I have sat in this chair before. The one where the view from where I sit seems more compelling than the one I’ve stared at for so long. Today I sit at the worn wooden table in my rented apartment, where I can look down the hallway, through the corbelled arch of this 1920’s building, and out the transom window to the blue sky beyond. I have been in Montreal for eight weeks and I still haven’t figured out the metric system. It will be 29 degrees Celsius today. I’m not sure what that is in Fahrenheit, all I know is that it will be hot!
As an exchange student in 1995, I sat on a bus, staring out the windows, absorbing the verdant green hills that rolled past and the honey colored stone buildings of small villages I could see in the distant landscape of rural England. I had travelled from Brighton to Edinburgh, from Liverpool to Lowestoft, and though I was about to head to Europe for several months, I already knew I didn’t want to go home to all that was familiar. Now, after eight weeks in Montreal, I feel that same sense confusion. A foot in both worlds. The one that is known, and the one that has yet to be explored.
Years ago I recognized myself for who I am. A vagabond, a wandering spirit, an adventurer, an explorer. I disguise myself regularly in the clothes of someone else. Mother, PTA President, gardener. I only expose this wandering spirit to my husband, because in this we are kindred spirits. We want to go everywhere, live in all kinds of spaces and places, eat strange foods, try new things. It never fails to amuse me that while I moved every two years of my life, my husband lived in the same house for the majority of his life. Yet, we have this mutual need. We also have the mutual desire to provide a stable environment for our children to grow up in.
Hence the disguise.
Is this a new revelation? No. I have parents, siblings, friends who demanded that we return before we left on this adventure. One child is filled with wanderlust, the other says, “No! I want to go home. I want to stay there, FOREVER!” Am I confused? Yes!
Recently, yesterday actually, a friend created a Facebook Page where a bunch of us who worked together back in the late 1980’s, started sharing details of our lives. Many were from Europe and going to work was akin to landing on foreign soil daily. In reading their updates it was interesting to see that a handful had children and had continued to move all over the world. It’s been on my mind quite a bit this trip that whether we move or stay, what we have to do differently is help our children understand us better. I think we have worn our disguise long enough.
I know that all of this is why I write what I write. It isn’t accidental that the books I have written, and those still waiting their turn to make it to digital format, take place all over the world. As natural as it is for others to want a homestead, a place where grandchildren will come to visit, I need to see the world, to have minimal restraints. This is witnessed so perfectly in a recent book review when the individual wrote, “the research is sound and there was enough of London in it to make me believe that the writer had been there.” I want to tell her, “I have! I have! Many times.”
One form of vicarious travelling that I do is in forming connections with authors around the globe. We are able to relate and support each other in ways never experienced before. While we do not sit in salons in Paris or London, we Skype, chat, tweet, and post. It is a gratifying community to belong to. For me it goes far beyond the writer’s relationship of promotion and research. It’s the knowledge that we dreamers can dream alongside someone else.
As there are armchair quarterbacks, there are keyboard tapping travelers.