I didn’t read all of Go See Run Eat Drink again, because I have a job and didn't have 13 hours to spare that evening. But I did scroll through most of it up to the point when I actually left Canada. And what really struck me, if it’s not blindingly obvious, is how far I’ve come. Geographically, of course. That much is obvious: I started in Winnipeg and I’m now typing this sitting on my couch in Azerbaijan, with more than a few far-flung stops in between. But equally, or perhaps more so, I looked back and realised how many more big decisions and big changes I’ve made since I bundled up my life into that carry-on sized bag and boarded a plane.

I was in that old life - Winnipeg, the job, the house, the dog - for twelve years, and for most of those years not much big changed. In half that amount of time - the six years since I left - I’ve been around the world. Literally - I actually went all the way around. I visited 33 different countries on that first big trip and have chalked up a few more since. More importantly though, after I got back I turned right around and moved to a whole different country. Then I got to work on the biggest show on earth, the Olympic Opening Ceremony. And then I got to move to another other country and do that all again, expect in Russian. And now that’s kind of just what I do - go to odd and interesting places and help to put on huge exciting shows. And when I’m not doing that I live on a boat in the greatest city in the world. I say this not to brag, but because I feel really lucky.

And here I am on August 4, 2016.

I often remember a few years ago when friends came to visit in London, bringing their two kids with them. It was in the spring before the 2012 Olympics, and as we walked through Trafalgar Square we went past the big countdown clock that was ticking away the days left before the games started. I remember commenting on how lucky I felt to be there - living in the city, working in the most amazing job, even just strolling with them through that spot. And then it struck me: yes, I am lucky. A lot of things had to go right for me to be there then and for me to be here now, starting with being born in a good country with a great family and a respectable brain.

But there’s something else too. Those advantages in life set me up, but where I am now is something I think I can take credit for. I had the idea and I took the chance, and that opened up a whole cascade of new ideas and new chances. And they're still coming.

In a way, I made this luck in my life.

How could I have named the boat anything else?


Karen said...

Love love love this post. A good reminder for your dedicated readers and friends.

Jill said...

I've never met you, but have followed your blog since the beginning and have enjoyed your crazy life. Which, to say that someone from Winnipeg has had a crazy life it like an oxymoron. I'm not being an ass or anything, but I too travel for a living, not like you, but I've been to Winnipeg (I was born in Portage), more times than I want too and I have determined there are two types of Winnipegers - those that are born and raised and can't wait to leave at 18 and those that are born and raised and can't imagine ever leaving (their job for life, their house, their city, their province, their boat, their cottage and venture out). So i'm glad to see that at least one Winnipeger threw both of those types out the window and is a good example for others in the city that life is awesome outside of Winnipeg!

Anonymous said...

Yay, Pam!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

Colleen K said...

What an amazing adventure it has been, Pam! Thanks for continuing the narrative so we can experience, second hand, your on-going explorations and the belicous topatoes along the way. Enjoy! ck

Kathryn said...

Love this post!

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