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THE FREEDOM TO CREATE BRINGS US THE FREEDOM TO LIVE



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Irish dreaming

Since being in Ireland, I’ve been trying to find a path. And I have. For now. I know this is what I must do and then I can move on. Each day I still wish for travel. I ask for answers and I dream of jet-setting night and day. Particular places, particular scenes and situations I create in my mind. And at this moment in time, I’m trusting that by starting my days with a drive through the green hills followed by 2 cups of green tea in a coffee shop so I can write my heart out about my current situation - before diving into other methods of writing in the library for some hours - I’m keeping my dream very much alive. Another thing that’s keeping my dream alive is the current home situation.

How can this be? And, more to the point, how IS the current home situation, with Ma, Eileen, Sean and the little bundle of joy Cian? Well, after travelling by myself for many months, I can find it difficult to live in surroundings that are often “manic”. Everybody is so busy and the pace is sometimes passing me by. But I don’t really need to keep up with it. I just let it go and stick to what I’m doing. Being in a house with such a gorgeous little man, of only 11 months, is definitely something I needed to adjust to. The space, peace and the time to spend doing what only I wanted to do, is what I was used to for quite some time. So this is great to experience; the contrast between calm and commotion; I’m not frustrated or regretting any of my decisions.

Today I actually sat and watched the whole scene of "family-life" in motion. I placed myself outside of what was going on and I disengaged from everyone and how they were relating to each other. I just watched and I loved what I was seeing. I felt so lucky and so spoilt for having a place within something of such "madness". I felt so lucky that this scene I was witnessing, is my base, that this is where I’m always welcomed with open arms, that this is where I’ll always fit-in and where I’ll always be accepted and understood if I can’t fit-in as easily as I once did. So why is this situation keeping my travel dream alive, if it feels so good? For some reason, it all encourages me NOT to settle.

Certain surroundings only work well for me, for a certain length of time. Especially if I want to keep that place as a special part of me. And with Ireland, this is what I want. I’m experiencing it more differently than I imagined, in such a positive way, and I don’t want to loose this. Also, I cannot settle in a place where what I’m wanting from my life on the whole, isn’t on offer. I see the life I want, when I take a look inside - I was going to say: when I take look into my future, but nobody can predict their future; it’s safer to follow a vision of what the heart shows you because this isn‘t a prediction but instead a simple truth!

For the moment, what I want from life is here. But I always feel when the change is coming and when a place will no longer offer me what I need. That time will come here too. Other things I need from life, besides writing, aren’t available to me when considering my current situation; I’m talking about independence, inspiration and expression through travel and writing, a deeper vision of the world and an environment that will teach and set me so free by simply placing myself in that amazing place.

I can feel that Ireland is great for now; because I have a purpose. When it’s done, I will be without; but I'll still be in Ireland. And what I'm certain of is that all else for me, is beyond Ireland. So I’ll be wanting to leave, and desperation will be mine; as time is so precious. The purpose of writing is setting me free right now. If that purpose is fulfilled, will I be soaring or will I then be trapped? I’ll only be trapped if I don’t use what I now know to prevent this from happening.

Preventing myself from feeling trapped is one of the challenges that being in Ireland brings me. And I know exactly how to do go about dealing with this challenge. Already I’m doing it by realizing the dream of travel! At present I’m not planning too much, but I know that my time is coming; I can be braching out again. Another way to prevent the feeling of being trapped in Ireland, and also to feed my travelbug, was by meeting my angel yesterday afternoon, who is always my source of inspiration. I met with my saving grace, Diann who helped me become free during difficult time, before I set off to Oz in April 09. We connected differently yesterday, deeper than before and I cannot say how grateful I am for this!

Also other opportunities have come my way and a few doors have been opened; they too are supporting my time here and making it even more worthwhile. When it comes to leaving, I shall be taking these new experiences, references and times of inspiration and growth with me along the way. This will aid me in future challenges that I’ll come to face. And it excites me so much! I do have a timeframe in mind, but I don‘t want to say too much right now, because it sometimes can backfire. So I'm letting life run it's course and still taking each week as it comes. I'll continue to do what I’m doing and also I'll continue to trust whilst dreaming the dream! Life is so magical..

Close to home

The town of Arklow - Not the place for me. The home front - so nice and cosy and easy to experience. 3 weeks since leaving Holland and arriving in Ireland. So fast time has been passing by. Everyday I’m filled with excitement for what will happen. Every single day, since deciding to focus on writing, has been precious. Every moment has been precious and the days don’t seem long enough.

Ireland is bringing me “up” at the moment. But, not for wanting to sound negative, Arklow is not. So, as much as possible, I get away from the town. If I had the choice it would be 7 days a week. Instead it’s 5. When I’m gone during the days, I seem to then be free and I feel like I’m travelling. I’m not at home, I’m by myself, I’m away from the town that doesn’t set me free and I put myself in places and choose to see them as having the potential of being anywhere in the world; when in reality I’m so close to my home. It’s so much fun!

When I go to Bray, at lunchtime, I have an hour at the beach. There are people from all over the world walking along the seafront, whether it‘s cloudy, windy, warm or wet. There are tourists, immigrants, locals and commuters.. All walks of life and the Irish Sea is right in front of me. It sometimes has a gorgeous deep blue shade, when the sun shines on it and the sea itself shows me the whole world! It’s amazing. It’s moments like those when I think to myself: who needs to be gallivanting around the world when there’s such things to experience, only 40 minutes from my front door! So that’s where I am most days, when I allow myself to leave the library for lunch; for the sight of the sea, the people and to be with the world again; because observed in writing for hours, can sometimes take me away to others places and my surroundings can seem to disappear. On the odd days, I’d go to Dublin and get a taste of the library in the “big city”, which is full of dedicated professionals working and studying hard. In between them all, sits a Niamh floating in and out of space, seeming to be doing nothing, but reliving past experiences, emotions and adventures that were once recorded with a purpose to set herself free. Again, this feels to be the purpose of what I’m doing now; I’m working at setting myself even freer than I already am.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shocked by amazing Ireland

I have a little travel-buddha that sits on the kitchen windowsill here at home. It was a present I got last year, before I left for Australia in April. A friend of Orla’s gave it to me. I never took it with me on my travels; it was too heavy. Now that I’m back, I’ve seen it sitting there, looking out at the garden. It’s like it was waiting for me. The little Buddha wanted me to come back and collect him; this happy little thing I’d only be too delighted to have with me when the times comes for me to be leaving.

Everyday, since being back in Ireland, I‘ve given his belly a rub. For the next weeks to come, I’ll continue. Rubbing it and wishing for travel, is something I‘ve been needing to do. Because I can’t stop dreaming and hoping to get back on the road.. even though I’m doing something I love so much right now.

I’ve been throwing myself into the writing this week. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve been loving it. It’s so fulfilling and I feel like I’ve got a full-time job. I go to the library in both Dublin and Bray, and I can’t seem to get enough of the whole scene. I sit in silence, am totally absorbed in that moment and I forget about the world actually turning. It’s like I get transported each day, for hours at a time, to a world that’s far away from here. A world that I’m creating. And I love it! Still I trust though, that I’ll be needing to leave, once this is out of my system. Otherwise the urge to be rubbing the travel-Buddha‘s belly everyday, wouldn’t come. I don’t want to switch-off the travel urge. It’s very much alive. But at the same time, I’m shocked by how much I’m enjoying my time here in Ireland. And it’s all because I love what I’m doing each day.

Everything I now see in Ireland, amazes me. This amazement got stronger over the past few days. I can’t say for sure what’s happening. But all I know is that I love the things I’m seeing and experiencing. I love walking through Dublin - and seeing the people all looking so “Irish”. I love the way a total stranger would call me “pet” and treat me like somebody they’ve known for years. I love the ease as I walk down the street. I love the smells coming from the pubs, which is usually of vinegar and chips that’s being served for lunch, as I walk past. I love the scent of the freshly cut grass, that gets stronger, just as it starts to rain. I love the drive to Bray with Mam in the car every morning, along the road that passed the green hills. I love the sight of the little kids with their red hair and super strong Irish accent. I love getting the train to Dublin and feeling no pressure whatsoever in terms of the crowds of people or stares. And most of all, I love that this new appreciation has come, due to me having experienced a different country so extreme. This makes me automatically love a game I’ve started playing in my mind, as I sit on the train: comparing the people I see in the city to the people I would see in India. It makes me so happy; these differences!

I’m one and the same as them, of course I’m well aware of this. But I can still have the ability to witness everyone from the outside looking in. I can step away from it all; from both the people and the surrounding world. And the differences in mannerisms, in attitudes, in approaches towards life then start to jump out at me and I simply have to laugh, when they don’t give me a sense of wonder. Otherwise I’d simply cringe. But I don’t cringe! If I can’t see the wonder, I have to let go of any sense of frustration or sense of loss I may feel for no longer being in India. I can then realize that everybody sees life differently, and it doesn’t make their views, habits or ways of living and looking at the world either right or wrong. It’s just a simple fact of living. And to be apart of these contrasts, but at the same time to be the observer, is amazing. I can experience the best of both worlds, and that is so freeing!!

This is exactly why I’m appreciating Ireland in a different way. It’s getting me to connect properly with my roots. I can feel that now more than ever before. I can be so grateful. And whenever I get a sense of panic at the thoughts of not having a flight booked to anywhere in the world, I have to tell myself that there is nowhere else in the world I need to be, not just yet anyhow. I need to be here for now for different purposes. And connecting is one of them. Connecting with the family again, was my initial reason. And suddenly a few more have been presented to me. Connecting with Ireland in general and seeing it for the beauty it owns, and giving my mind the space it’s need to breathe and to express itself - hence the writing.

Connections on different levels - my roots, my family, myself. I’m so lucky to be getting this chance. And the thing that drove me to be here, was a priority I had when I was travelling; I needed to share my experiences with the family. It’s way different than sharing experiences and stories with fellow travellers. But now I’m getting the chance to share with the Kennys and the Keoghans! And not to the extent though where they think: “oh no, here comes Niamh again with her stories”. Not to such extremes. Putting these thoughts into their heads is actually something I’d much rather avoid. I’d rather keep my stories to myself, if I’d otherwise have the tendency to swamp them with my experiences.

When I was on the road, I often felt like I was changing so much, that I was becoming disconnected from those living their different lives at home. It would make me feel distant at times, and yet other times it would be a reason for me to continue travelling without making the effort to connect; at times it felt to be the easiest thing to do. But my family are too dear to me, to let a disconnection develop, due to differences in cultural experiences as well as distances in time and space. Therefore I’m positive that I’m where I need to be for now.

Yet, I still ask everyday for travel to be my life; supported by the writing. It’s a dream I’m hopefully in the process of making my reality, if I’m not already living it..

Monday, August 9, 2010

Facing my amazing truth

Many moments of contemplation later: Travelling and moving, with too much haste, may SEEM to be what I always do. It may SEEM that I never give myself enough time in the places I pass through. It may SEEM that I run. Am I, or have I been running though? This is something I’ve questioned many times - because others have also posed me with this question. And I can honestly say that I’ve never felt to be on the run. Leaving Holland last week, was natural; it’s what I needed. Leaving Italy 3 weeks ago, was a normal step to take; I simply left because there was nothing holding me there. Leaving India 4 weeks ago, was a must, because of the visa. Leaving Oz 7 months ago, was what I wanted.

This past week though, I was seriously wondering, if I was running from Ireland, by desperately trying to find “a way out”, by means of a teaching job. It sure felt to be that way! Voices inside my head were telling me to move.. NOW!!! But I had no real place I wanted to focus on. I still very much feel pulled back to India. It’s very strong. But it’s not possible yet, because of the visa. It can’t be renewed until I’ve been out of India for at least 2 months. As it stands, I’ve only been gone a month. Of course there are so many other countries I’m dreaming of travelling to; Nepal, China, Japan, more of South east Asia…

I realized though that there’s something else I need to focus on, and life has simply presented me with all the “ingredients” I need, in order to keep that focus on this one particular thing that drives me each and every day - besides travel. I can take this time, this opportunity, these weeks of being in a place of ease and comfort, to do what I must. I have no job or commitment in a sense. The only commitment I feel to have, is to myself. And committing to myself, is committing to writing. My burning passion sits inside and it needs more attention, it needs my focus. It’s been wanting to come to life for so many months now - but due to travel and work I was never in the proper space in my head to actually bring to life that potential it may have. So now I feel it’s my time.

I’m choosing to see the next while as an opportunity to finally focus and work on my writing. I’ve been wanting to properly do this while I was in India. And I tried, but I wasn’t able to, or not to the extent I wanted to. Over the past few days it took me quite some strength and a big adjustment was needed in order for me to change my mindset from “running towards a teaching job” to “listening to my heart and following my passion”. But with a little help from a very special aunt in Painstown, I did it. I needed to take this different approach. I needed to be honest with myself. And this is my truth. My priorities are in order and the chapter can start in order to be continued, which will keep me heading in the direction I‘m meant to be heading towards. I’m keeping my mind here in Ireland, with the writing I need to be doing. My heart is also here and because of this, nothing will be passing me by. My time here is suddenly so precious, valuable and I am free to breathe without worries, stress, pressure or judgement. My time here will remain to be so free, until I feel my words are doing the work they should. The next week will be insightful and inspiring and whatever comes my way over the next part of my journey, I’ll be sure to share.

The blind search for jobs

8 days of being in Ireland. I reckon each day has started counting as 2. That’s how long I feel to be here. I’ve been up and down, I’ve been panicked and at ease, I’ve been sane and insane. I’ve been all over the place. In between spending time with the family and getting into the swing of things on Irish soil, or just on the home-front (which I slotted back into without any problems whatsoever), everybody’s life has been continuing. And so has mine. But I started to question what exactly I wanted my life to consist of, at this moment in time..

So far, most of my days have revolved around me pushing myself to find a job. I’ve spent many hours wrecking my head with questions, about what where to go. I got swamped with opportunities presented to me online and was starting to feel desperate. I felt I’d never get a job soon enough. And all I was doing was letting the whole world around me, pass me by. I was at home, for an uncertain amount of time, and all I was doing was getting sucked into the worries and stress that searching for a job brings with it. I was pushing, forcing and so eager to get on the road.

In my mind, I was already everywhere in the world. I was in Spain, I was back in India, I was in Russia, I was in China, Japan, Thailand.. The list is endless. I even temporarily moved my mind to Saudi Arabia! Why so scattered? Because I had no focus, nor had I a direction. Yes, I wanted to still get a teaching job. Yes I wanted to travel. And the job agencies offer great opportunities. It’s also fun to teach and I’ve got a certain way that seems to fit with the job. But, as the week evolved, I realized it didn’t feel to be what I was supposed to be focussing on, in my life right now.

I was so absorbed in the internet though and found it so hard to stop. The search felt to be endless, because I was lacking in focus. Also I didn’t have a sincere passion and desire to go a particular place on this amazing earth so as to experience it differently than the tourist, by taking on a teaching job. It sent me into head-spins.

What I found out I was driven by, was my own critical self. I was judging myself so harshly just by the amount of time I would end-up spending in Ireland. That’s exactly it! I came here without any expectations. I came without a timeframe in mind. I simply came to reconnect with the family and I knew that I‘d find out what I wanted to do, once I‘d get here. But I wasn’t letting myself take the time to figure it out though! Oh no! I also wasn’t going to give myself time to refuel or to take it easy or to rest. Oh no! So, this urge to keep going, was my reason for aimlessly searching the globe for teaching jobs. It meant I was proving that I was only passing through and that I was on a whirlwind journey which I urgently needed to continue! I found out though, that this was doing me no good at all..

Green grass of home

Being reunited with Ma, felt so safe and was actually very emotional. I hadn’t expected it. We made our way home, and all the way I was thinking (in between talking) of the ease in being in the place where I’m from. I was comparing being here to being in India; for the first time since leaving that country 3 weeks ago.

The urge to compare came out of the blue. The weeks that had taken place in between leaving India and arriving in Ireland (when I was in both Italy and Holland), suddenly felt like clear spaces of transition that held-on to a lesser part of me, no matter how much my sisters and friends mean to me. The manner in how I’d be looked at, spoken to and approached, when I was in India, was coming back to me. I felt free here in Ireland, I felt a sense of belonging and there was no pressure. In India I’d constantly be explaining where I was from, why and how long I was in India for, why I wasn’t married, why I was alone, how big my family was and who was waiting for me in Ireland. I was told maybe 100 times to “convey regards to the family in Ireland” by the people I would either briefly or more closely meet. And Saturday morning, I was back in the place I had spoken so much of, when answering to the sometimes too nosey Indians on a daily basis for the past 6 months. I was in the country and heading towards the home that people were so interested in.

I felt that time had passed. I could feel that I had changed in certain ways. My outlook, of course, but only for the better. Life for both the family here in Arklow, as well as for myself, has brought different challenges, different lessons and different forms of happiness with it. The ways of living, for both them and myself, couldn’t have been more different. The home-life has changed for everyone, because of the extra addition. My godson Cian. It was brilliant to finally meet him! He’s now 10 months old, as handsome as can be, with big beautiful blue eyes, and just one dimple on his left cheek when he smiles so openly; which is what he welcomed me with on Saturday morning. I was now apart of his young little life and his small cute world.

So things here are no longer as they were. Not only because of that extra little life that fills the house with fresh air and love, but also because of what I see due to my different outlook. I’m experiencing being back, as being different. I feel fuller than I did, 17 months ago. I can see the world full of opportunities and I can see myself leaving too. I don’t know how just yet, or when. But I have to keep approaching my being here with a sense of simply “touching base” to reconnect, as well as a time to chill-out, to refuel, to breathe in the ease of fitting-in somewhere and to belonging to a home. And I will keep the open vision of the world, with me, each day, to keep me inspired and driven to continue how I want to live.

At first I almost felt like a guest, in my own home. This is because I’ve been so used to being in other family homes over the past months, where I didn’t belong nor where I could properly speak my mind and be as I wished, but where I was always welcomed with open arms. Now, I was in the one and only place on earth where I was HOME. So it was strange that, for the first instant, I couldn’t quite place myself. Maybe it was tiredness, maybe it was the change in me, maybe it was the change in the home-environment, maybe it was the fact that their lives have been evolving, and I had witnessed little to nothing of it over the past year. It was most definitely a combination of all of these things.

However I soon realized that I WAS home - regardless of my wanting to keep on moving. I WAS home, because I was able to speak my mind. I was able to tell Ma exactly what was going on and how I was adjusting, without being looked at differently, or without hurting anybody. I realized, through reconnecting again, that I can still embrace a feeling of comfort, a feeling of unconditional love and a feeling of belonging. This doesn’t mean I’ll get stuck (which is actually something I thought WOULD happen - just by being comfortable in my home) . My passion to travel is alive. It’s there and it will stay there until it no longer is my main priority in life. For now though, it is.

So, as I embrace these days of being at home, I can set myself up for the next chapter. I’m in the perfect place for now. I’m where I need to be, and time will tell how long this “passage through Ireland” is meant to last..

17 months later...

Arriving in Dublin, on Saturday morning. The plane landed at around 7.30am. I was gazing out of the window, and listening to the pilot speaking over the microphone. He said: “In Dublin it’s almost Winter. It’s 14 degrees”. I don’t know if he was trying to raise peoples’ spirits or dampen them! Anyhow, he didn’t dampen mine. I actually thought it was quite warm for so early in the morning! I had geared myself up for some cold weather, so Ireland was just a refreshing climate for now! Holland had been quite warm (mid 20‘s), Rome was roasting (high 30’s) and India was constantly warm - no clue of the temperature, just heat all the time with the sun beating down and encouraging my wrinkles to deepen and forcing me to stay indoors during the warmest hours - but still I loved that climate, just like I‘d love the climate here in Ireland too.

I was still gazing out the window, as we were landing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen such clouds, hanging so low. We were on the ground, and still up in the clouds; must have been a foggy morning! But I loved the sight of those dark clouds. As well, seeing all the planes from the different Irish airlines - the most popular being Aer Lingus - gave me a sense of coming home. The sight of them on the runway, has always given me this feeling, ever since I was a child. Aer Lingus was the first airline we used to fly with, whenever we would come over from Holland to Ireland on holidays. So nice to have such memories.

I stepped off the plane, I was on Irish soil and smelt the most unpolluted air I’ve smelt in months; even though the airport is close to the city. I was wrecked at this stage and was so grateful with the ease in knowing that I didn’t need to go traipsing around an unfamiliar city, with my heavy backpack, in search of a place to stay, or in search of public transport. I wasn’t going to be experiencing any kind of unfamiliarity at all. I didn’t have to think! Yay! All I had to do, was get myself through the airport and out the other side, where Ma was waiting for me.

Nearly 17 months after getting on plane to Oz and I was back in the place I started out from. I felt I’d aged! But also, I felt full of life for the new experiences, and drained of energy from the constant moving I’d been doing. But I was fine with that. It’s simply travelling. And with that comes a certain amount of pressure that can be tiring. But the magic that comes, in return for the challenges I sometimes consciously put upon myself, is far more rewarding. I have no regrets whatsoever, about how I’ve been moving. I may have shed some kilos in the process - something that everyone has noticed over the past weeks - but resting for the next while should get me back on track. I actually don’t know what length of time the “next while” is, but I'll have some answers to that query pretty soon I guess. The shedding of weight is actually a different subject all together. For now, I’m not going to go into it. I don’t feel the need to convince anybody of anything, because I don’t need to convince myself. I’m happy, I’m healthy and life is smiling at me - because I’m smiling at it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time to move

Today is my last day in Holland. I’ve seen all the special people I wanted to see, and I feel it’s time to leave. I’m happy to have come, but I’m just as happy to leave. This isn’t because of the people, but it’s just this way of life. I’m on my way to “everywhere” and “nowhere” all at once, and I simply need to keep on going, even though I have no plans. Staying longer than a week and a half, would be out of laziness. It would be too easy almost, and for that, I’m not even giving myself the chance to get into this way of living. A brief encounter is just confirming what I already believed, months ago: Holland isn’t for me. I don’t feel comfortable here and many things are telling me this. I have nothing to hold me here, so I don’t even need to consider what living here again would be like.

However, it’s something I do anyhow; when I pass through a place, without a “next step planned” and with all my options open; I consider what it would be like to stay in that certain place for a longer period of time, or to settle there and find a job. And I always realize, so soon if it is or isn’t for me. It happened in Italy, it happened in Holland and in Ireland, I know I’ll question my being there in the same way. I’ll wonder, I’ll contemplate, I’ll embrace all aspects of a potential life that I could so easily have there and an urge will come telling me to either stay for as long as it feels good or to leave because it won’t give me what I need at this moment in my life. Again, it’s not the people who will determine this. But it’s me.

So I’m ready to leave Holland. I’m ready to go to Ireland. Saying goodbye here, won’t be easy. It never is. But seeing everyone, once I get to the “other side” will be brilliant, and finally meeting my godson Cian for the first time, is something I can’t wait for! Whatever Ireland will reveal, will be good. It has to be. I cannot loose the urge I have that’s telling me to stay on the road. It cannot disappear just by me being on home ground again. It’s a challenge I’m rising to: going back without a plan of action and still with a longing to travel and to be and go wherever I want and need to be. It’s a challenge to touch base and to still remain free. It should be so easy. It can be so easy. It will be so easy. It actually already IS so easy..

My 10 days of "going Dutch"

My days in Holland are numbered. Today it’s Friday - the 6th. I’ve been here since last Tuesday the 27th and have had a brilliant time. I feel I’ve been here for way longer though. The first few days, passed me by in a daze. Up until Saturday morning I was struggling to stay here in this world, with my mind. I was constantly wandering elsewhere, unfocused and disconnected. It could have been exhaustion.

My weeks of constantly going and moving were suddenly catching up on me. I realized within a few days of “stopping” here in Hulst, that for 4 weeks non-stop, I’ve had a big change in surroundings, environment, climate, food and people -I went from the school to the ashram, then to the city-life of Chennai, then the European city-life of Rome and now to the family home life in Holland. Not only these changes had worn me out, but I also skipped at least one full night of sleep, every week and got sick along the way - with all overnight journey’s and strange travel hours. So Friday night, I felt I had reached my max. I can’t remember the last time I’d ever been so tired. I thought I was never going to recover. But of course I did. And the following morning I was back on track again. I felt apart of this world and I was happy to be here.

I’ve been spending most of my time with Emma and Orla, Aiden and Enya. Before coming, I knew my time in Holland was going to be brief, so I wasn’t planning on visiting friends “all over the country” which is what I would usually do. I’d usually plan my weeks as much as possible; I’d fill them with as many meetings with as many friends as possible. I would feel obliged almost to constantly gallivant around this part of Holland to catch-up with everyone and party hard, before leaving again. That’s how I used to approach my visits. But this time it’s different. I spent time only with those I cherish: my sister, 4 special friends and seeing my cousins Sandra and Naomi was a big and unexpected bonus!

Another bonus, this week: I got to see Emma singing in her band, on Saturday night, at a gig by the beach in Scheveningen. I never expected this to happen. The chances of her performing, on the only weekend I was in Holland, were so slim. But it happened! It was the first time for me to see her on stage. I’d only heard her voice recording, up until Saturday. Many times over the past year, when I was low, I would listen to Emma’s music on my laptop and cry - not sad tears, but proud and happy tears - for hearing her voice and for feeling closer to her and the whole family. I always wished I’d see her singing those songs live. It was of course the highlight of my week. And my first proper big night out, in months. This made it all the more memorable.

Monday I was still wondering when to leave. I hadn’t made a decision. I knew I had to go, but kept putting it off. I was enjoying myself and it was easy being here. But I still had to keep moving and make my way to Ireland. Ma was so eager to see me, as was I to see her! She would never actually say: Niamh, when are you coming home”, or “I think it’s time you got back to Ireland”. Never has she said this, even now that I’m so close. And for that, I have so much respect. It gives me so much freedom, because I’m certain that every decision I make is based on what I want, and not what others may want. On Monday I booked a flight to Ireland, and I’m leaving tomorrow morning (Saturday the 7th). I fly to Dublin at around 06.30am. I’ll be ringing Ma tonight, to tell her I’ll be there tomorrow. That way it’s still a little bit of a surprise.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Surprise!!

I reached Hulst on Tuesday afternoon, at 5pm. I started thinking that maybe Emma was on holidays, maybe Orla was out of town, maybe there would be no where for me to stay, maybe, maybe, maybe… So many maybe’s.

I walked from the busstation in Hulst, to Emma’s house. Surprisingly I had next to no nerves, just an eagerness to know if I’d see them today. After 16 months of leaving - I was back and nobody knew! I didn’t really realize what I was doing: walking back into their lives, so unannounced. Turning their world upside down, but in a positive way (I hoped).

My timing turned out to be perfect. Both Emma and Orla had just returned home from their holidays, a day ago. How lucky was I! (arriving 2 days earlier would have made me homeless; how crazy is that!) I was over the moon though, when it turned out that I‘d get to see everybody. And their reaction is one I won’t forget. There was shock on their behalf, excitement on my behalf, emotions on everybody’s behalf.. But all in the most positive and happy way!

It’s 2 days later. After my first hour of being back, it felt so natural and normal to be here. So it’s needless to say that now, it still feels normal and as if I’ve been here a lot longer than only 2 days. This is good though. Because feeling normal keeps me with this reality and in touch with this world. And when I’m in this world, I know that what I want is something different. This normality and this reality, isn’t for me. And that keeps me focused on what I want and not what people in my surroundings think I should do, or expect me to do. What I want from life, is not here. That much I knew before coming, and still know right now.

It’s amazing that I’m getting to spend this time with Emma, Orla in their own worlds with their gorgeous kids, and to be apart of their lives so close once again. And it’s also amazing to feel that, even though I’m here unannounced, I’m being taken in and embraced so much. It feels like only yesterday I seen them, even though I’ve changed in certain ways. These ways of change may be of a deeper nature, and therefore not visible with the first encounter. But they are there, I can feel them. Others may or may not. And I’m fine with that. Because, either way, that deeper change is where I get the inspiration from so I can continue along this journey, my journey, that is simply called: an amazing life!

Reaching Antwerp - 27-07

Tuesday afternoon - the 27th - I reached Antwerp, in Belgium. I was only 45 minutes from Emma’s, in Hulst, which is just over the Dutch boarder. Nobody knew of my whereabouts; I still hadn’t contacted anybody. I actually didn’t even have a way of contacting anybody; I had no mobile phone and the public phones only work with calling cards! How inconvenient is this world! (or probably too convenient for somebody who isn’t as practical as she once was) It was so strange, to be in a city so close to where I always lived and studied. Now I was in the same area, but with my backpack and still travelling in the same fashion as I had travelled through Australia, Thailand and India; not knowing exactly what I was doing. All I was doing was living. I was trying not to question (too much) why I was in the place I was; I had to be somewhere in this world, and for now, I was simply touching “base” with some parts of my roots.

When I was dropped in Antwerp, after a 26 hour bus journey, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know from where to get the bus, the “line 19” that would bring me straight to Emma’s. At that point, I was tired, I was cold and in need of some rest. It had been 40degrees in Rome and now it was 20 degrees in Antwerp. People were walking around in t-shirt and shorts. Niamh however, was sitting on the terrace of a cafĂ©, listening to people speaking Flemish (the Dutch language with a Belgium accent). I resorted to wearing my hat and scarf, my sweater and extra leggings underneath my trousers. With a bowl of hot chicken soup I was trying to figure out my next plan of action: to call home or not to call? But I figured; I’ve come so far without telling anybody, I’m not going to spoil the surprise at this stage.

So I went on my way. Off to Hulst it was! I’d figure out how and from where to get the bus to Hulst and whatever happens, happens. I’d travelled in far more complicated places than Europe! Why was I suddenly wondering how and if I’d get from A to B? This was supposed to be so easy. In the end, it was. I had a 15 minute walk to the bus-stop. I was in the middle of this city, but it was so peaceful and quiet. The traffic wasn’t noisy. I was overloaded with my luggage, but it was the nicest and easiest walk I’ve had in such a long time; the footpath wasn’t a mess, it didn’t have obstacles, there were hardly any people, nobody was honking their horn at me, there were no stares - even though I looked so out of place and was a “sight for sore eyes“. I was loving it! I hopped onto the bus to Hulst, and had to laugh at myself. This was the same bus I’d usually get when I was in college, each weekend, 7 years ago! Now I was on the same bus, after being “around the world” or simply “on the road” for more than a year. I was returning but I still had a feeling to be travelling. I was, in fact, still travelling! This was cool.

There was excitement. But no massive build-up to being re-united with Emma and Orla, because nobody knew nothing. I knew if I’d have booked a flight, there would have been so much anticipation from both myself and the family. The “thud” of landing in Holland, would have been like a “big bang“ or explosion even - and I’d have either felt amazing or trapped and panicked. I would also have easily experienced a “come down” and a feeling of disappointment, when realizing the anticipation that had been building-up, was only temporary. It happened in the past, when I returned from travels: the excitement wears off so suddenly and the reality can seem bleak because life isn’t as amazing as you thought it was going to be, when you were counting down the days to being re-united with loved ones, after being apart for so long.

But by this approach I was taking; by not telling anybody what I was doing, by just passing through and by following this urge to “touch-base” with Holland, I was flowing instead of expecting. I was living for the moment instead of trying to predict the future. I was free and not planning too much. This would make me appreciate everything so much more. Also I was certain that whatever was to happen over to come, I’d know what to do next.. I was delighted with how things were planning out!

Reflecting on Rome

On my first day in Rome, I swore to myself that I would embrace all that this city could offer me. And that’s exactly what I did, through the help of David! It was a true and pure encounter with Italy. 1 week was plenty though, especially considering the world I just stepped out of, a day before arriving to this city.

I’ll sum-up what can be classed as a “true and pure Italian encounter”, in my eyes, and the reason as to why 1 week was plenty for me. Well, I was in a city where image is everything, where snobbishness can fill the streets, where life is presented to be as pretty as a picture and where everything is seemingly “perfect”. Rome showed me civilized control and physical cleanliness again, but it filled my mind with a drive to fill my life - or just my already overloaded backpack - with material garbage. It then filled my body with too much alcohol, smoke, caffeine and late night heavy Italian dinners. A perfect holiday for a week, in many people’s opinion.

For me though it was a big challenge to let myself simply get swept away with “indulgence”, at almost every given moment. As I said, 1 day before arriving, I left India; India that filled me with almost a normality in being uncivilized and chaotic. Even though it polluted my body with physical dirt, it still filled my mind with utter amazement and inspiration. And these 2 things were all I wanted to fill my “backpack“ with, when engaging with that Indian world. India may have wrecked my head in many ways, but it filled my heart to the max. And that counts for so much more.

I challenged myself during my week in Rome, I embraced what I could - which is what I promised myself I'd do - and then I simply left! I’m happy to have experienced such contrasts, in such different worlds, in such a short space of time. And just to touch something briefly that I’ve questioned many times over the past 6 months, with the Indian way of life: Is it a world that can be seen as unreal and like a game that they are playing? I figure that Rome, or just generally in Europe, is also just as much of a game. But it’s being played with different rules. So questioning whose world is real, and which one is better or worse, is a question without an answer, in my eyes.

We can play the roles that our surroundings expect us to fill, like I did when I was in Rome on Tuesday morning (the 20th) for example. I was strolling through Rome by myself, with confidence, as if I knew where I was going, as if I belonged to the city, looking to fit in with the Italian “glamour” - with my new handbag, my sunglasses and my hair suddenly groomed - I was playing along, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Just like I was playing along 10 days before that, in India, when I went to a birthday celebration, dressed in my Indian sari, feeling as if I’d worn it many times before, and forgetting that I was sticking out like a “sore thumb”, as Westerners always do. I was, and still am, playing the roles that are apart of this game that is called “life”. 2 weeks ago, India was my reality, then Rome was my reality and now what I’m typing here, is my reality.

I suppose your reality is what you want it to be at that moment, and can change whenever you either want it to change or when the environment “forces“ you to change it. Either way, as long as we’re truthful and honest to who we are inside, we can fill any role in the world we want. We can fill it with such confidence and strength. This makes it so easy to be apart of every world we step into. If we have a sense of belonging in our own world inside, then we will always have a sense of belonging in the bigger world outside.

Rome - Antwerp

I was happy with my decision to leave amazing Rome. So, next step: I was needing to continue this journey. I knew, from day 2 of being there, that it was going to be Holland. On Friday I desperately searched for flights, but they were so expensive - seeing as though I wanted to leave as soon as possible AND it was high-season. It took me hours and I even doubted if I’d get an affordable flight for any time in the near future. I started to panic, thinking even more strongly that I was trapped in this city and “doomed“ not to leave! But then, miracles of miracles, I managed to book myself a seat on a bus leaving from the centre of Rome all the way to Antwerp (which is city only 45min from Emma’s and Orla’s house). It was affordable, it was soon, it was what I wanted and it was an “adventure”; a 26-hour bus journey. I was so happy and I couldn’t believe how good it made me feel to be so free!

I then suddenly realized my reasons for coming to Rome in the first place, of which I first wasn’t aware (besides to share my Indian experiences, to talk and to reconnect with David) - and that was for me to feel good about going to Holland and, soon also Ireland. So Rome almost drove me back to see the family and to reconnect with the most important people in my world. Even though I set this as a priority months ago, I never expected it to happen so quickly, so easily and with so much freedom. It’s so good for this to have happened like this. I’m so glad I chose to travel this route!

I booked my bus to freedom. I left Rome Monday morning (the 26th) and David and I said goodbye. I know I’ll be seeing him again, but it won’t be in Rome. I don’t feel I’ll be going back, but instead we are going to meet in Asia. We’ll be setting a date, once we are both in that part of the world, where we’ll once again, share our experiences as well as a very special bond, that will always last.

Okay, back to today: It’s now Tuesday morning (the 27th), I’m sitting on the bus, driving through Europe. It’s been nearly 24hours since boarding. I’m not too sick of it just yet. The weather is getting cooler though and the landscape is becoming more and more “Dutch”, the further north we drive. By “Dutch” I mean flat fields all around. I’ll be in Antwerp in 3 hours time. I haven’t told anybody I’m coming. Nobody even knows that I’ve left Rome. This is pretty crazy. I don’t even know if either Emma or Orla are home.. To keep it a surprise wasn’t really my intention, it’s just how it happened. But it will work out, and I can’t wait to see them all! And when panic arises, at the realization of where I am, I tell myself: this is not a prison, I’m passing through and it’s simply what I have chose and what I need at this time. It’s a part of the journey. And that means it’s amazing.. always!

Not for me

Panicking on Thursday morning (22-07) made me reach a decision pretty quick and by the followiong day I was 100% sure that I had to leave Rome. I had come to the conclusion; there was nothing holding me back, only expectations of what friends and family may have had, by my first initial choice to visit David. Many expected, and openly said, that I’d probably stay, I’d get a job and that my options could be pretty big. I had an open-mind, in regards to every possibility Rome could have given me. And Thursday I knew it. There was nothing to keep me there.

A few reasons, led to me to want to leave. First: speaking with home and knowing how close I was; I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d need to see them. Second: me and David knew that neither of us wanted to give up what we were working on, in our separate lives, for the sake of trying something we both knew wasn’t what we truly wanted, at this moment in time. What made this realization stronger was the change I could feel in myself; I’m more and more determined to focus on a few particular goals and simple dreams. India has brought me to value these goals; they were once only minor ideas, but I never fully embraced them and therefore I never wanted them to play an important role in my life. Now, coming back to someone who I spent amazing weeks with before I went to India, is teaching me how much more I’ve come to value these goals and dreams, than ever before. It’s also teaching me the importance of focus, which is needed to materialize the goals and dreams. It’s so brilliant to see this so clearly!

Other reasons for leaving: Regardless of Rome being the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in, it’s still a city. With cities often comes a feeling of enclosure and isolation. I knew the longer I’d stay, the more trapped I’d start to feel. And actually, this is exactly what started to happen on Thursday (still the 22nd by the way!). It wasn’t until I booked my ticket out of Rome, that I felt free and was able to appreciate once again.

I found that you can experience magic with a person, wherever in the world you may be. But if your personal need to be either “free on the road“”, or to be “free in a peaceful place” (with or without someone special), is overpowering any other need, then any amount of magic you experience, won’t give you a sense of belonging. I realized in Rome that in the haste of a city, when you’re there “too long”, the pace of life and the city-vibe starts owning you. You no longer feel to own yourself - as you did only so recently. With that loss of “owning yourself”, you don’t feel you belong within yourself. And when you don’t feel you belong within yourself, you can never feel to belong with a certain person or a certain environment. This gives a sense of being “lost” - which is what I experienced but so soon I got on top of it once again.