Quite a few years ago now I spent a little over a year living and studying in Toronto, Canada. I recall the initial strangeness and homesickness inevitable of the experience but ultimately I remember shedding a quiet tear on the bus ride across the border to Buffalo on my way home to Australia.
A great friend had put together a collection of letters from people I had lived with and loved during the experience and I’d only opened up the package as I was hurtling along the highway towards some strange unknown back in Sydney. I remember thinking about where I was only one year earlier, being particularly unsettled in a new place. Over the prior 14 months I’d developed a new home with new social circles in Canada, and now it felt like during the act of going home I was in fact leaving my new home.
The idea of having two homes is something that I think some people probably manage very effectively – I on the other hand, am not the best at spreading myself thin, and find it easiest to live in whatever situation I find myself. Because of this I know (to my dismay) that I can sometimes curb friendships in order to focus on what’s going on in front of me at that time. (Note, this is not to say I bin those friendships, I’m sure like everyone else I just become a slave to convenience and life runs away a bit. Additionally, my most stimulating friendships are more than easy to maintain at distance).
During the year in Canada I remember the point when I felt attached to Toronto, I remember realising that I was mixing in a group that were more socially engaged in their surroundings than a lot of the people in Sydney. I recall realising that what it was I was noticing was civic pride and responsibility for a place. I wrote a note at the time that for whatever levels of ‘stuff’ people own, it can only truly be the relationships they keep that can develop internal happiness. I’ve felt for the last few years that I may be losing this introspection, and it’s not a nice thought.
The height of my introspection I imagine was in the Canadian summer of 2009, I’d spent 4 months hitchhiking from Newfoundland in Eastern Canada across to Vancouver Island on the West Coast. Along the way I’d been invited to sleep in peoples houses, in their boat sheds, in their caravans and on their property in my tent. I’d accepted work for room and food on farms, picked fruit for a few days to get some more money together and even took a day job as a concreter on the West Coast to afford the airfare to Chicago (lasted 1 day).
All of these things are no doubt hard to imagine for some people – we’re no doubt bred to find security – it’s easy. We seek out this security in so many more ways than one. The pursuit of financial security locks people into one profession, the pursuit of emotional security can blind people to all sorts fantastic relationships, and I imagine the idea of sexual security has probably led to the downfall of more than a few marriages. Security has never been something that interests me – I think it’s truly boring. Why do we want to lock ourselves in to knowing what’s happening at the end of the day? Let alone the end of the decade?
What I’ve realised over the last 2 years is that I’m once again yearning to get out and explore. This has manifested itself into bicycle touring, of all things. I spent 3 weeks in late 2013 riding my bike with my tent down the west coast of New Zealand, and have taken weekend breaks wherever I can to explore different parts of rural NSW on my bike. I’ve managed to get a good friend into it also, which is inspiring and comforting.
I’ve also read back through correspondence between Canadian friends the last few years and realised that a recurring theme is me saying I’ll be moving back to Canada soon. I’ve found record of this every year since 2010 and I’m now truly realising it’s time to pull my thumb out and do it again. I went back to Toronto in 2012 to visit and took a work permit with me, I didn’t find any work during that time (I was too busy seeing friends). The next visit will need to be different.
I intend to take off again shortly and to combine two pursuits. I’ve never travelled in South America, but I’ve followed a number of incredibly inspiring cycle touring blogs of people who have done it/are doing it. In the next 12 or so months, I’ll be setting off from the bottom of South America and riding North, chasing the sun and adventure with the intention of spending an unset amount of time exploring new places and meeting new people before tracking towards (likely) Vancouver to look for some work. I imagine the journey could take anywhere from 1 to 2 years, and I don’t know where it will end, since I’d also love to look for work in Chicago, San Fran or NYC at some point. The plan is set, loosely, but set – research must sustain me until then.