I grew up in a family where there were three sets of kids from five parents living in three different countries. My personal nuclear unit was unto itself pretty tame (mom, dad, me) but, with siblings and parents always in flux, it is no wonder that I’ve always felt most comfortable on the move.
My mother was the catalyst — furniture in my living room got rearranged quarterly, rooms were repainted on a whim and when you’d explored all your options in a particular locale you moved to keep it new, exciting, alive. Some of the moves were bigger than others (like Ottawa to Caracas) but some were relatively small (Thornhill to Beaverton). Just enough to shake things up and keep us interested — for a while.
Despite my desire to be nothing like the flighty noncommittal woman who raised me, I discovered — post-high school and pre-working stiff — that it seemed to be in my DNA, impossible to ignore.
The Monday after Easter weekend in April 1999 I started a job fresh from the world of free-lancing. I’d spent the previous two years writing a music column for this publication and smaller stories for some of Canada’s glossies. My new gig? I was the features editor of a teen magazine.
I was grossly underqualified, in my opinion, but with a good sense of style (which is why I think I got the job). My hope? If I could stick it out for three months I could buy a new computer to replace the early ’90s Apple I was using to write my still-ongoing magnum opus, and a new bed that wouldn’t cripple me or my girlfriend, soon to be wife.
By the grace of some omni-potent power and — thanks to my levelheaded butch — an ability to ignore the devil on my shoulder, I was still hanging around in 2001, having risen in the ranks to deputy editor of a lifestyle magazine. But in December of that year we — me, my partner, dog and two cats — decided it was time to move on, change our lives, leave the big city behind and hit the road.
We headed east to Nova Scotia with our dog in our woodie wagon and made stops along the way to soak it in — breathe in the slow country and breathe out the fast pace of the city.
I lasted 10 months.
We spent the months until April holed up in our log cabin in the Annapolis Valley, making crafts to sell in the Halifax Market on Saturdays. I spent the months until October trying to figure out how I was going to tell my wife that I had to go back to the city, to tear her away from her dream of living on the east coast and back to the place most Canadians could live without, Toronto.
The compromise, when she finally relented, was that we would live outside of Toronto. In late fall I returned to Ontario — without her, our things or our pets — to find a home. In early November I drove the kilometre-long driveway and found it: a hundred-year-old farmhouse on 100 acres of land with deer and wild turkeys and an ornery porcupine as neighbours. It was idyllic. The quiet of the country and the romance of the pace was perfect for summer barbecues and lazy weekend afternoons. Like living at the cottage.
I lasted 11 months.
The three-hour commute each way into Toronto, despite the beauty of it, was taxing. During the winter months, in a beautiful vintage Volvo with no heat, it was a challenge.
So we moved back into the city — all the pets and all the stuff — this time in a U-Haul, partially as a kind of penance but mostly due to cost. It was a dark period.
Another four and a half years later I am the editor of a beauty and fashion magazine. But once again I have the itch, and maybe a little bit of that life’s-flashing-before-my-eyes angst. Where to this time? Berlin. I have high hopes and some not so high, I hope, expectations.
In 2009 I want to learn to speak German. I want to visit a different country every month. I want to hit all the fashion weeks and see the drama, mayhem and beauty for myself. I want to run a marathon even though I’ve never run further than for a cab. I want to see whether or not I am capable of sleeping till noon — a task I have not mastered since high school without the help of a good bottle of wine or two.
This time the trip is time delimited. I only have to make it as long as 12 months. Wish me luck.