Last month, I emptied my cabinet of clothes and realized I had a lot of second-hand dresses I haven’t worn yet. Sorting out the clothes—what must stay and what must be given away—was not as easy as I thought. I let my small garden at the back die. I moved empty pots after empty pots. Layers of dust piled up on the shelves of books. Cobwebs started to form in corners. My little place, which used to be neat and orderly, mirrored my mind: chaotic, confused, confusing.
I was in the process of dehoming.
Despite traveling constantly, having my own place to come back to brings comfort. I always think that arriving to your own Point A is as exciting as departing for Point B or Point Y. The truth is: I am more than happy with my life right now. I am not burnt out; I love my daytime, four-days-a-week job. Darn, I am already living the life I want. (Well, the little house by the beach is still in the works). This is my happy Point A.
But traveling long-term means letting go of Point A. I was not ready to let go of the things I held dear: books, my own garden, and Hip-hip, Carbon, Laag, and Angkla (my cats).
While skyping with T, I burst into tears while telling him about my clothes, funny it may seem. T is going to have his one-year sabbatical leave this December. My teaching contract is going to end this July. I was supposed to visit him in Austria, the earliest in September, the latest November, before starting our one-year trip around the world.
So there is the Schengen visa application to think about, which is the main reason of my anxiety. What if, my visa application would be denied? My online job, as of now, is enough to handle my monthly expenses while traveling. My savings keeps on growing every month: the last time I checked, it is around P150K. But that is not enough as a show-money. And I said, while other travelers have the luxury to say, “don’t think about money” (because some of them are already paid for traveling around or have sponsored trips abroad), I am firm with my words: think about money, go, travel.
A European friend now living in Cebu said his close friend borrowed P300K from him as a show-money for his Filipina girlfriend’s Schengen visa application. Good for them.
T said he could send me a guarantee letter, which was backed up by his half-Filipino-half-Austrian friend while the three of us had beer in Gili Trawangan (Indonesia). But my pride would not let me accept that. If I wanted to travel to Europe, I wanted to do it on my own. Pride. Arrogance. Self-righteousness. Stubbornness. Call it whatever name you have in my mind. But I want to do it on my own.
When our cluster chair informed me that I still have teaching units for the upcoming semester, I was confused at first and thought about T. But excitement won over. I found a reason to stay, to figure things out. If I extend my contract, it would mean, six more months of not seeing him. When I broke the news to him, he felt sad, of course. He thought our plan was final. It has been in the works since we got into this crazy LDR (the millennials’ code for long distance relationship.) He applied for his sabbatical leave with us in mind.
Tears have been shed. Both have to compromise.
I extended my contract. No treks in autumn. No meeting the family, which I find intimidating. Whew. No looking at the river and our tree across the river while seeping coffee he ground manually. No weekend walks on the woods.
It means another five months of skyping through the Philippines’ crazy Internet connection.
It means reaching P300K by November. It means bidding farewell to my tiny little place. Properly. Building a big bookshelf in my parents’ place or selling the books to writer friends and fellow literature teachers, who are already looking forward to rummaging through my treasure. It means letting the cats settle down in Tuburan.
T asked that maybe I am scared. Damn right. I am scared of letting go of my Point A. Of being denied that fucking Schengen Visa. Of not having enough money to fund the trip. Of possible family emergencies here in the Philippines while I am away. My anxious mind can have a long list of why I am not ready to travel long-term yet. Because most, if not all travelers, will grab such opportunity.
More than anything else, I am scared of the unknown, of giving up everything for the monster called restlessness, of giving up everything for love.
To have a Point A is an assurance, an anchor that I have something to return to. It is my constant in my world of variables.
After saying yes to the contract, I felt better and more focused. My mind is not as paranoid as before. My sleeping pattern is back to normal. I am now positive that I can reach my travel fund target before December. If I get denied, so be it, we have a long list of Point B. I won’t be paranoid anymore because I will have enough money in my bank account by then (not much, for a Western standard).
T and I will be traveling to India and Sri Lanka this July. And after that, I am thinking of traveling to Singapore before heading back to Cebu. I started toiling life to the garden again. I got some vines from my yoga place last week. I brought three varieties of Portulaca grandiflora from Anda, Bohol. Last night, I went to Carbon to buy my weekly supply of vegetables. I put a plant in the little bathroom once again. I have enough time to wear my lovely dresses before giving them away.
I want to leave a place well-lived, with the garden at the back blooming, the little wooden furniture arranged, waiting for its new occupant.
This time around, I do not want to leave my little place desolate, chaotic. I want to leave with the grace, grit, certainty of a woman who decides to seek another definition of a well-lived life.