I’ve Been Having an Affair. Now It’s Time to Kiss and Tell.
As you know, in my last post I admitted to you that I have been having an affair and that it is one of the most delicious and satisfying experiences I’ve had. In fact, I’m pretty excited to tell you everything. Seems odd, doesn’t it? Typically affairs are hush-hush, furtive side glances, and furrowed brows. I, on the other hand, want to shout to anyone around about mine.
My First Love
Let’s back up a bit. Six years ago, I met my first love and it rocked my world. I didn’t anticipate it, and perhaps that’s where some of the magic lay. I had different ideas for myself and what I wanted before we met. I had plans, more or less. It happened anyway. That first love radiated light everywhere around me, showered me with gifts, and healed past aches. It was transformative in the way only first loves can be. I keep it safe in my memory, in my body, and on my face still.
My first love was wild and kind and wise. It was playful and intriguing, brimming with music and mirth and late nights together. There were many ‘firsts’ and uncountable smiles. I gave everything I could, though I was the lucky one, enveloped in all its charm and wit. All these years later my expression still exudes the elation I feel when discussions of it surface. I will always love my first love, even as I live my third love now. It is why my third love feels like an affair, and then I remind myself they can all hold space in my heart.
I was not prepared for my first love to end when it did. Its time was up, in some ways that is for sure, but I was not ready. I held on. I closed up. I was resistant to moving on. The aftermath was tough and then life moved forward. I chose to move forward too.
My Second Love
My second love arrived shortly after the first. Love number two was amiable, good-natured, and easy. We met in the late fall and life took off pretty quickly. I remember most the summer days we spent together, exploring and eating and feeling the sun on our skin. There was less music, which I longed for, and still do, I must admit. Instead, we frequently delighted over exotic feasts. Fortunately I am as tickled by sensations on my tongue as I am in my ear.
Evenings together were spent surrounded with our loved ones playing games and sharing homemade potlucks. It was different and perfect. We fell into a fantastic rhythm of never-ending energetic plans and I was almost truly happy. Part of me still longed for my first love, holding on too tight to the past. The rest of me eased into this new version of contentment.
Ten months later our relationship changed when I moved. It’s always me that leaves. I wasn’t ready for that relationship to be finished either but my feet were tied by choice and circumstance, as life goes. We stayed in touch, both of us making the effort, but it’s not the same when you occupy different spaces. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but what is out of sight is most certainly also out of mind. People drift apart, routines change, and despite our efforts to meet up from time to time, the rhythm lost its beat.
We reunited for a few months the next summer. It was wonderful and we packed in as much as we could, knowing our time together would be brief. Then I left again.
Now, My Third Love
Now, I feel confident in saying I have lived and am living my third love. I am older, so it is different. The butterflies are fewer and less delirious, perhaps because I recognize them when they begin and we learn to quell our emotions as we get older. Why do we do that to ourselves as we age? Certainly you know what I mean – how the butterflies change over time. Those first butterfly flurries are pure ecstasy. The thumping in your stomach and chest, the nervous sweaty palms and aching cheeks from smiling so fully – that, is the definition of living. I digress.
This third love of mine, I have taken ownership of. I have consciously contributed as much to its direction as I have been along for the ride. There is something exciting about hopping in the driver’s seat together. I used to love being whisked up in romance’s unknowns, though now I enjoy taking hold of the wheel as well. Our interdependence has given me space and support. It has provided me a stronger belief in myself, in love, and in making things happen in the world. It is what excites me most about our relationship.
And yet, we will be coming to an end, or at least a pause, a shift, a turn in the road. In my head and my heart, it is not our ending. We will be together again soon, sooner than the other loves. We are just getting our groove, digging in and making our mark together. Choice and convenience are butting heads again and I must go, at least for a little while. In the meantime, I’m going to squeeze this affair with all of my energy, love, and passion. With luck, it will tide us over until I return. Only time will tell, and the distance it covers.
Agnes is the owner of Egilsstaðir Campground, my favourite campsite from our 14-day Icelandic excursion. One of the most exciting surprises at the campground was the sparkly clean, warm porcelain seats that greeted our bottoms in the chilly morning. It’s the tiny simple pleasures that make your day while living on the road sometimes. There was also oodles of practical information for travellers covering the walls in the laundry room. The posters covered everything you could possibly want and need to know about when driving the Ring Road, from how to avoid terrifying Icelandic speeding fines and where to find Game of Thrones locations, to daily weather forecasts (windy and rainy, if you were wondering). The lounge was comfortably decorated with couches, tables, and a plethora of charging stations, perfect for our electronically-saturated luggage.
We settled into the reception area with our cardboard box kitchen to a scrumptious breakfast of PB&J with a side of oranges and bananas after another night cocooned in our car. Agnes greeted everyone who passed through with a kind smile, helping with directions, purchases, and general questions. We spent most of the day hunkered down, fixing a broken drone and chatting with her. I told her how we had found her campground online and of the glowing reviews people wrote about her. We gabbed about the campground, Iceland, and our quest for the Northern Lights before saying goodbye. Agnes welcomed us into her country with such warmth and genuine happiness. She is one of those individuals who made our day, even in the short amount of time our paths crossed. We may not ever meet again but staying at her campsite was definitely a treat we’ll remember!
There’s something magical about chance encounters, random conversations, and connecting with people you may never see again. I don’t know whether it is me that is different or those around me when I travel. It’s probably a bit of both, but striking up conversations with random folk feels so much easier in a new place. After living in Ireland, a country known for enjoying “the chat”, I moved to Toronto, Canada. Both cities have a piece of my heart, but the reverse culture shock in Toronto where conversing with strangers is, well, strange was tough to re-adjust to. I don’t believe this is isolated to Toronto…but I’ll have to live in a few more cities to confirm my hypothesis!
With the transformation of this blog going forward, I am incorporating stories of people I meet and businesses I love from home and abroad. Thehope is that my connections may become your connections. Whether you are travelling to a new place, searching for a unique item, or reading and following along, they’ll all be here for you.
I love the idea of creating a global community or network. It makes life seem simpler, cozier, friendlier. That stranger on the subway or the other side of the world turns into someone you’ll relate to in an instant, or network with to create a world-shifting NGO, or any of the other millions of possibilities creating relationships brings. We’re already closer than we may think. There are often links in common along the way – a friend knows a brother or you worked at the same company just months apart. I even heard a story once where someone had moved into a woman’s former home and lived there for years before they met, “by chance”. Doesn’t that give you shivers?!
My goal is to bring the dots closer for you to connect, to create the space for it to happen. So come in, you’re welcome to stay a while and have a peak around the place. Who knows who you’ll meet!
*This is the first in a collection of stories I’m looking forward to sharing with you about friendly faces, tasty places, and snazzy businesses from around the world. This is not a sponsored post.
Sveinn – Owner of Cafe Berlin Akureyri
After a rejuvenating swim and shower at the local pool in Akureyri, we decided to splurge and treat ourselves to brunch at Cafe Berlin. Fresh smoked salmon, creamy brie, buttery mushrooms, spicy avocado, tangy pineapple…it was pure tastebud bliss after consuming dozens of gas station hot dogs and boxes of Ritz crackers, even if we did share a single plate. To top it off, we drooled over a waffle drizzled with caramel sauce and a side of whipped cream. Mmmm-mmm! Between the refreshing morning swim and the celebratory tastebud dance, you couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces if you tried. Somehow though, the day got better.
Belly full and ready to work, I added Cafe Berlin to my travel feed on Instagram (@travelwithtmc). Shortly after, the café’s feed returned the follow. I asked the server we ordered from if he was running the account, to which he responded yes. He turned out to be the café’s owner and a wealth of insight into all things Iceland. Fellow foodie, Sveinn, shared with us his upcoming journey to Sweden to visit a Michelin-star restaurant. Enthusiastically, we swapped binge-worthy Netflix morsels to devour. Over the next couple of hours the cafe emptied. Conversation filled the space, a recipe of Iceland’s history, politics, environment and social landscape. Entertaining anecdotes of people frequenting his café, from the country’s witty finance minister, to a whisky-loving friend (and the reason alcohol is stocked at the cafe) peppered his stories. We shared our travel story thus far and the wonder with which we experienced his country. If you’re ever in Iceland and hungry for a treat, be sure to feast on both the food and the gab at Cafe Berlin!
If you’ve previously visited my travel blog, la tourà l’étranger, you’ll notice some changes. The first is the appellation of my musings. This blog began as a personal project with two goals: update friends and family back home while living abroad, and document my experiences for nostalgia’s sake when I’m old and wrinkly.
La tour à l’étranger, roughly translated from French, means The Tower Abroad or The Foreign Tower. It was a nod to two physical attributes – my height and location. It also followed the format of “theme” and “identifier” most blog monikers apply. Some of my favourite travel blogs are great examples of this format: Legal Nomads, The Bucket List Family, Nomadic Matt, and The Restless Worker. Picture day at school almost always sealed my vantage point in the centre of the back row. “Giant”, “tall”, and “big” weren’t cutting it to use in a blog title, however “tower” luckily began with a T in both French and English. Coincidentally, Tara, in at least one of its linguistic derivations, means “tower”. Either my parents are psychic or the universe has a funny way of manifesting itself. The “foreign/abroad” element is self-explanatory. Lastly, the title was in French as a nod to my profession as a French teacher and fascination with language and linguistics. Unfortunately, there was one glaring problem – most of the site’s visitors don’t speak French! The title held no meaning to its Anglophone audience. It was confusing, easily forgettable, and often misspelled. Not a great combination for making an impression.
Connecting the Dots
Two years after this personal project began, life, travel, and this site have morphed into the next chapter. Welcome to Connecting the Dots. One of my favourite things to do, whether it’s with words, travel, or people, is to find, create, and maintain connections. In language classes I teach my students to be Language Detectives, identifying clues that aid them in recognizing both meaning and grammar. They connect world history and personal experiences to spelling and structure, becoming autonomous learners, expert problem-solvers, and independent thinkers instead of robotic regurgitators of sounds and sticks. In social settings, friends and family can attest to the giddy enthusiasm with which I recount how so-and-so from one part of my life is connected to another familiar so-and-so. Another genuine thrill is connecting those around me. It creates a cozy space, an intimate space, with the potential to take care of and help each other. It can break down barriers, build understanding, and lead to unlimited opportunities. It can support healthy bodies, minds, and hearts. At its core, it is community. Living, working, and travelling abroad exponentially magnifies the possibilities to connect words, places, and people, especially with the use of the internet. You can see why I’m so addicted to foreign lands.
Change & The 4 “P”s
As with language and words, when there is a change to the structure, there is a change to meaning. Replace “-ed” with “-ing” and you are actively learning, instead of having once learned. And so, this cozy nook in the interweb is moving with new direction and purpose, built on four components:
People: to connect people and businesses around the world that I interact with and support
Places: to connect faraway traditions, history, and landscapes, to you at home
Pictures: to connect unfamiliar perspectives and moments to your experiences
Parlance: to connect words to their past histories, present use, and to other ways of communicating
1,2,3…You and Me
Literally anything is possible through the practice of finding, creating, and maintaining connections (read The Brain That Changes Itself, it’ll blow your mind!). I think that’s why I have such a passion for it.
Something I’m grateful to witness often in my job is the delight children have for the simple bits in life. Disguised as a thrilling pastime, there is an exercise that requires a pencil, a paper, and some patience to help children learn to count. When an image reveals itself from a bunch of seemingly random dots, the reaction of pure joy and amazement is priceless. And learning how to count? A bonus.
The dialogue you create contributes to and builds this space into something I am unable to do as a single “dot”. I like to think we’re 1 degree of separation apart instead of 6; a small world after all, if you will. Thank you for visiting, and… for connecting the dots!