It was the hardest departure yet.
One that I wasn’t sure I would fully recover from.
The kind of goodbye that had me uncomfortably sitting in the airport lounge flirting with the idea of taking the next mornings’ flight in an effort to remain close to my most precious heartbeats for a few hours longer. And for all the certainty that accompanied the decision to set off abroad again, the truth is – it’s at times like this, as I bid farewell without any plan or return date, that I begin to question everything.
Doubt seeps in.
My mind begins overthink.
And before I know it, I’m convincing myself over and over that, somehow, this all-too-comfortable Canadian lifestyle has made me soft and incapable of conquering the upcoming adventure that ensues.
It was an incredible three months.
A summer of pleasant familiarity.
Wide open Ontario skies.
Okanagan sunshine on bronzed skin.
Family dinners from the same table setting.
And waking up each morning within room that began to feel a lot like my own. Prayer flags floating above the window, yoga mat sprawled at the base of the bed, clothes neatly hung in the closet, and the smell of fresh coffee brewing downstairs.
It’s the type of place embodies pure contentment.
And, for me, settling back into the world where it all began proved to be a much-needed opportunity to revise a slightly tainted script.
A time to create new, more pleasant memories instead of instinctually blocking out the old ones.
And above all else, this summer allowed me the priceless gift of reconnection with the very people who nurtured and loved me long before ever loved myself.
Even now, as I reflect back on those warm summer memories, I can’t help but wonder if it will ever be possible to find this depth of connection – this peaceful feeling of home, anywhere else on the planet.
The intention was just a quick visit back to Canada.
Some much-needed family time, reunions with old friends, and a passport renewal with an altered surname to match the completely revised girl applying.
It was supposed to be short and sweet; a pattern that I’ve come to realize as the habitual way in which I choose to connect with others.
Giving a little of myself than going.
Enjoying the pretty parts while they last.
And engaging in every new relationship with a degree of caution that there will inevitably be an upcoming farewell in the future.
I suppose this is what a life in motion will inevitably do to protect one’s head.
To guard one’s heart.
Conditioning even the most open of individuals to reflexively close off and hold back in fear that maybe, just maybe, a love will come along that’s worth sticking around for.
In June I arrived.
In July I left.
In August I came back again.
And then, within the blink of an eye, it was September.
It will never cease to amaze me how a single summer can move both fast and slow.
How something that initially felt so uncomfortably foreign could, in time, deliver the most memorable moments of my life to date.
How, even after all these years and all these places, home can still be found exactly where I once left it.
Unchanged, yet completely different.
Easy, yet unexpectedly challenging.
And filled with love so boundless, so encompassing, that every ounce of restraint within my armoured chest surrendered to the people.
To the places.
To the process.
I met the resistance and chose to feel anyways.
Aware that it would all expire.
Knowing of the inevitable discomfort that lay within my departure.
And in complete expectation that, in order to breathe in such bliss – I would, in the end, inhale some pain when I left.
What I didn’t expect was, on that star-lined evening as I bid farewell, to experience the crippling weight of heartache that rattled me to my core. A level of anguish that made every come down, every ‘morning after’, even my divorce pale as a paper-cut in comparison. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to feel – really feel the gut-wrenching discomfort of leaving humans whom I unconditionally adore.
Those who trust in the decisions I make, even though they are vastly different than the choices they themselves would select.
The ones who play cheerleader.
The ones who make effort.
The ones who continue show up.
All the while setting off to a land thousands of miles away where everyone and everything is completely alien. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced innumerable times before. Apprehension of the unknown. Yet, as I opened the passenger door of the black Chevy and made my way in the direction of Pearson’s departure lounge, it suddenly dawned on me – a wave of realization that, in leaving this familiar city.
These loving arms.
There would be no warm bodies, no intimate embraces, waiting to console me on the other end. I was faced with the stark and immediate recognition that it was, once again – only me, myself, and I.
Anyone who knows me will say the same thing – I truly love the journey. Travel time, for me, is always time well spent. A rare opportunity to befriend a complete stranger, listen to a podcast, or open my computer to a blank page and allow words to seamlessly flow through my fingertips.
I never hesitate to book long-haul trains over flights.
Take buses versus driving.
Walk for an entire afternoon instead of hailing a taxi.
And for someone who’s had a great deal of experience with airport delays and overnight transit, I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that mere seven hour quest to Lisbon felt anything other than the longest night of my life.
We took off from the tarmac and, like clockwork, the tears began to flow.
To the disappointment of everyone trying to sleep on the overnight flight, I sat curled into a tiny ball, sobbing for hours. And when the wheels finally touched down on Portuguese soil, I slowly shuffled up to the arrivals port only to catch a reflection of a face I barely recognized – a puffy-eyed, sleep deprived woman without an ounce of life left in her pale cheeks.
I couldn’t have known what was in store for me on the other side of that immigration window.
Never in a million years could I have guessed the sheer magic that would follow that initial stamp in my fresh passport.
The abundance and bliss that lie on the other side of what felt like paralyzing defeat.
But I suppose that’s the funny thing about life – everything, even perception, can change in the blink of an eye. One moment you’re muffling sobs in a smelly airplane lavatory, and the next your driving in an open air Jeep up the panoramic Portuguese coastline.
Hair freely blowing in warm winds.
Fingers interlocked with a man who looks like he belongs on the cover of GQ magazine.
By some diving timing, you’ve aligned yourself in the exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
Waking up every morning to sunrise yoga, strong European espresso, and breakfast conversations that ignite a newfound sense of purpose deep within.
Surfing atop world-class waves by day.
Indulging in dark chocolate gelato on the boardwalk by night.
And watching dolphins frolic as the sun sets in the company of beautiful humans with even more beautiful hearts.
I guess it’s true – this life really does hold special magic for those who dare to dream.
And, the seamless perfection of the past two weeks is the only reminder I’ll ever need to keep confidently moving in the direction of every single aspiration that lights my soul on fire.
Fearless in pursuit of what matters.
And unwilling to settle for anything less than amazing.
Because I’ve now come to understand that this world doesn’t need me to stay quiet.
This world doesn’t need me to play small.
This world only asks that I keep dreaming big.
Feeding the faith.
Starving the doubt.
And fiercely trusting of the only heartbeat that will guide me to where I’m destined to be – the one beating in the centre of my chest.
“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself”