And the seasons change

No longer living in London, I can feel the seasons more fully in my bones.  The minute we tipped into 2018, the past year was buried in the soggy ground.  December, with all her stresses and glories, suddenly felt utterly irrelevant.  My chai tea has been replaced with Three Tulsi; a different kind of spice for a different kind of year.  The breeze carries cool, fresh air and I can feel the process of renewal has already begun.  We breathe deeply to catch that subtle scent of coming spring, as our boots sink deep in the stubborn mud.  My socks are always wet these days.


I can barely remember a time when we weren’t living like this, always rolling in mud, catching every sunset over trampled fields or swirling streams, filling our house with ivy and pine and oak. A time when we were cooped up in our penthouse flat, finding some sort of vertical escape from the city.  Still, those poorly fitted windows did little to keep out the stink and noise from outside, the traffic fumes and rubbish skips and creatively challenged buskers.  It’s as though we were compressed like a piece of corn waiting to pop.   And pop we did, into a radically different and inspiring life.

Still, I can miss the city, my thrilling decade of running down those streets chasing happiness and adventure.  Broken-hearted on a double-decker with Bright Eyes in my ears, drinking wine from the bottle on top of the Honor Oak hills with the glittering skyline stretching out before us, dizzying highs in sweaty venues, bewildering moments with strangers, midnight rambles along the Thames or the North London canals; and so very many random meetings.  I remember them all.  It was a fabulous decade, my twenties.  But that girl is long gone.  She was messed-up and confused and broken.  I may feel nostalgic about those rollercoaster days, but I would never go back.  As ever, we must roll with the times.


Interlude of nostalgia

And then I was going to write about the rest of the weekend and all that it entailed, but things came between, so that will have to wait.

Natalie floating

Natalie floating through Australia

This morning, out of the blue, I received a Skype call from Natalie, my sunshine pal and close friend who is currently having the time of her life on the other side of the world. She packed up and left for Australia, ditching schedules and deadlines and musts, and is now traversing that vast continent while piecing herself together like a great big jigsaw puzzle with the most perfect blueprint. I’m so happy for her, it sounds so amazing when she describes the adventures they face every day, the bright stars at night; and over the phone I could hear the raging winds along the Adelaide coast.

Naturally, it reminded me of my own travel days. They began at age 14, when I broke out of my sheltered Swedish childhood and flew to Zambia to visit Karin and see where exactly my cousin-slash-best-friend was growing up. What a contrast; what an eye-opener! It was all savannahs and fireflies and roaring waterfalls, shy lions and graceful impalas, friendly market traders and fresh watermelons. Some of the memories are still crystal clear in my mind, and there are not enough words to describe the magic of it. That’s when I realised how much world there is to experience.

Then at 23, I left everything behind and spent the most enchanting five months in Africa and South America, where I simply had to turn and face myself, and I cracked open like a rock to expose a geode of glinting crystals. Every day was an adventure, a painful one at times, but an adventure nonetheless, and that’s how I always wanted life to be. I hula-hooped on São Paulo’s rooftops, was robbed in the streets of Mendoza, saw my reflection in the great Bolivian salt desert, danced around a beach fire under the Isla Grande moonlight, and flew with shamans in Rurrenabaque – oh, my love affair with Rurre… I spent many lazy afternoons there in the depths of the Bolivian jungle, swaying in a hammock next to Río Beni that floated quietly through the unassuming village, while writing in my journal or playing some soft and melanchonic tunes on my xaphoon, and life was so easy.

Rurre 3

Our Rurrenabaque paradise

I spent wild nights in Rio de Janeiro, long and lonely nights on islands and in mountain hamlets, played pool with bewildered villagers who had never before seen a gringa, fished for piranhas in the jungle, got homesick in the desert, and most of all I remember the long busrides where I could take a moment to relax and reflect, and let it all sink in while watching the ever-changing landscape fly past.

I went from a clueless child who had been scared to go to town on her own, to a guitar-carrying, Spanish-speaking, easy-going backpacker wandering the selva alone, occasionally exchanging words with an inquisitive local, or just incredulously drinking in the freedom and beauty and perfection.

bus in peru

On a bus through the Peruvian mountains

A few years later I went again, this time with Mike, and it was marvellous to breathe in the sandy, smoky air of Lima once again, to feel the heat from the ground seeping in through my Havaíanas. To get on a bus and not know where we would end up. To amble breathless (altitude!) up and down the cobbled streets of Cusco, to once again stand on top of Machu Picchu, nothing but green peaks and clouds all around. To sleep in threadbare hostel beds and make friends from all over the world. To always be moving.

Natalie’s call, her stories and photos, sent me into a fit of nostalgia. I love the memories so much, and I also love my life now, writing and learning and hopefully building a career of sorts, and redecorating our lovely flat and making it our home. But sometimes my tummy aches for times past, and then I really do miss that feeling of the wind in my hair and the endless road ahead.

machu picchu 2

On top of the world