I will have the chance for the third year this year (for how much longer, I do not know) to travel for part of the year. While grateful for having this opportunity, I must put some effort to stretch the budget if I want to travel over long periods. Five-star hotels and expensive excursions are off-limits, chic restaurants are banned and local wine is on the menu. I travel by bus, ferry or train rather than by plane, when possible (by taste). I do most of the cooking and I use public transport. My trips are now adventures rather than holidays (which fulfil an important but very different function). Traveling for longer periods forces me to pack my bags differently. It does not look like an influencer suitcase, not helpful when I pack. No more coquetry! I bring only practical clothes that can be worn over three seasons, bought in the « charity shops », that I can leave behind without regret (lose or being stolen) when they have done their work (not Instagram material). These adventures are exhausting. You have to get up early, move around a lot, carry the suitcase and the backpack, communicate in another language, get out of your comfort zone. In fact, I am always tired at the end of several weeks of travel and happy to put my suitcase and my backpack, which hurts my back, down. This way of traveling has however given me the opportunity to meet more new people, to discover more deeply the culture of the other, to avoid tourist traps sweetening the experience, and places not allowing to take the pulse of a culture. For food, it’s sometimes harder. The situation varies according to the country but my diet is generally less balanced when I travel and as a result, at the end of each trip, I always have a few less eyebrows, which grow back when I return to my kitchen in Nelson. But each adventure triggers a meditation causing a slower but also a deeper change. Each adventure changes my outlook on things, often about the need to possess (one can live with one suitcase, at least for some time), the value of culture, language, the link between the past and the present. I come back with amazing memories and lots of pictures! But I had several weeks of bad hair days (no Instagram material).
In fact, it’s rather when I’m in Nelson that I almost feel like I’m on vacation. But not all plane sailing all the time : it is necessary to pack every year before each departure and unpack on return. There is a certain impermanence in this gesture which at a certain level is annoying. At another level it forces me to think more about the accumulation of things, something I started to think of a few years ago. Whenever I want something, I wonder if I need or want it enough to pack it at the end of the year and the answer is almost always: no. Sometimes I hesitate for weeks, then the desire to possess vanishes without my knowing why. Life in Nelson is rather simple and frugal, but allows me to devote myself more fully to my writing. And I love more and more frugality, which is not real frugality of course, real frugality exists in St. Lucia, where people repair sneakers in Speighstown, where some earn a living repairing flip-flops and in Havana, Bic lighters. I exercise every day, I enjoy the sun, I have a well balanced life. I have a beautiful kitchen, where my obsession with healthy foods can be enjoyed daily. And when I have occasional low back pain, I will consult Hayden, who relieves me in no time. I have time to prepare another trip, to study a new language, or to refresh my knowledge of it. My missing eyebrows grow back. But I still miss my library, which is in storage now.