As I prepare to leave my newfound home of one month for my next destination, I reflect upon the numerous and overwhelming gifts I have received here in Altea on the Costa Blanca of Spain: The surreal cerulean blue of The Mediterranean Sea where she meets the mountains and the way the sunlight dances on her gentle ripples; the deep breaths of fresh, crisp air gently and randomly perfumed by the white oleander that grows seemingly anywhere and everywhere that I inhaled daily on my steep climb from the beach to my temporary lodging. The walk from my house on the hill to Altea’s unique white and gray pebbled beach took me on tiny cobblestone streets winding past hundreds of picturesque whitewashed houses with Juliet balconies brimming with plants and flowers.
My own picturesque whitewashed house was very near the apex of the hill in the Casco Antiguo (old town). Altea was a territorial battleground of the Moors and the Christians and the Casco Antiguo, rich in history, serves as its historical center. At the very top of the hill is a beautiful old church with large blue-tiled domes and a bell that rings every hour on the hour and I do mean every hour; even through the night the bell can be heard throughout the pueblo. There is a plaza in front of the church with cafes and benches where locals still come to meet and socialize daily.
My home in Altea had no balcony of its own but from my front door I had unobstructed views of the daily tango performed by The Mediterranean and her partner, the sky. From sunrise to sunset and beyond both, I had the joy of witnessing shooting stars, a blood orange full moon, the dawn’s daily intense rainbow horizon and the dusk’s softer, more pastel palette of the same rainbow horizon. My iPhone camera, as usual, failed to capture what my eyes saw but these experiences are forever ingrained in my mind’s eye as well as in my heart along with the overwhelming kindness and generosity I experienced from the Spanish and ex-pat locals. I shall always be grateful to have also discovered a place where I can call salami, a handful of olives and potato chips – “dinner” without anyone batting an eyelash. And I am, of course, deeply grateful for the glorious weather of the chaparral climate.
As I prepare to leave this beautiful little seaside village, I also reflect upon conversations about my chosen lifestyle. Gone are the days where I feel the need to justify my existence however my existence seems to perplex many who I encounter from the Western world. A few days ago someone asked me if I was a “world-traveler.” I said I hadn’t thought about it but I suppose I could be classified as that.
I have a friend who endearingly calls me “the wandering monk;” while my parents and I have settled on the word “gypsy.” I’m guessing the word “gypsy” sounds perhaps a bit romantic to their ears and more empowered than the word “homeless” which, I believe, they feel lacks agency. When I recently used the same word, “gypsy,” to describe my lifestyle to an old acquaintance, he said he felt it had a negative connotation and disclosed to me that he had never heard it used in a positive manner before so was surprised that I had embraced the term.
Other words and phrases that people have used to describe me and my lifestyle include: “free-spirited, traveler, wanderer, nomad, minimalist, lucky, crazy and fancy homeless…” to name a few. I don’t know if any of them are accurate but I do know that I don’t easily fit into the box. I have come to understand that the society in which many of us live does not easily accommodate the likes of me. I encounter folks who are openly intrigued by my lifestyle and try with all their might to put me into a box – any box, so that they can make sense of it/me.
Some theorize that I received a huge settlement from a very wealthy ex-husband or won the lottery while others chalk it up to working hard for many years, owning property or to sheer luck. The ones who struggle to understand my lifestyle are typically the same ones who cannot fathom owning only two suitcases worth of belongings, purchasing only one-way tickets and/or traveling to countries where they know no one and do not speak the local language. Yet all of this is perfectly normal to me because it is my life and for the record, the lives of countless others that I have met on my travels.
A good friend of mine recently asked me how I picked my destinations after sharing my most recent travel plans: leave Spain, go to Germany for the weekend, stop in and say hi to the family in Florida for 36 hours then head to Mazatlan, MX. My immediate response to her question was that I get guidance from the universe. This guidance sometimes comes in the form of an invitation from a friend or family member and other times it comes as direct instructions from seemingly nowhere i.e. go sweep the forest floor in the presence of a monk (Thailand) or go to where the mountain meets the sea (Spain).
This interaction reminded me of another conversation from a few years prior. A few years ago, after heeding the Universe’s instruction to sweep the forest floor, I was at a dinner party in Thailand with a very special and beautiful group of people. I shared with them that when I had envisioned my life in Thailand before arriving there that I did not envision it including the deep, intimate friendships that I now enjoyed with the group. One of my dear friends, an Aussie angel with golden cropped hair and wise, crystal-clear blue eyes responded and said: “You’re here because I manifested this. I prayed for this and imagined this type of community before I came here.” She added: “I brought you here.”
Ha! What a revelation?! When I set out on this journey I thought it was for me and indeed each day of the journey I get the pleasure of spending time with both old and new friends and family members who help me to grow in the most amazing and expansive ways. But I have now come to understand, through these connections, that as much as I thought this journey was about me, it is also about my fellow journeyers and perhaps even more so.
My family and friends will tell you that when I am posed with the question of “where is your next destination?” my typical response is: “I don’t know but I have never been anywhere that I was not supposed to be.” It is an honest response; the latter part of which has been instilled and validated by meeting people all around the world who have uttered the same exact phrase to me: “I was meant to meet you today.” I have heard this phrase so many times, in different languages and in so many different parts of the world that if I ever had any fears or doubts about my gypsy lifestyle, they have long since been put to rest.
My confidence in living intuitively or as my Christian friends call it “stepping out on faith” and trusting that I am always exactly where I’m supposed to be needed no reassurance but, I suppose for the benefit of others, my travel itinerary in the past few months has provided it. I spent August in Guatemala and was making plans to head to Chiapas and Oaxaca, MX in early September. In an inexplicable, spur of the moment decision (if I’m being honest it’s because I couldn’t be bothered with the lengthy lay-over in Mexico City); I booked a ticket to a different location which resulted in me being elsewhere instead of in Chiapas when the epicenter of an 8.2 earthquake hit near there on September 7th.
As fate would have it, “elsewhere” was in south Florida just in time for Hurricane Irma which I faced with my family. Thankfully but not surprisingly to me my family’s home was completely unscathed while many of the neighboring properties and trees sustained major damage. I left Florida mid-September bound for Las Vegas where I spent a week before heading to Arizona.
After being in Arizona for a few days, I received notification from friends that there had just been massacre in Vegas. Note: town where I had just been a few days prior. I left Arizona to follow my heart and go “where the mountain meets the sea” aka Spain. I flew to Spain, into Catalonia to be precise, into the heart of what some are considering the most troublesome civil unrest in 50 years.
And yet I am here to tell the story of all of it: the story of a world that despite what the news tells you, is a world filled with love, peace, connection, kindness, generosity and warmth. In a few days from now I will make my way to Mexico although for the past few months I thought I was heading to Asia; I had even booked flights and reserved housing there. However a few days ago the universe directed me to Mexico via Germany instead of Asia so that’s where I’m going.
If asked about how I chose Mexico I can provide a bunch of answers that may help some folks feel more comfortable: it’s warm; I have a few friends there; humpback whales calve nearby in the Sea of Cortez, etc. but in reality, it seems to me that most of the time I don’t actually pick my destinations as much as they pick me. I have come to understand that regardless of the reasons I thought I had for choosing a destination, the real reason for my being there only becomes clear once I’m actually there or sometimes after I’ve left. I find the same exact thing can be said for the roads we travel in life…
I happen to find great joy in life’s uncertainty but I understand that others do not and because our frames of reference are so disparate, my attempt to explain my lifestyle is often as difficult as it is for others to comprehend it. I accept the answer to the question of my next destination is, like all things in the future, unknowable; just because I have a ticket to Mexico does not mean that I will actually make it there nor is it any guarantee of how long I will stay there.
The truth is, the only thing I really know about my next destination is that wherever I end up will be exactly where I am supposed to be.