I’m tucked away in the English countryside with my partner, sister, her girlfriend, a puppy called Beauly, and David Copperfield on my ereader. We have a chook and a ham, plenty of booze, and space all around us. The puppy is hard work! But when she looks at you with those big black eyes, you forgive all the nips and crying in the night.
It’s not long until our adventure is over! We’ve spent a good deal of time in England, Scotland, Norway and Spain. We’ve worked and volunteered. I finished two books (editing one and writing another) and the corrections for my doctorate. We’ve had snow and sun; we’ve walked up mountains and around lochs and fjords. We’ve dug holes, felled trees, looked after people’s children and dogs. We’ve eaten local foods and drank local booze. We’ve spent all our money.
But the timing was perfect. And travel is important to us. I think travel (especially the kind where you live with locals) can help build empathy in a similar way that reading can: seeing how other people have dealt with the days; the challenges they’ve faced and choices they’ve made. There are so many ways to live.
We’ve made a lot of friends by sharing work and meals on this trip. And I do like the idea of having a nice place where they are welcome to come and stay anytime, back in Oz. (How many times we’ve fantasised on this trip, though, too, about having an apartment in Spain, or a cottage in Scotland; the thing is that we’d still want to be in Aus as well, because we’re both close to our parents.) I realise how Gen Y this sounds, actually: we’ve grown up in a society where we have so many choices. But then G and I don’t have rich parents or anything either—we’ve always worked and made out own savings, paid for our own uni etc.—so it’s really only a matter of choosing one thing at a time. And travel has won out over saving for a deposit or whatever else. And I love that. While I think I’d like some more stability over the next few years, a ‘room of one’s own’, even, I don’t feel we’d be suited to an ‘A4 life’, to put it the way the Norwegians do.
I am looking forward to seeing people I’ve missed, and being reunited with my books.
But endings are always sad.
Who knows what’s next though? We almost have a clean slate. Different kinds of adventures await, literary and otherwise.
I hope your end of year celebrations are just the way you like them to be, and I hope you have a good book to read by the pool or the heater, depending on where you are! And, lovely readers, may your 2014 be full of warmth, adventure, inspiration, great insights and moments of beauty (like a puppy curled up on your feet while your partner prepares sweets and your sister is reading on the lounge).
And, in case you were wondering, my book of the year is Janet Frame’s In the Memorial Room. Glorious.