Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

abookofmigrations

June’s book of the month selection is something a little bit different.

It is non-fiction. It is travel. But it is a meandering, in-depth sort of travelogue, a scouring of the history, culture, and collective consciousness of a country that managed to capture my own soul: Ireland.

Rebecca Solnit traveled around the country on foot in the early half of the 90s, ruminating on what makes Ireland so Irish. She covers a number of subjects, including ancient history, recent history, many public figures, and the roots of Irish restlessness, from their propensity for bird imagery to the necessity of mass emigration.

Solnit’s prose is not easy, but it is beautiful. She creates shockingly gorgeous sentences that probe to the depths of the matter, and are always concise, yet somehow view the issue from a slightly sidewise angle. I loved the way she made me think so differently about a place that I thought I knew a lot about. She weaves a few stories of her own experiences in the country amidst the other stuff, but those stories really just act as jumping off points for bigger things.

By the end of it, I felt like I understood Ireland a little better, as well as an aspect of myself that I hadn’t known was unknown. Not your average travel book, and definitely worth a look if you like a long, slow, savory reading experience.

What did you read this month? What was your favorite? Least favorite? 

(My least favorite was definitely Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. We have to stop perpetuating this ridiculous notion that possessive, violent men are sexy. Shudder.)

(Psst! Find the rest of my book of the month recommendations here.)

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

We Bought the Tickets

Moyan Brenn © 2010 under Creative Commons
Moyan Brenn © 2010 under Creative Commons

The blue line moved like a turtle across the screen. “Almost there!” it promised, then inched another millimetre forwards. “Just about!” I squeezed my eyes shut; I couldn’t take the tension. When I opened them again, the progress bar jumped the last gap and our ticket information popped up instead.

A rush of exultation. A squeal of delight. A high-five.

We are going to Paris.

This was not a well-thought out, carefully considered plan. This was not something that we had meticulously planned for, or planned for at all. We hadn’t perused our savings, trying to determine if we could afford the trip.

We found an amazing deal on flights ($1200 roundtrip FOR BOTH OF US, including a 2 day stop in Helsinki) and we took about twelve hours to decide that this was something that we needed to do.

We can’t afford the whole trip right now, but that’s okay, because it isn’t until the fall. We can afford the plane tickets. So we bought them. We bought the tickets, and the beautiful thing is that now? We have to make it work. Even though it is a steal of a deal (my flight to Ireland a couple of years ago was more than both our flights combined), it is still not chump change, and reneging on that commitment simply isn’t an option. Instead of waiting until everything was perfect, we decided to take the plunge instead. It’s something that I’m working on: putting things into action before they are flawless.

So we are going to Paris. And even if we have to stay in a hostel (which I am not a big fan of), and live off of baguettes and cheese for ten days, I don’t care. Because we are going to the City of Love. We are going to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Montmartre and the Seine. We are going to the place where the Lost Generation lived and loved and created, a city that I have been dreaming of for most of my life.

So even though I look at my account balance and feel a bit of a twinge, I am mostly flush with anticipation. We are investing in our dreams over here. And eight months is plenty of time to squirrel away more cash to make it the best trip we can.

Have you ever taken the plunge and just bought the ticket? And, on a more practical note, if you’ve been to Paris, what do you recommend that we do, outside of the obvious?

We Bought the Tickets

Babies, But Not Yet

As any of you who have read this blog before know, I struggle a lot with finding “purpose”; that career or lifestyle that will fulfill me and make all my wildest dreams come true. But while I have flopped back and forth in that arena almost constantly for the past, oh, decade or so, there is one thing in my life that I have always been 100% certain about: motherhood. I love kids. I even love other people’s kids (it is why I choose to work with them). I have never wavered on my desire to have children of my own.

Since I got married, my desire to have children has intensified exponentially (who knew my biological clock was so sensitive to socially acceptable context for procreation?). My ache to have children has gotten to the point where it is a constant companion, but intense enough that it is a struggle to handle it every day. My cousin, who is one of my best friends, is the same age as me and has two children, and there are days when I burn with jealousy over that. When I am driven to distraction by the need to have a baby of my own in my arms.

But then again…there, too, are days when I am driven to distraction by my need to travel the world, to write many novels, to start my own business. To live in Melbourne, Australia, to laze on the beaches of Thailand, to work on an organic farm in Hawaii.

For a long time, I felt like life plateaued after the age of 30. When making decisions, I would often think, “But will I be done and established by the time I am 30?” Like there was no way for me to change my mind or start anything new after that age. Like 30 was the magical number whereby I would have had to make all of my decisions and forever live with the consequences.

I have since changed my mindset on that. I am fairly certain that I will be changing my mind and trying new things for the rest of my life, and so I am not quite so obsessed with the threshold of 30. With that shift has also come the shift in thinking about kids. I used to believe that my desire for children at a relatively young age (I want to start having kids before – ha – 30), meant that I would have to opt out of a lot of things. Of course, having kids changes things. It changes your priorities, your time commitments, your whole life. But it does not mean that you have to give up on everything else that you have ever desired. There are plenty of people who travel the world with their children, or pursue high-powered careers, or launch their own businesses. Just as life does not plateau after 30, it does not plateau after children either.

I know that we are not ready for children yet. Financially, that would be disastrous. Emotionally and mentally, we just aren’t there. I would like to enjoy a few years of marriage just the two of us. I would like to do some hardcore traveling without a child strapped to my back. I would like to selfishly explore my own wants and needs. I’d like to sleep in on the weekends and go out with friends until the wee hours and pick up and head to the mountains at the last minute just because we feel like it. I would like to get to know myself – and Bryan – a little bit better outside the context of parenthood.

The torch of my longing for children is the brightest and longest burning of all the torches that I carry. It will burn for a little while longer, while I pursue the other ones that flicker in the background, begging, too, for my attention.

 

Babies, But Not Yet

Cannon Beach

On our way from Portland to Vancouver, we drove 1.5 hours out of our way to Cannon Beach, Oregon. We didn’t know what to expect, besides “cool beach,” so when we walked down from our car to discover this magnificent beauty, we were blown away. The wind whipped fiercely, goosebumps rose on my arms, my hair and sweater flapped wildly. We walked barefoot in the water, watching in fascination as the tiny waves intersected with one another, washing over our feet, one deliciously warm, the next bone-achingly cold. There were at least 30 kites diving and dancing in the wind. I saw a starfish for the first time. We held hands and took photos and laughed, and I could have stayed there forever.

I love the mountains, deeply. They soothe me. But the ocean…the ocean is another story entirely. I love it more than I love the mountains. It touches something wild and primal in me, and I could stare at its fierce grace for the rest of my life.

We only stayed for about two hours, including lunch, but it was 100% worth the extra three hours it added to our trip. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
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Cannon Beach

Travel Priorities

When we first started Creative Dwelling a couple of years ago, I did a post about my travel priorities: those things that were the most important to me in terms of seeing the world, so that I’d have something to go of off and work towards.

Well, I made a new one last night, and they’re practically identical. Not quite, but very nearly.

Let’s compare the two, shall we?

Cliffs of Moher © 2013 Jessica McGale
Cliffs of Moher © 2013 Jessica McGale

From June 12, 2012:

  1. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  2. Bike around Ireland.
  3. Surf in Hawaii and California.
  4. Visit all 50 states.
  5. Adventure trip to New Zealand.
  6. Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.
  7. Hike Machu Picchu.
  8. Go somewhere I never would have considered before.
  9. Live abroad for 3 months or more.
  10. Oktoberfest.

 

From April 1, 2014:

  1. Surf in California.
  2. Live in Melbourne, Australia.
  3. Do a bike tour of Vietnam.
  4. Go to a Christmas market in Prague, or Belgium.
  5. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
  6. Experience autumn in New York City.
  7. WWOOF in Hawaii.
  8. Island hop in Greece.
  9. Float in the Dead Sea.
  10. Zipline in Costa Rica.

 

What strikes me about these two lists is that the spirit stays the same across both. The places are similar, and the reasons I want to go there are similar, but my thinking about them and my ideas about how to experience them have evolved. Which is pretty cool to see.

What are your travel priorities?

Travel Priorities

California Dreamin’

It has long been a dream of mine to go to California.

I think it started in high school, when I was a devoted fan of the TV show The OC. (I still am. I actually just started a full series rewatch a few days ago.) I was always captivated by the opening credits: the sun jumping off the crystalline blue waves, the exuberant sunset sky, the crisp shape of a sailboat cutting across the horizon. Every single cell yearned towards California.

I talked about it. And I thought about it. I looked up flights and things to do. But I never made real plans. I never did anything to make my dream a reality.

One of my favorite travel bloggers, Kate, had an interesting perspective in a post from January of this year. She basically said that the best way to make it to that destination you’ve always dreamed of was to make a commitment to going there this year. Not just a resolution, but a real commitment. Instantly, I knew that I wanted California to be where we went on our honeymoon. We flirted with a few other destinations (New York City, New Orleans) but I kept coming back to California. So we agreed that we would celebrate our marriage in the place that I have dreamed about the longest.

Originally, we were planning on San Diego (SoCal is, after all, where all the movies, etc, take place). But there were other adventures in store for us. We looked at flights to San Diego during our timeframe, and they were all strange times, or had way too many stops, or weren’t available from our location. On a whim, I plugged in San Francisco instead, and boom, we immediately found flights that were well within our budget, convenient times, and the flight there was even direct! We talked about it for about 15 minutes, and then booked ’em.

Which is how I got on the path of making my California dreamin’ a reality. There are benefits to being flexible in how your dream comes to fruition.

We head to SF in September, and I could not be more excited. I’m already planning things to do, places to eat, where we’ll stay. It’s hard to believe that something that has been in the back of my mind for so long is going to be a reality.

I can’t wait to share all of our Cali adventures here on the blog!

Have you been to California? Where did you go? If SF was on your itinerary, what was the best place you went/saw/ate?

California Dreamin’