A toast to friends

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

-Miriam Adeney

When I left Ottawa, three amazing friends accompanied me to the airport. After many hugs and kisses, I went through security and got to my gate. I sat down with my bags and when I looked up, I saw my buds waving and jumping trying to get my attention.

At that point, flurries of emotions ran through me like Usain Bolt and waterfalls of tears streamed out of my eyeballs. For the first time it hit me that I was leaving behind a comfort blanket of epic proportions.

After turning 18 I moved to a city five hours from my family. Ottawa became my new home and so many incredible people helped me transform from a delicate, bratty teenager into the woman I was when I left for Edinburgh. They understood who I was and accepted me inside and out, flaws and all. Would I find that in Scotland? Would I ever meet people who understand me the way they do?

For my first five or six months in Edinburgh, I really didn’t make many friends. Looking back, it wasn’t because I didn’t fit in or because I’m socially incapable—although for a while these were the reasons I continued telling myself—it was because I didn’t give myself the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals.

I worked mostly alone and didn’t pursue any hobbies outside of guitar and writing, both of which I like to do alone. By five months in I was the most insecure and lonely I’ve ever been.

A good friend from home came up for a visit and urged me to find different work where I’d immediately get to meet a bunch of people and give myself a real shot at settling in here.

Thank God she did because as soon as I met my new work mates, everything I found difficult about living in Edinburgh became easier. I didn’t feel as lonely anymore and always had invites to interesting events that inspired me creatively. I started writing poetry and music and going on adventures I never imagined would be had.

Now, again, I’m surrounded by people who make me feel at ease and at home. I owe so much to my move to Edinburgh. Inconceivable amounts of self-discovery and healing have occurred since moving here, and the majority of all this happened thanks to the people I’ve met. They’ve taught me more than I’ve taught myself, and helped me grow into a much stronger and tenacious version of me.

My visa expires this September, so I’ll have to make my way back to Canada. I went out with a couple of good friends the other day and realised I have no idea what I’ll do without these people who have become closer to me than I ever imagined possible. Once again I’ll have to walk away from family knowing it will be ages before we reunite.

The bottom line is, with every decision, even the most positive ones, comes sacrifices. If you decide you want your life to be full of movement, self-discovery, cultural experiences, and spiritual and emotional growth beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you can only be in one place at a time. The same way the magic of two or three places can’t exist in one city, none of the people you love most will ever be all in the same spot, and it could be years and years before you get to see them again.

I’m trying to keep in mind that, apart from constant social media interaction, post cards and phone calls, one way to really keep your friends alive in your life is by living the lessons they’ve helped to teach you. I’m a much stronger and understanding person because of the friends I’ve met, and the memories we’ve made will always keep me moving forward and growing.

So I propose a toast from all of us out there who have decided to explore: To the new friends we’ve made around the world, thank you for sticking by our sides, teaching us valuable lessons, and keeping us afloat when we had nothing else but your friendship. We salute you.

To all my friends new and old, in North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and anywhere else your travels have taken you, I will love you forever, and am so grateful to have met you. I can’t wait until we meet again, and create even more memories and stories worthy of sharing with our grandchildren.

 

Remembering

Mountains intersecting behind the Glenfinnan Viaduct, or more commonly known as the Hogwarts Express bridge.
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Glenfinnan Viaduct, aka the Hogwarts Express Bridge

Writing by Tori Dudys, photos by Tori Dudys and Dave Kingan

A few days ago, on a long, rainy walk (as they usually are in Edinburgh), I spent a bunch of time hopping into puddles and contemplating memories. I have 25 years full of memories and quite frankly I can’t figure out why. Not why we have memories, but why each memory we have sticks.

From what I’ve learned we don’t get to choose what we remember. For example, right now I’m in the west of Scotland with a dear friend. The scenery is incredible. There are geese, chickens, a rooster, guinea fowls, sheep, cats, and a dog. The house we’re staying in is a beautiful wee cottage with cedar wood floors. When I walk out of the front door I see mountains peeking through cloud cover and more trees than I can even fathom. As Scotland always is, it’s lush green as far as the eye can see.

It smells of dirt, grass, and humidity. It’s one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to. Needless to say, I want to remember every single detail of this trip (besides the overwhelming amount of cocktails we made and drank last night). But how do I? I know I can’t. I know I’ll maintain memories of drinking and laughing with my friend and I’ll remember there were cats and mountains but sooner or later the smell in the air will dissipate from my mind and what the cats look like will leave me as well.

I think back to my first few days in Edinburgh, and although I remember a lot of it, I’ve also forgotten a lot of it. I remember feeling at home and meeting a few new people and starting my first job. But I can’t remember the order things happened in really and everything is a big mess of bits and pieces.

Our memories will never be able to make a full story. Putting memories together from your earliest to most recent can’t make up your life completely. There will always be missing scenes. As much as we can take photographs and write things down to fill in some of the gaps, there will always be gaps.

Travelling has taught me so many lessons. I’ve been writing them all down to remember them. But there are already so many things I’ve forgotten simply because there’s not enough space up in my brain to remember all of them.

My grandmother has dementia and has lost nearly all her memories, even simple ones like the faces of family members. It terrifies me to think that basically the only thing we can be sure of in life—our experiences—can slip away so quickly. And although losing memories and forgetting certain instances is a part of life and we need to accept it, it really does make me sad.

One day it could become true that each memory from this life-changing trip will be gone and I’ll have nothing but my body and the moment. Until then I’m trying my best to live life to the fullest, to create memories for myself, and—most difficult of all—to just be. To just be right now and soak in the scenery while I’m here. To live day to day and write as much down as I possibly can not only to share with my family and friends, but to remind myself of the experience and lessons I need to be reminded of when they start to slip away from me.

 

Poems and pictures

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Writing by Tori Dudys, photos by Janine Lameiras and Tori Dudys

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and post some poems, accompanied by trip photos as a method of luring friends to read my work. To be honest, I’ve always hesitated to even write poetry because I find it incredibly self-indulgent, but alas, travelling has turned me into an introspective, constantly-crying, emotional tool (I mean that in the most positive way possible). So here’s one I call “Desert”. Can you guess what it’s about? Please leave some constructive criticism for me since I have no idea what I’m doing!

 

Desert

A haze gleams in front of me,

I take a dry breath.

It’s hot out here and hard to move.

The sun weighs on me

And holds me in place like heavy chains around my neck

And limbs.

 

I slowly extend my arm

And move my fingers in front of my eyes so I know they’re still there.

It’s hard out here.

Moving through sandstorms alone and seemingly forgotten.

When I see it,

An oasis.

“It must be a mirage,”

I think.

 

It can’t be though.

It’s so real.

It’s there I can see it.

I can smell it.

I can feel the cool breeze rippling the water.

It makes me move faster.

 

I cling to everything about this spot in the distance,

The courage it gives me to keep moving,

Through this hopeless, lonely desert.

It gives me a purpose to keep going.

Something to aim for.

 

I’m so close, just a few more steps.

 

I reach it.

Water is around me.

I stick my toes in to make sure it’s real.

And it is.

My body instantly cools.

I dive in and feel the comfort of the icy waves

That wrap their arms around me in a welcoming embrace.

I drink it.

I drink the water.

It gives me new life.

I feel my lips curl into a smile.

I feel accomplished.

 

I get out of the water, and remove my clothes to dry in the sunshine.

Completely naked I bask in the breeze

And prepare to make this place my home.

Sheltered from the hot sand and burning rays,

I fall asleep,

Smiling and proud.

 

When I wake, my body is sore.

I’m sweating.

My lips, peeling.

Throat parched worse than before and grit lining the inside of my mouth.

My bare body is covered in scabs from burns and dirt from the sand.

 

For a short time it was so real.

But it was all just a mirage.

It did save me though,

For even just a few moments,

From the desert.

 

 

 

Home

You can’t ever really go home. That’s the saying, isn’t it? I never understood what it meant until about 7.6 seconds ago.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” lately. About my friends and family I haven’t seen in 6 months. About the comforts of my old bachelorette pad—the one I spent a long time saving and working at a 9to5 office job to afford. About the cat that used to run up and greet me at my front door and snuggle with me when I thought there were ghosts in my closet.

I miss all these things, and if I gave up tomorrow, admitted defeat, and retreated to this familiar place with my tail between my legs, I would probably find it to be, well, not so familiar. It would no longer be my home, but a place more foreign than the one I’m in now. Even only after 6 months, friends will have been living their lives in a state of change, working towards homes with significant others and achieving their own career goals, forging their own paths to happiness. My old cat will still belong to her new family and I definitely couldn’t afford that bachelorette pad anymore.

Most prominent of all though, I know I will see things differently. Not for better or for worse. Just differently.

Forever in my life up until this point, home was where the familiar was. It was where I could go and put my feet up after a trying day, where I could go seek advice from my parents, and where my friends and I would prepare to go out on our own adventures together.

But out of sheer necessity, the concept of home has had to change for me. What is home now? It’s really become ephemeral, or maybe transitory is the right word? To get through my lonely days and scary nights I have had to become comfortable with the notion that home is wherever I am in the present. It’s more a state of mind than a tangible place.

Although I’m still adjusting to this idea of home, I’ve learned some things about my new mental space. The Chateau Dudys is a little messy, a little broken, a fortress of sorts, always confused, and excited for what’s to come. I have my weak days, ones where I look up one-way flights back to Canada, but overall I’m learning so much about myself and know if I stick it out here, my new home will grow to be more resilient and adaptable than ever before.

North Berwick and Being Alone

IMG_1582Writing and photos by Tori Dudys

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can see why you might assume I took my trip to North Berwick, a seaside town in Scotland, on my own. The title of this post somewhat suggests I did. But I didn’t. I went with a new friend who kept me from falling while bounding over slippery grass and rocks. Bottom line, I had someone to point me in the right direction during our trip and if I’m being honest with you and myself, at that point I probably wouldn’t have gone out there on my own strictly out of fear of the unknown and being alone in a new place.

After a couple hours of walking across grassy fields and climbing cliffs by the shore and learning about sea birds and quartz, we sat on the rocks by the water and watched a fisherman at work. He was alone with not but his rain gear and fishing rod, just standing overlooking the water waiting for a catch. The sun was about to set.

I’ve always known there’s a peace in being alone, but sometimes when I’m on my own my anxieties heighten and I get very antsy. Time passes slow and out of desperation I whip out any form of technology I can to push away the all-consuming loneliness that seems to almost punch holes in my chest from the inside out. Sending Facebook messages or seeing what friends are up to on Instagram takes the sting out of loneliness, at least momentarily. I completely understand how millennial that sounds and how absolutely surface-level that solution is, but it’s something I always catch myself doing regardless.

However, seeing this fisherman, almost statuesque just standing, watching, waiting, without a phone or book in his hands to keep his mind preoccupied, instilled in me a renewed understanding of the importance and ease of being alone.

Living in a new city where I know virtually no one can sometimes be unsettling. But with anonymity comes reinvention, self-improvement, and self-acceptance. I guess what I’m trying to say is being alone is healthy. So is being surrounded by people you love. Wherever you find yourself, as long as you’re comfortable in your own mind with your own thoughts, you can enjoy or at the very least find meaning in whatever it is life throws at you.

As I’m heading to the airport, about to embark on my first real solo travel excursion in Norway, I find myself thinking about the fisherman in North Berwick. Though nervous to travel completely alone for the first time, I’m hopeful and excited that by the time my trip has come to a close, I will have my own metaphorical fishnet full of interesting experiences and a reinvigorated sense of self.

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Into Giants

Written by Tori Dudys, photos by Janine Lameiras

We’re breathing now, but one day we won’t be.

Each time I stand next to a huge body of water, vast mountains, deep caves, or any other overwhelming natural phenomena, I’m always reminded of how small I really am, and how close every person on this planet is to not existing. I know, that’s cheesy, and morose to say. But honestly I’ve never felt more insignificant or human than when I sat near the ocean at the bottom of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

There were hundreds of tourists around so I had to dig deep in the trenches of my inner introversion but in an attempt to seek mental refuge from these thoughts of dying I managed to transport myself to a world where every life wasn’t wavering on a wrong step or miscalculated movement. A place where everyone lived forever.

A few days before seeing the Causeway, I had an interesting conversation with a man I met in the beautiful city of Oban, Scotland. A bit drunkenly—and by a bit I mean a lot on my part—we discussed important things like the environment and immigration laws, and not-so important things like music and movies. But what struck me the most was when we somehow got onto the topic of our very old and sick grandfathers (there’s no subject too bold during an epic conversation with a stranger).

He made an interesting point about aging. One I’ve thought much about in the last few months. The idea that no matter how young we think we are and no matter how many steps we take to look and feel younger, we will always become more and more inhibited by our increasing number of physical limitations. We’re only as strong as our bodies and that’s disturbing when you consider how fragile these bodies actually are. An edge of a piece of paper can slice our skin.

Though it’s terrifying to think about this physical fragility, and the impending doom with which we are all faced, maybe it’s our mortality that makes places like the Giant’s Causeway that much more special and awe-inspiring. They remind us of our impermanence and how we may never get the chance to be in that exact spot ever again. Whether it’s huge rocks by the water in an unfamiliar country, or your favourite tree in your front yard, it’s worth it to remember how special our lives are and how incredible everything around us is because, quite frankly, we’re breathing now, but one day we won’t be.

Departures

Sitting, waiting, wishing, scared shitless.
Sitting, waiting, wishing, scared shitless.

Writing and photo by Janine Lameiras

As I stood in departures, a one way ticket in hand, I felt consumed by a sense of loneliness, fear and vulnerability. I kept trying to make sense of these emotions pouring through me, and couldn’t comprehend that I was about to leave behind all that I knew to be right, a life I had built for myself, that housed a sense of comfort, security, and certainty. In that very moment, my desire to explore the world quickly diminished. I couldn’t process all the uncertainty that awaited me nor could I make sense of the journey ahead. The one that, up until now, I longed for.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are set in airports. Every time I would step through the doors of an airport, I felt a sense of adventure, desire, or happiness, even if I wasn’t the one leaving. For such a long time, I admired what these walls contained: the untold stories of lovers embracing one another, tearful goodbyes, and the excited faces of those preparing to explore the world. Yet, all these thoughts and moments in which I had always found comfort felt like reasons to resent where I was now.

While trying to avoid a mental breakdown in the security line, I thought about how I was going to write my own story of the faraway places and new faces I would come across during my travels. How one day, I’d be back in this airport and remember standing alone, fighting my own thoughts on abandoning this move, but not yet realizing what great moments were ahead of me. I started to enjoy the idea of not knowing what would become of me and being able to experience things far greater than I could ever imagine.

Humans seem to be conditioned to find a sense of security in things like our jobs, our communities, and our families. Consistency makes life seem a little easier and bearable. The moment you have none of that, no home, no exact plans for tomorrow let alone the next few months, you feel vulnerable and you begin to question whether or not you’ve been chasing happiness in all of the wrong ways.

I’ve always craved a life of adventure, having a desire to live an unconventional life. So far I’ve learned that chasing this lifestyle comes with a lot of self doubt, days that cease to end, breakdowns in bar bathrooms and seeing yourself in a state you never knew (unkempt hair and smelly clothes). That being said, as the days of not having a home, sleeping on someone’s couch, and living out of a backpack continue, I realize I’ve already grown more than I had ever imagined.

I try to remind myself that life has a mysterious way of working itself out, even when you feel like you have finally got the hang of things and it all changes. There are so many uncertainties that lay within taking a risk and changing your surrounds. All you are ever promised in life is this very moment in time.  As much as I have felt as if my loneliness was consuming me fully or that traveling across the country is physically and mentally draining, there are moments where you find peace in the unknown and start to love all that comes with it.

Now that we’re beginning to settle into Edinburgh and I have time to reflect on the first days of our trip, I realize that I’m not as frightened as I was before. If I’m honest with myself, it’s been a challenge to move here. But truthfully I’ve never been happier. Though I don’t know what the future holds, for once, it’s a thought I can actually come to terms with.

Enter: Edinburgh

Edinburgh strolls
Edinburgh strolls
Sometimes when Janine sees something she thinks is cool-looking, she asks me to stand in front of it. I hate it. But I love her so I do it anyway.

Written by Tori Dudys, photos by Janine Lameiras

There are those cities that suck you in to them. They grab your heart and squeeze, tugging on heart strings you didn’t know you had. Those places that look and feel magical in even the dodgiest corners. The ones that seem to hold a piece of your very essence. It’s almost like this place knows you better than you ever knew yourself and what you wanted in life.

The minute I stepped into Edinburgh, it felt like I was transported to one of those incredible nights where you meet a new person who you know is going to become a great friend. It’s like the city and I talked for hours and clicked in every way possible. Everything feels like home here. I even had a perspective-altering experience in a church, of all places. No, I didn’t see angels, or speak to Jesus. I just wrote.

I’ve never been much for God. There’s something about the act of worship that doesn’t sit well with me. But being in a church always puts me at ease. It’s this inner peace I don’t manage to find in many other places.

So there I was, sitting in St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, feeling more peaceful than I’d ever felt. It was the first time I’d sat and written in a church. And surprisingly to me, after months and months (I think 5 in total) of not wanting to write anything at all, it was in the presence of God that I came back to myself.

I’m not trying to imply that I had a religious epiphany or that it was God that bestowed upon me the desire to write, but I did begin to realize the importance of being open to believing in something. Or at least not rejecting the spiritual because it’s impossible, but rather appreciating it for its possibilities of inspiring. Whether inspiring people to be better people, inspiring people to find closure when their loved ones pass away, or inspiring dried up writers to finally put a bloody pen to a piece of paper and scribble down a string of words that wouldn’t mean much to readers, but that mean everything to the sanity of that writer.

Bottom line, from the first day we landed in Edinburgh, I felt a sense of tranquility I hadn’t felt in a long time. And after a 13-day tour through Scotland and Ireland, and a short blip in London, I’m happy to be back here in Edinburgh, sleeping on the couch of a kind, used-to-be stranger, feeling more excited about just being alive than ever before in my life.

Taking off

The engine was buzzing. The person next to me was already sleeping. And I’m still crying, even two weeks after take-off.

Of course I’ve said goodbyes before: to friends who’ve moved across the country and to others who’ve moved farther. But I’ve never really been the one to leave. At least not this far, for this long.

Indefinitely. That’s the answer I’ve been giving people as to how long I’ll be across the pond. Realistically my visa is only good for two years, but who’s to say I won’t be somewhere else once that time comes. Who’s to say I won’t fall flat on my face and be back home broke in a couple months? So, indefinitely it is. It’s a scary word though. Overwhelming in its ambiguity.

“Take it day by day,” people keep saying. I never understood how to live like that before leaving home. I always had a job, an idea, a plan. Not this time.

I must say, living day to day is easier when you really have to. You can’t think about next week because you don’t even really know where you’re going to be. It is pretty liberating when I think about it, but I still worry a lot. Uncertainty and I have never gotten along well, but now it seems like apprehension is my only friend (along with Janine, my travel buddy).

I feel like a real twit for being so nervous about our trip. How many people have done this and been successful? Especially when they have people who love them to offer support. So many. I think about the people who go places, wherever they want, with no one behind them and nothing but a strong sense of adventure and what they want out of life. And they kick ass. What do I really have to be sad or worried about?

So that brings me here then. About two weeks in, with a best friend by my side, sitting in a hostel in Dublin, eating an orange for lunch, about to head to the airport on a plane out to London. All is well, minus the horrid cold we both picked up—it’s hard to make friends in hostels when you keep everyone awake with your wheezing night after night. But we’ll look back and laugh I’m sure. In a few months we’ll look back and laugh about all the self-doubt, the insecurities about making friends, and the days we chose beers over lunches. I hope we do, anyway.

Tori