‘Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold’ ~ Helen Keller
Look! My first paddle on our local canal. A paddle in search of connection. And in the Autumn, that gives me away a bit doesn’t it! Cray-cray. I desperately wanted to feel one with this landscape I live amongst, to be stirred by it. At times the ‘scape here can feel so ordered. The Dutch are neat people. Hedges are trimmed, paths are swept and nothing seems to grow where it shouldn’t. Or perhaps it is because it is flat! I need this connection you see. I need it to keep my spirit awake and to move my soul. My hope was that from the water I’d feel wildness over the order. And I’d be inspired by it in the same way I was by the Irish landscape.
What was it about living in Ireland last year that tapped into the well of songs I wanted to sing, of prose I wanted to write, of beauty I wanted to capture, of my love of adventure and the message of living with less I was confidently able to share. I WAS so free! Every run through the countryside had me not only fist pumping the air with wild JOY but running alongside and into a deep sense of contentment with life and our choices. We had faced the discord of the life we were living (stress, palpitations, so many ‘WTF’ is this bullshit life I’m existing in kind of moments) and we’d bought ourselves some space away from it.
By luck we landed at ‘Ard na Mara’ Cottage in a small harbour side Irish village. I say luck but it was also great generosity. A family member rented us their home away from home. We lived in a community where fresh eggs were sold on the roadside, a school bus driven by Pat collected the kids daily, baby lambs lulled is with their bleating as we relaxed into the evenings and that sun that LITERALLY rose on our doorstep. And of course there was the richness of the mysterious myths, folklore, music and people … aahhh my heart swells as I write this. Did I really live that? Yes, yes I did … and what a bloody joy it just was to refresh my memory by visiting my Instagram posts from that time.
Perhaps we should have moved there you say. I know. I have often wondered about that too, but we chose not to. Those three months were AMAZING but it was part of an adventure not the destination. Life in Ireland wouldn’t suit us permanently. Not right now anyhow (although I never say never ;). But seriously we’d need a car again and a few years before landing on the Emerald Isle I had a dream of de-owning the family car. If you’ve been a part of my writing or online life for a while you’d know I started a blog about finding a simpler life. And you’d also know that car wasn’t the only ‘thing’ I wanted to de-own … there was the dryer, the microwave, the high heeled boots – the ones I had in the wardrobe from a previous life (they were no good pushing a pram up the hills in inner city Sydney).
Alongside the simplifying I had this crazy idea that maybe, just maybe we could simplify our way towards camper vanning around Europe. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen. And now I’m writing to you from a village (dorpje) in The Netherlands … that crazy idea found legs. Jeez I’d say more than legs – it found wings! Not only did we campervan around Europe last year we also did it again this year AND we moved our life here (him, me and the four mini’s, maybe not so mini now). We gave up all those ‘things’ and we also gave up living in the rat race. It was never for us. We burnt out, spent. And now here we are living this kind of crazy, unbelievable dream. (We lived here before the mini’s and I have citizenship which makes it possible.) Possible doesn’t mean easy, which is why I’m beginning this – but I’ll get to that soon, promise.
When I’m traveling everything seems possible. I come up with the greatest and grandest of ideas. The wonder of exploring amongst new possibilities and being lost in the off grid, unscripted style of travel we’re so fond of does lend itself to BIG dreaming. There are always the ones about buying and renovating a farmhouse in the the Italian, Spanish or French countryside (I’m not fussy) – they haven’t happened. Um I’m not sure they will, we are not renovators. The palpitations would come back for shizzle. But there was one to walk the Camino Frances across Spain for charity (I started slower family travels to get accountable for that). Yep, there was that GRAND idea and I bloody did it! And wasn’t that something.
Imagine walking 800kms over 28 days with all you need in your backpack and raising enough money to educate 28 girls. Of course our life is a Camino (a contemplative walk) but I’d say that decision to ‘Choose’ simplicity way back in Sydney was where I started walking forward on my life camino again. It was the moment I decided I wouldn’t live a life that I’d look back over and have regrets. In hindsight I am not sure I was very connected to my life back then.
I started simply – by living in a way that valued keeping life simple, by reducing and buying less, eventually a year of nothing, by making, growing more and by valuing slow over fast, we hiked a lot and we camped away the school holidays. Spotting a sunset, hearing a birdsong, spotting a bloom that’s not a holiday rarity it’s an everyday feeler of life magic norm. I didn’t realise at the time but really I was choosing to go back to myself, my core and live a more creative life (a life with less, yet with more).
And bloody hell it takes a certain degree of courage to live creatively. To want to be in control of where your life is heading … to live true to your values, to know what’s important, to constantly challenge yourself and choose your own path. Gosh it sounds exhausting doesn’t it!? Yeah sometimes it is. But isn’t life exhausting anyway? I reckon we may as well get exhausted being honest with ourselves. And because I’m in the business of being honest with myself and of living creatively I must pursue new dreams when life offers the space.
I can’t sell it all and go travelling again – done that! I can’t focus purely on my charity adventures – done that. Actually I’m still doing that. I’m running twelve half marathons for One Girl next year. My charity work is not a new project it’s building on last year’s idea that I (with the help of many others) brought to fruition. I can do it again this year without so much fear because I’ve been there. Stuff gets easier after you try the first time and that is where the space for something new opens up.
So if I’m honest with you I am feeling a little caught out, vulnerable, exposed. I’m out in the open staring at the future and it’s a tad scary. The space we bought ourselves landed us here and we need to commit. It’s been a culture shock of sorts … returning to ‘normal’ life. We need to build a life here because we can’t go back to the one we left behind. We aren’t those people anymore. Damn it. It would be easier if we could live in a way that avoided danger. But you know even when we were, I was caught out. Caught out wanting more. More meaning that is. And I went searching for it. So yeah I guess Helen Keller speaks to me in the opening quote of this post.
Like I have done over the years I’m outing myself here. Just like I did when I started the choose simplicity blog and again like I did when I started the slower family travels blog. You see it has come to my attention that I LIVE on the edge of my comfort zone. As I write that I roll my eyes at myself, truth.
‘Why Frances do you need this?
You also love the cosy familiarity of creating and quietly living in your nest.
Yes, that’s true but you need more.
You need what writing the words gives you.
So you may as well face it – you will be caught out either way.
And isn’t it better to be caught out because you chose something that pushed you past what feels safe?
Because dear Fran if you choose what is safe you’ll never know what you are capable of?
True but hey Frances what if you fail’?
Here is the kicker friends – I’d fail harder if I didn’t step up.
‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default’ J K Rowling
So yeah failing by default would be harder for me because that would mean I didn’t even try – so here we are. Again.
Still reading along? Sorry it’s a long one, let me get to the point friends.
I am excited.
I am going to write a book. Yes I am. I am going to try. How? Shit I’ll work that out as I go. And I’m here because it’s a new ride! You’re all invited, you choose if you want to come with me on this one. Slower Family Travels will still exist – there are those twelve half marathons to debrief and cities to share … but this baby, she needs her own space. And I am not sure who is over there (following slower) and why they are there. I am ready to own my name with a site.
My voice is still whispering (I’m scared) but it’s growing stronger. Yes friends to birth this baby I want this space to share with you, my eclectic tribe. I have become quite fond of you and hopefully y’all know who you are. There will be no tagging or prompting over here (other than the one I just published on slower), it is an organic kind of space. We can grow together.
What can you expect?
A monthly letter (I’m working on crafting words and patience) so less but more – if that makes sense. I’ll be letting you know where I’m at. The process – how I fit it in, the creative dates I take myself on (you will see my photography nurtured here), when I send stuff to publishers (ha ha see I dream BIG), what I’m doing to get myself into the creative silence I need to find and our life in the flatlands.
Hint – life about to get a whole lot ‘choose’ simplicity here.
It’s why I need this space and those of you who get me. And honestly how can I fail? I get to write a tribute to that one step that started this adventure and along the way I am going back to where it all started. Making bread and focussing on creativity. Success already.
Did one paddle on the water do all this?
No it wasn’t the paddle. Although it did awaken me and I hope to do a lot more paddling. It’s good silence. I like it out there on my own. And let’s face it, it’s good for the core and I need that as I trot through my forties. Nah this comes as life begins a new phase for us. Him is going back to work for the man and I am sticking with the part time teaching gig while nurturing our nest. I can no longer work as a midwife as my qualification is not transferable and I need something for me. Don’t worry I knew that when we made the decision to move our lives here. But I don’t want to look backwards … so forward it is.