The past year has been life changing in many ways: we have seen our youngest daughter graduate from high school in New York, leave home and go travelling alone ( every parent’s nightmare!). She jumped out of airplanes, slept on boat decks, climbed bridges and got a tattoo- the usual ‘gap year’ antics of a 21st century 18-year-old! Thankfully, after only a few anxious moments, she has settled in to University life and has completed a semester of her Science degree! But did I mention it is at the University of Melbourne in Australia? That’s a very long way from New York!! Paul is Australian and we had discussed moving to Australia 20 years ago, when we met in London, but life took us to Johannesburg and New York, instead!
So here we are 20 years later, living ‘down under’. After living on 4 continents in the past 8 years and moving house 6 times, we are ready to settle down to Aussie life. Moving to another country means completely starting from scratch, as Paul has been away 21 years it was the same for him; you would think we would have it sussed by now but every country has different rules and regulations, only known to themselves and you need to be a gymnast to jump through all the hoops and a genius to understand how to fill in all the forms! New bank accounts ( no chance of a credit card as “you haven’t any credit history”); new phone numbers; new medical insurance; changing driving licences to local ones; visa applications, references, certified copies of everything!! That’s all before trying to find a home to rent or start a new job! It gets overwhelming at times but I have, on deep reflection, realised that the pluses to our nomadic life outweigh the negatives:
I grew up near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town, with a passion for Shakespeare that let me to firstly, be a tourist guide at his mother’s house and then become a college and high school English teacher. I’ve played Titania ( local amateur production!) and walked in costume in the Shakespeare birthday Celebrations parade. I benefitted from all the heritage, beauty, experiences and privileges of growing up in the UK.
We then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa: where I have experienced dawn over the African bush, held in awe by lion cubs playing in a dry river bed whilst a watchful mother kept guard. I have taught bright, intelligent, inspiring young men from inner city Johannesburg, traversing ravines with them in the pink Magaliesberg mountains. Lived 2 streets from the world’s hero, Nelson Mandela and to whom we were even able to hand deliver a birthday card. The intensity of the country gets under your skin and becomes part of your soul. You feel closer to God in Africa;
“I was afflicted with Africa like a bout of a rare disease, from which I have not managed a full recovery.” ( The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver).
Africa is a delicious addiction that I will cherish in my body and mind eternally.
Just as we felt we would be in Jo’burg forever, we moved continents and hemispheres, again. New York is a city that is palpable in its energy and diversity.
The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, all breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. (Charles Whitby)
My morning run was in Central Park, around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis reservoir passing the ambling tourists and feeling blessed to live in such a vibrant city of the world. Evenings were spent listening to classical jazz at the posh Plaza Hotel or engulfing ourselves in ‘world’ jazz at the eclectic Shrine club in Harlem. We have eaten gourmet vegan at Candle 79 to commemorate American Thanksgiving and, also, falafels and green juices at Abaleh health diner to celebrate Paul’s New York marathon achievement. We experienced summer heat of 40+C and 98% humidity, followed by winters that went down to minus 16C, where you felt that your face could freeze off and our backs got sore from clearing the snow off the driveway.
We have done a myriad of amazing things but the true blessings from living in all these places are not the really the things we have done but the people we have met: people who became friends and opened their lives and hearts to the new crazy foreigners.
Each friend represents a world to us, a world not possibly born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. (Anais Nin)
The strangers who we met for a brief moment but took time to chat and share their knowledge and wisdom on their locale and their perspective of the world. The wonderful people who inspired us to try new experiences and constantly strive to improve ourselves both physically and mentally. The church communities who unreservedly embraced us in to their family of God. Those friends, old and new, who supported us in a variety of ways when things were tough. Our families who have borne the pain of our departure and the delight of each brief return visit. Through them we have learned how to be grateful and understand what true happiness is. Robert Holden, in his inspiring book Be Happy, says ” unless you cultivate an awareness of joy, no amount of pleasure or satisfaction will make you happy.” The loved ones in our lives are our joy.
When life seems tough or when we are taking it for granted, counting your blessings and being aware of the joy that you can cultivate from within when recollecting the connections you have made , can be all it takes to change your attitude to your place in this wonderful world.
So, armed with my new energising self-knowledge, I am back on track with my holistic health blog and ready to share some of the recipes I have been working on during my travels…