I first left Australia as a global nomad just after the lunar new year of 2010. It was the Year of the Tiger. Twelve years on, a full cycle of the Chinese zodiac later, I’m resuming my international wanderings after having been grounded in Australia for two years by Covid-19.
In the pantheon of animals represented in the zodiac, the tiger is a positive sign evoking strength, courage, bravery and resilience. I’ll need those tiger-like qualities as I embrace a new turning point and head into the next phase of my life.
A lot has changed in the last dozen years.
I was nearly 58 when I first became a nomad; this time, I’m staring 70 in the jowls.
Back then, I still ran marathons and half marathons. Today, I’m a walker, mindful of the fragility of my osteoporotic bones after breaking my right arm for the second time when I fell during a run in early 2021.
In the last Year of the Tiger, I was without a home and hadn’t yet met people who have since become my global family. At the start of my next spin around the zodiac, I feel at home in the world, with loving and supportive friends in Borneo, Budapest, Bombay and beyond.
In 2010, social media wasn’t the thing it has since become. I was on Facebook, but my posts were infrequent. By the time I returned to Australia after a decade of wandering around the world, the platform had become a visual diary that I updated daily. Now, in 2022, in addition to my personal Facebook page, I have a presence for my editing business and my book, and I administer four special-interest pages. I also have Twitter and Instagram accounts, two websites, two blogs, and a LinkedIn profile. It’s probably all just attention-seeking behaviour.
One of my hopes in the last Year of the Tiger was to find the courage to stop drinking. I had been struggling for two decades with “grey-area” drinking and had finally accepted that I would never again be able to drink like a “normal” person. As a senior world traveller who was dependent on the income I earned as a freelance editor, I needed to keep my wits about me if I was to be safe, stay employable, and enjoy the unique lifestyle I had imagined for myself. It still took me 15 months to jettison the misguided notion that I could be the boss of white wine, rather than it be the boss of me, but I’ve not had any alcohol since August 28 2011. As I hit the road again in the Covid-19 era, I no longer need to worry about what might happen should I have too much to drink.
At this latest turning point in my life, I’m at last a published author with a book to promote wherever my travels take me over the next year or two. Skinful: A Memoir of Addiction is a rollicking account of the turning points in my life over the past three decades, and of how it is never too late to make a new path to a different future.
What hasn’t changed in the last dozen years?
I was single in 2010 and I’m still single in 2022. But I haven’t stopped imagining that I might meet someone who is a good fit for me. I’m heading back into the world with an open mind and an open heart – and with some pretty lingerie tucked in my suitcase.
Living an alcohol-free life doesn’t necessarily mean I am sober. I’m still impatient and can be intolerant when triggered. Being truly comfortable in my own skin requires that I continue to work on changing myself and not just my location. Wherever I go, there I’ll be. If I want to be a fun and resourceful travel companion for myself, I need to stop pussyfooting around, grab the Tiger year by its tail and manifest in myself the qualities it represents.
As part of this process of continuing to look at how I contribute to creating my own experience of life – its difficulties and hardships as well as its joys and successes – I’ve begun talking with a counsellor. From wherever I’ll be in the world, I will work with her to try to gain a better understanding of what triggers my insecurities, anxieties and grievances and to learn more productive strategies for coping with those emotions.
In the Chinese zodiac, this year is a propitious one for making big changes, both in one’s world and in oneself. I need only to be surefooted, brave and courageous, like the tiger, as I set off on the next stage of my journey.