It’s strange being settled for a while. We thought we’d be in Amsterdam for three months. Turns out it will be six. That’s the longest we’ve stayed anywhere in the last eight years.
There are many advantages – for a while I have a semblance of routine. ‘Autumn is a time to let go’ my yoga newsletter told me. I don’t have any problem with letting go. My life is one long round of letting go. My problem is more ‘holding on to’. For me life is in constant flux, always changing. I love the variety, the freedom, the chance to look at things from a different point of view. ‘That’s my idea of a nightmare’, said the homeowner in Bath as she took me to do a shop in the local supermarket. She knew where everything was. I walked up and down each aisle three times looking for a can of beans.
Routine – a blessing or a curse? If you’re always in the same place is it easier to get stuck? If you’re always moving, are you rootless?
Possessions help many people to feel anchored. ‘I couldn’t live like you’, a friend told me ‘I’d hate wearing the same clothes every day’. I have very little. No home. No car. No smartphone. A change of clothes. A couple of books. A few things I could never part with stashed in a friends attic – a family bible, grandma’s art deco style tea cups, photos and old journals. Far from feeling bereft, I feel unencumbered. It’s life stripped back, bare to the bone. But I lack nothing. Conversely I feel connected more than ever to everything – myself, nature, the world and everyone in it. Stripping away non-essentials has got me down to the nitty-gritty – myself, my feeling and intuition. I have gained confidence in myself, gotten to know myself better, and know that I could depend on myself if the chips were down. That is quite some grounding.
Flexibility is also key to connection. It’s a cliché, but I don’t sweat the small stuff any more – or at least much less than I used to. We share some gorgeous homes; sometimes there is something I miss, something I would have differently if it were mine – but that’s a trade-off for our way of life. Practicalities can also be difficult when life is lived on the move. Doctor and dentist appointments, admin. – it could be overwhelming. Creativity, trust that it will work out, and that all important gut feeling get me through.
Knowledge gives me security. Looking stuff up, researching, reading, putting myself in someone else’s shoes – all of this gives me a sense of the wider world. I am just a tiny cog in a great big wheel; what I do affects someone else, somewhere else, even if I can’t see it or feel it.
And my friends lend me weight – in the nicest possible way. We see each other less but the connection is just as real. The feeling that people care about me gives me a place in the world. I am not alone. I belong. It’s great, for a while, to be in a place where I may bump into someone I know in the street, where people call me up to ask if I want to do something. I am included – for the next few months, literally and physically.
So a wandering existence doesn’t need to be rootless, just as a settled one does not need to be a stuck one. Nothing’s perfect, everything has pro’s and con’s. For the next few months, I’ll be enjoying being in one place. Amsterdam. A place that feels like home, a place so familiar, but yet so vibrant that there’s always something new to discover. I can already find the beans in the supermarket!