On the last Sunday in March this year I went to the Women of Letters event at the Regal Ballroom in Northcote. It was an inspiring afternoon and there were some wonderful women speaking about different experiences in their lives, people like Jess McGuire, Jane Hall and Helen Razor. And Shakira Hussein. I single Shakira out because she said something that has stuck with me. She talked about the idea of a gypsy scholar, wandering the world, learning and living and seeing the little things alongside the big; all those good things that we sometimes lose or push aside when we focus on work and financial success, climbing career ladders and gaining material possessions. As if somehow those things will sustain us.
As I sat in the Regal Ballroom that sunny March afternoon and listened to Shakira talk about this idea of the gypsy scholar I wrote the two words in my notebook, circling them, underlining them. Something about it caught me, pulled my attention and gave me pause for thought. Maybe this was something that I could want, or even, something I could need?
In a little over six months I’ll be throwing in a relatively secure job, selling most of my worldly possessions, packing up my life - what will fit into my economy class luggage allowance anyway - and moving to the other side of the world. To do what? I’m not quite sure, but I think that’s kind of the point.
I'm heading to London, cliche I know but cliche doesn’t have to be bad. I’m heading north, to the promised lands of Europe. Again. This move has been a long time coming and now it’s so close that I can nearly taste it, so close I can almost reach out and wrap my fingers around it. The abstract is becoming a landscape. You’ll excuse my rapidly beating heart, dry mouth and nervous laughter, won’t you?
The obvious question is: why?
One could argue it’s almost a rite of passage for young Australians. A stint in the UK, a few years working and travelling before heading home to get serious about life, careers, relationships and general growing up. But, I’m twenty-eight. I am grown up, as much as I protest the point. The only, somewhat, logical answer to why is Shakira Hussein and her gypsy scholar. Just swap the scholar for writer.
For some time I’ve been spinning the line, to others and myself, that this move was about adventure. I’m shifting myself halfway around the world for the adventure. Which really means I need to remove myself from an environment that feels stifling, a place that presses on my chest and allows me only short shallow breaths and not the deep chest expanding ones that I so desire. I want to force myself into change by way of drastic action. This stifling environment is safe and comfortable and too easy; it’s a strong current in a long wide river and I’m drifting.
A need to write is a significant part of the adventure. My brother asked one day last week why I couldn't write at home. I can, and I do, but I want more stories than the ones I can conjure here. Often stories spring from experiences, from change, from seeing something new and different and living something and somewhere new and removed from the safety and comfort of a childhood home. I want that new and different and that something that isn't safe or comfortable. And I want it halfway around the world. I want it far from the long wide river with its strong current and I don’t want to drift. At least not without intention.
There is a school of thought that posits travel as a means of figuring out who you are. I'm on the fence on that one, because I sometimes wonder if the point of life is exactly that - figuring out who you are - and it’s a process that ends only with death and not some storied holy grail of personal understanding.
I don't know, I'm just trying to live the adventures that I lay awake at night dreaming up. And right now that means embracing the idea of the gypsy writer, packing up my life and moving halfway around the world. To travel and learn and live and see the small things alongside the big. And to write about all of it.
So that’s what I’m going to do.