Travel has been an important part of my lifestyle for the past five years, a hobby I live and breathe in any way I can. I subscribe to travel blogs and magazines, follow travel Instagram accounts, troll through Flickr for inspiring travel photography, anything to maintain the fuel in my wanderlust engine. I have made it a priority in my life to go somewhere new every year, and this year, I’m taking a big step by going on a five month solo adventure through South America.
One of the undeniable truths about living in a landlocked city situated at 53 degrees north is the inevitable winter that follows a summer that always feels too short. The days grow shorter and the temperatures grow colder, sometimes to the extent that we become the second-coldest place on Earth that day. Yes – we’ve been Antarctica’s runner-up. And the snow – sometimes the shovelled piles grow so high they become driveway mountains. Hoth in Star Wars? North of The Wall in Game of Thrones? I’d say those landscapes look fairly familiar, like a normal January day. Winter is coming, indeed.
In May 2014, I began this blog after returning from a fateful trip to Iceland, in which it seemed to be a necessity for writers in the modern world to maintain some kind of online writing presence. This was a fact realized all-too-late when delegates of the Iceland Writers Retreat wrote down our contact information for a collated list, and I had nothing to put under “website.” I kicked myself again for not starting a blog earlier when my very first blog post (about Iceland and depaysement) went viral, and I had no other content for my sudden flood of visitors to peruse.
I only have one more sleep until I get on a plane to return to Iceland for nine days. I will be attending the Iceland Airwaves music festival, with a few days beforehand to potentially site-see, reunite with friends and family, or just simply find a quiet cafe in inspirational Reykjavik and write. The first time I was preparing to go to Iceland, back in March 2014, things were very different. It was my first time visiting my country of origin, for one. It was the longest trip I had ever spent travelling completely solo. A portion of the trip was dedicated to attending the Iceland Writers Retreat, where I was surrounded by fellow writers and some of my favourite authors. And, my departure preparations were shaped by another life event that I’ve kept absent from social media and this blog – my grandfather died three days before my plane left the ground.
I wrote another article over at GoAbroad.com about some of the expectations you may have about studying abroad versus the realities that actually exist. I studied abroad in Lille, France in 2011, which serves as the basis for my studying abroad experience. Check it out! Studying Abroad – Expectations vs Reality?
As evidenced by my last post, I’m an advocate of getting out and travelling on your own because it’s just as good, if not better, than travelling in a group. But what about exploring your own city? Here’s where the hypocrisy sets in – I very rarely go out and do things within my home city of Edmonton without the company of one or more people. I have a good group of family and friends who I can always pull a plus one out of when it comes to attending various events or outings in the city. That’s not to say I never do things alone; I go grocery shopping alone, and I’ve gone to a mall to go shopping alone once or twice.
Before I went to travel by myself for the first time, people were always shocked I was going at it alone. “Aren’t you terrified?” “Is that even safe?” “Won’t you get lonely?”
I think sometimes we forget that there is more to us than the little bubble we confine ourselves to on a regular basis.
The French have a word untranslatable into English – dépaysement – many English translation sources cite it as the feeling you get when you’re not in your own country. Others define it as a change of scenery, a change of feeling, the sense of being away from your place of origin. If you deconstruct the word down to its roots, “de-” is a Latin prefix for negation or reversal, “pays” is French for country, while the Latin suffix “-ment” signifies a state or condition specified by the first root. Ultimately, while we have no word for this feeling in English, we can, perhaps, understand the sentiment behind it.