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Travels in Identity

On the precipice of a grand adventure, travel daydreams swing from the delight of possibilities to the fear of the unknown. Thoughts become bittersweet like Midsummer in June, when the longest day is already finished, but you didn’t yet realise it was summer. The unknown both thrills and fuels my creativity, but it also sparks the fear of what could be forgotten.

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To travel, can be to see the world with the same curiosity as a child, the nervous tottering on fresh unbalanced feet, and with the same anxious jubilation that we could fall to the ground at any given moment. It is about taking the risk that the world will no longer look the same, and to be okay with that. Perspectives change, places and people with them. Being on the edge of a journey is to know that no matter wether you choose to stay or go, the world will keep on turning.

Five years ago, I took the leap, without a plan – just a desire – to be with another person. It didn’t matter what geo-location or plans we had for the future, I diligently choose the path that included an abundance of airline flights. To me, there was never a date of arrival in my adopted home of Norway because the destination I flew to was a person, and ‘home’ was a concept I hadn’t quite placed a location on. Between my native England and my never quite adopted Norway, I flew for weeks here and weeks there. I saw the two worlds continue as I played a cameo in my friends and families lives.
Not quite here. Not quite there.

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Some days I saw it as the best of both worlds, and on the not so good ones, just as two entirely different ones. These moments on fresh soil, altered my story to that of a foreigner, a tourist and a nomad.

Being pushed out of my comfort zone, I learnt how to live a world inside my own bubble. Not understanding what the people around me were talking about and not quite knowing anyone at all, I had to learn to disregard my mother’s advice of not talking to strangers. I learnt that being a foreigner comes with (sometimes self-imposed) restrictions to another culture, but also with the refreshing freedom to be able to look on from the outside in.

When travelling in unfamiliar surroundings, our eyes see in details, our camera lenses are given a new feast to capture. Curious ears tune into alien languages as we try to twist and turn our tongues to replicate the sounds we hear, trying to fit in and belong. If we are lucky, ‘travel’ takes the form of short ‘weekend get aways’ to gap-years, becoming a tourist is a ritual most of us embrace with delight.An annual celebration of curiosity. A ‘holiday’ outside the day to day.

For others, to travel is an on-going quest. Those of us making up this group are not destined to settle down and stay in one spot. To make a home and set up roots. As people, we are divided between the desire to stay static or to be in a state of movement. In my own life, I have had the chance to meet people from across the globe who have walked many paths and experienced different cultures. These people are often called nomads, but I like to think of them as people ‘that cannot sit still’.

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In Norway, my own legs had found a comfortable rhythm and with all trips routed in ‘adventure’, everyday life finally found me in the end. Before I knew it, I spent my days living a life between three tram stops. My feet reenacting the steps needed to drink at my local café, even without my mind reacting to the first morning sip of coffee. Words tumble out my mouth with repetition of days before them. The rhythm of the day has been put on repeat, and it begins to get tiresome as the rhythm no longer surprises me. Life has created a pattern for me and I feel as though I have stopped looking for the possibilities. As though I have put on shaded glasses; no longer appreciating the freedom within my own horizon. There are some sweet pleasures linked to feeling like a true local; knowing the names of the people I share bar stools with, knowing the cheapest place to buy my vegetables, the best place to purchase bread and the most delicious dish on every menu.

The adventurer underneath this newly accustomed skin is longing to stumble into a new town.
During my daily routine, I start to research flights, I eagerly talk about the future while beginning to put one foot in front of another towards an unknown destination. Like the blind leading the blind, my head and heart flutter from excitement to dread, one leading the way only for it to swiftly change in direction. Sentences drift into ‘what if’ territory, and before I know it, I am pacing my bedroom packing to leave home. This same ‘home’, that once felt like a stranger, now feels like the closest place I have to belonging.

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In a lifetime that is so uncontrollable and responsive to changes outside my control, I choose the option to put faith in my own hands. In all travels, I carry my world with me. Like a snail with its home upon its back, I bring with me everything I need. Part of the familiar, the comfort of knowing myself and the discomfort of relying entirely on that alone. Events and places can shape and change us profoundly, but I find myself in the position where I can change my own circumstances. It’s a matter of choice.

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To be curious as an artist and wanting to leave a mark in the world. This is the reason we see names carved into cactus leaves, and love locks taking over bridges with the weight of the hope of timelessness. We aspire to leave a mark in this world, and to experience as much of it as the years will provide. To choose the path of travel, for me, is a decision I do not take lightly. It is a choice I am privileged to make. A choice that fills me with elation, but also fear. A fear based on stories, and just like taking the leap, the outcomes and plot lines are infinite.

To stay or to leave, each person lives the staring role in their own story. There is the potential of a grand adventure, both home and away.