Missing Home

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We’ve been gone for just over 3 weeks. We’re set to fly out to Lima, Peru later this evening.

And I’m experiencing my first longing for home.

As all those close to us know, we are currently void of anything we would call “home”. Our home for the past 6 years has been Kingston, Ontario. It was a modest 1 bedroom apartment, filled with old furniture donated from my parents, an old, bulky television with no cable, and a few shelves overflowing with books that we obsessively kept buying.

Despite these limitations, it was our home, and I loved coming back to it after being away – particularly when away on conference. That is when I missed our tiny apartment most.

We certainly had our share of negative experiences in that space – I can easily recall the thousands of hours we spent hunched over our respective laptops while sitting across from one another at the dining room table (on which we never dined) working on yet another pressing and all-important project.

Both of us experienced too many sleepless nights to count. The stress of graduate school can be overwhelming – my cornucopia of meds for sleep disturbance and anxiety can attest to that.

But we also had many good times in our little apartment.

Sunday mornings, cuddling up on our ripping-at-the-seams leather couch while watching mindless reality television I remember fondly (despite not having cable, we got MuchMusic and all the terrible shows it hosts). I also recall Saturday mornings, when Marina always stayed in bed longer than I could handle. On these occasions, if the weather was good, I would make some tea, grab a book and spend the morning on our balcony half reading half observing the drama that unfolded between the numerous pigeons across the parking lot behind our building.

But now our home is just a memory.

We sold off most of our belongings, with the exception of books, my guitars, and our laptops. Then we moved out of Kingston at the end of April, when our lease was up.

Here I am, sitting at the Traveller’s Inn in Quito, Ecuador, typing these words while Marina watches some Robin Williams movie in Spanish. Despite being on our way to yet another exciting country, all I want in this moment is to be back in our tiny, poorly furnished apartment watching Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab.

More than the physical space of our apartment, I miss the few but great friends we left behind.

When we first left, I swore we would not be coming back to Kingston, and had strong doubts about settling down in Ontario, or Canada for that matter. Now, only 3 weeks into our adventure, and already I am starting to see things differently.

I hope all our friends and family back home are doing well.

We miss you all.

Peter

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The Beginning of our Life Detour

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As I type the first words of what I hope to become many on this blog, my arms still ache from the multiple vaccinations I received yesterday. I got a poke for Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A in my left arm, and Typhoid in my right. Additionally, we also have Dukoral, an oral vaccination against traveler’s diarrhea, in addition to a cornucopia of prescriptions for anti-malaria pills (thankfully, not the ones that give you lucid dreams and induce suicidal tendencies), Diamox to help acclimatize us to the high altitude throughout Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, as well as various antibiotics and other meds I am likely forgetting.

We have now (more or less) taken care of the necessary medical issues, and on our 2nd try had our Brazilian visa applications accepted at the Consulate in Toronto. Our flight out to Quito, Ecuador is booked for May 13th. We have a GAP tour beginning in Lima, Peru on the 8th of June and ending in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 22. Aside from that, we have only a rough idea where we’d like to visit, how long we’d like to stay there, and when (or if) we’ll be coming back to Canada.

Besides the purchase of a decent backpack for yours truly, along with some durable and weather-appropriate clothing for the both of us, there are 2 major obstacles between now and our May 13th flight out to South America.

First, is my PhD defense on April 27th.

Second, is Marina’s PhD defense on May 7th.

You might say we are cutting it a bit close, particularly given the high probability that we will both have to deal with revisions to our respective theses post defense that will have to be submitted before our departure.

But there’s no turning back now – we’d waited too long for this time to come.

Ever since reading Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, we were both drawn to South America. Despite traveling to random places throughout graduate school (Turkey, Malta, Russia, Israel, Cuba, Jordan, Mexico, etc.) we had saved South America until we had enough time to properly explore it.

Although it is difficult to consider our situation fortunate – no job prospects, a hefty student debt, and an age creeping ever so close to 30 – I do feel lucky that we have this chance to take an extended hiatus from the rather mundane lives we’ve been living. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race, chasing after the next ‘checkpoint’ in a drawn-out series of predictable steps. These are mine:

1. Finish high school with good enough grades to get into university
2. Finish undergrad with good enough GPA to get into a grad program (unless, of course, you undertook a useful undergrad degree which guaranteed employment upon graduation)
3. Work your butt off in grad school; get as many publications, presentations, lecturing experiences as is possible to build up your CV
4. Get your PhD and finally become a Dr., but not a real Dr., of course
5. Find employment in academia either as a post-doc or an assistant professor
6. Get married
7. Buy a home
8. Have children
9. Get tenure
10. Retire

I have just about checked off #4 on this list, and am VERY uncertain about #5. So it seems like a good time to step away from it all, take a much-deserved break and reflect on what I want to do with my remaining years.

This trip isn’t so much an escape, but rather, yet another research project. Fortunately, this research project doesn’t require obtaining grant funding, nor performing complicated statistical analyses. It does, however, require the collection and interpretation of data – not your typical research data, of course, but rather personal experiences. The objective of the project? After sacrificing many years to understanding the world around me, to finally take some time to understand myself. More specifically, to figure out what is truly important to me in this life.

I hope you come along for the ride and enjoy the journey!

Peter

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