Wednesday, June 5: My life has taken a convoluted path in the last 6 years. I never expected to be living in the Sultanate of Oman, teaching English to Arabs (a nomad in the land of nizwa). Nor did I expect to teach English to primary school students in South Korea, which I did for a year before coming to Oman in September 2011 (catbird in korea). In the book of my life, page 2006, I was living a hum-drum and predictable existence that often made me wonder: Is this all there is? In that year, I was immersed in a Master’s degree program in International Commerce and Policy, married with 3 children, wondering if my life would ever change, and believing it never would.
But. My life has changed. I have changed. I have learned to be more independent, more confident and more adventurous. I have learned to be less needy and less afraid of being alone. I have also learned some things about myself I would have preferred not to learn, but now that I’m aware of these character flaws, I guess I should do something to fix them. Life is a path, and sometimes we energetically and enthusiastically venture down that path, and other times we sluggishly move along it with blinders on. I was doing the latter in 2006. In 2013, after a whirlwind adventure of working and living abroad and traveling extensively in the world, I’m tired and I’m ready to go home.
A word grows to a thought, a thought to an idea, an idea to an act. The change is slow, and the present is a sluggish traveler loafing in the path tomorrow wants to take.
~ Beryl Markham
It’s funny how life can lead you down twisting alleys and into open fields and to mountaintops and into wadis deep in the middle of terra-cotta colored canyons. It can lead you to dead-end streets, up hundreds of steps to monasteries in the desert, and to dancing parties in city squares. It can lead you to tangled and decaying ruins and marble palaces and manicured gardens. It can lead you to magical moments in hot air balloons over landscapes that resemble the moon. It can lead you to chaotic streets crowded with motorbikes and rickshaws and elephants and cows. It can lead you down dirty rivers at sunrise, in the midst of people bathing on ghats at the water’s edge. It can lead you to encounters with people who open your eyes and hearts or who, alternately, test your patience. Ultimately, it can lead you back to yourself.
Once you find even something of yourself, you can take that new self into further unknown territories, where you continue to discover, hopefully, how you fit into the great scheme of this thing called life.
I’ll be arriving back to northern Virginia, in the USA, on July 25, 2013. Before that, a minute after midnight on June 28, I am bound for a month-long trip to Spain and Portugal. To me, anywhere in Europe is the ultimate destination. Despite all the traveling I’ve done in Asia and the Middle East, my European travels have been the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. I love the European lifestyle, the cafe culture, the history, the general cleanliness and Western mentality.
My first trip was to England in 1998. Though not exotic, per se, it was romantic and extraordinary. I discovered the famous ordnance maps, which showed the English countryside in such great detail that we could fashion hikes through people’s yards and farms. I love it in England that walkers have the right-of-way and that if property owners have fences around their properties, they must provide a passage through the fence where the trail crosses over. We hiked through the countryside in the Cotswolds & the Lake District. We explored history in Bath and London. I was amazed at how different life could feel in a country that I thought would be similar to America.
I ventured to France in 2003 with my husband Mike and then back to France in 2006 with Mike and our two teenage sons. On the first trip, I went to the south and Paris; on the second, we traveled north, and to Paris again. I journeyed to Turkey (straddling Europe and Asia) in 2010, traveling alone for the first time in my life (catbird in turkey). Finally, I went to Greece in 2012 (greek wanderings). But there is still so much in Europe I want to see. This trip to Spain and Portugal will be my first trip to these countries and I want to learn the art of lingering. I’m trying not to pack too much into my schedule because I want to soak in the experience.
Sometimes I wish I could be a European. 🙂
I think if I ever work abroad again, it must be in Europe. Or China. 🙂
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