I've been home-free and nomadic for over four years now. Time seems to be moving at the speed of light these days, and it doesn't feel that long since I left the house I'd rented for ten years, packed my 'stuff' into storage and stepped (well, actually drove) into freedom. I had thought back then - maybe a year on the road. Maximum. The plan was to shake off the stress, hang out with some friends and then decide on a place to live, hopefully somewhere sunnier than England, retrieve my stuff, and settle down.
I saw another description of my lifestyle choice today which I liked - 'location-independent'. It came across as powerful, confident and intentional - not quite as fluffy-hippy perhaps as 'nomadic'. It's a term coined by Roam - one of the new websites springing up on the internet which support a growing community of travellers who live and work wherever they find themselves on the planet.
I would think that most women, projecting forward into their fifty-three year old selves, would visualise a relatively comfortable existence - mortgage on its way to being paid off, annual holidays, grandchildren visiting. They might imagine themselves, with all that newfound spare time, joining a local choir, volunteering in the community, growing vegetables. That's what my younger self had pictured anyway.
They say making plans is the best way to make God laugh. Four and a half years later, I’m still on the road,and in the air and on the sea. I have no fixed abode, no relationship and no retirement plan whatsoever. Against all odds, I was able to continue running my therapy practice en route. I saw clients on skype and then in person whenever I could organize a venue for the session. Over two years, I systematically shut down all the departments of my work – retreats, monthly events, online dating site – it was a slow inching towards ‘retirement’. I wanted to give myself a new life – a chance for my dream of writing and travelling to become a reality. In December 2016, I saw my last client and managed to shrink my stuff down to four cardboard boxes. There it sits, somewhere in Surrey, still in storage, waiting for me to return…
I've been flitting about for so long now that I hardly question it; living out of a suitcase, surfing the waves of opportunity, house-sitting here, responding to invitations there and basically going where the wind blows. But I was asked an interesting question this morning, which caused me to spend the day considering my situation from a different, more spiritual perspective.
I'm staying in a bed and breakfast I found through Air bnb (another company that has made travelling the world so much more enjoyable for people like me) in Auckland, New Zealand. A question I do find myself asking regularly is - how did I get here, (wherever I happen to find myself) from a Hertfordshire village in which I was firmly ensconced for so long? I was anchored there for 23 years because I'd committed to putting two boys through Steiner education for 19 years respectively. During that period I worked consistently hard keeping a roof over their curly heads, and lived life by a crazy schedule, quite normal I'm sure for a single mother, plugged into the system. I survived, by the skin of my teeth, but being on the hamster wheel of generating enough dosh for rent and bills, while trying to maintain some sense of a creative life (I like to write and make music), and balancing it all with the occasional dose of fun, took its toll on my health and with menopause looming, I knew it was time to make some drastic changes.
So here I am now, on the other side of the world, wafting about with no responsibilities whatsoever. And yes, it feels surreal a lot of the time - like a dream. I have to pinch myself regularly.
Another lady at the B & B, in the same age bracket that I'm in, asked me; "How do you stay sane, living without a home base? Do you have rituals?" I answered off the top of my head, "Hmm…well…I do an hour of pilates and meditation every morning…daily siestas whenever possible." I told her that without enough sleep I can go into panic mode but I'm okay if I keep myself physically fit and emotionally positive. I'm not sure if she was envious or horrified.
I wandered off to take my probiotic powder and eat some sauerkraut, two staples of my diet, and realised that even my eating habits have become ritualised, far more than when I had a home. I'm not an 18 year old backpacker on a gap year. I'm a 53 year old menopausal woman, hyper-aware of how my digestive system affects my mental state. It takes vigilance to stay in good health. I can't afford to get ill - and I mean that literally, financially. I'm not independently wealthy, nor is there a regular source of income anymore. I rely pretty much on the kindness of strangers and the generosity of friends.
The welcome I seem to receive wherever I go, must be reward for the many years of open-door policy I held while living in a home of my own. I hosted friends, and friends of friends for days, weeks, sometimes months. I took in waifs and strays and hosted many a wild gathering in a space where we were able to play music loud and let our hair down. I've always suspected that the universe 'pays back', although not necessarily directly. You can gift a person in need and at some other point in time be gifted back by someone entirely unrelated. One doesn't give conditionally, with the idea of a return favour, no. It's more like a dance with the cosmos. As you let go of the idea of 'you and me', 'them and us' and see every living being as One, you begin to experience everything as energy - meeting, merging and parting - a giant lava lamp. Living like this is a Zen practice of sorts.
I take gifts wherever I go, not in the form of material presents or money, although if I find myself with money I generally share it with whomever I happen to be with. I've always been that way - hence the generally consistent lack of money in my bank account. Some people see and appreciate what I have to offer, and want me to stay forever; I give a damn fine foot massage, cook, sing. I actually, weirdly, enjoy cleaning (must be something to do with not having my own house anymore). I have a vast and eclectic music collection and love to DJ and share music with people who are hungry for it. To others my gifts are not so apparent, or they get irritated by my footloose and fancy-freeness, and I make a decision to leave, graciously, filled with love and gratitude. Always love and gratitude. But if you're travelling and even half awake, you learn very quickly never to outstay your welcome.
I have met one or two folk along the way, who have accused me of sponging. I'm then forced to look inside and see if that's true, am I sponging? Or is it a projection from someone who's still plugged in, to roles and duties, still in a life they don't love. My journey, longer and further than I'd originally intended, is all about freeing myself, finding out who I am beyond mother/daughter/therapist/author/wife. It's like the reboot after inserting a new operating system.
What has happened is that I've stayed in so many different places over the last four years, everywhere feels like home. I walk into a house and find my place in it. I see immediately how things work, how the space is kept - and then I blend in. I ricochet between being invisible and lovely. When I do finally find a situation in which I can plant some roots in for a good long while, I shall simply stop travelling and call that place home.
But that innocent question this morning triggered some profound thinking. It turned into a day of quiet contemplation, reflecting on all the other rituals I've established in order to keep mind, body and spirit in an expanded, rather than a contracted state, while being home-free for so long. This lifestyle is a deep meditation that makes sitting still on a cushion for extended periods of time look easy.
I've cultivated and maintained long-term friendships all over the world, and finally, I'm visiting those lovely folk. A lot of my travelling involves staying with people I've known for many years, but have never lived with. As a guest, I've become so malleable and easy-going, I hardly recognise myself. I barely have an opinion anymore, about anything, which would be surprising to whoever knew me in my previous life.
Being rarely in control of my environment, this makes me a more flexible person, but the effort to be sensitive and considerate all the time can be wearing. Every so often I take off somewhere and find a quiet place just for myself. There seems to be a lot of socialising when you're travelling. And the truth is, guests are only welcome as long as they're nice. Consequently, I do nice a lot. Time away alone is a chance to go inside, be silent. Hence the current 'me trip' to the delightful Auckland village of Devonport.
Whilst on the road I'm also writing my memoirs of the last fifteen years. It's an eye-opener looking back over my career as a Tantric Goddess from this perspective. I adore having time to write at leisure. Nothing in my life these days is a pressure. lili free is my new name, to go with my new life. It's actually on my passport. Don't get me wrong - Kavida Rei rocked. I loved her as did everyone else. She certainly knew how to throw a good party! But every day I fall in love with lili free more. Every day of this journey fills me with so much gratitude I could burst. And every day I thank my friends, old and new, for all the gifts along the way.
When I finally get to lay down my hat, you'll all be welcome to come and stay. I'll let you know…