Closing the Gap

26 Sep

My ‘Gap Year’ is over. We’re in Changi Airport, Singapore, with one last flight home to Brisbane. Stu is travelling well considering! We plan to rent a place in or near Byron Bay for the next five months or so. I am in no rush to buy a house.

Thanks for sticking with me on this trip. Just knowing I was writing to flesh and blood people gave me a real boost and receiving your comments lifted me out of the occasional solitary blues.

These are some personal reflections from my experience that might be of interest if you too are contemplating leaping off the work treadmill to travel.

1. Stepping out of the big job with the big title into unemployment is easier than you think. I quickly became comfortable with questions about what I ‘do’ and assumptions that I must be retired. My identity doesn’t depend on a position description. I will work again – I am open to offers – but I don’t know at this moment where or in what capacity and that’s OK.

2. Tough stuff happens on the road but you’ll find you have the resources to deal with it. Having all our luggage ripped off in France (see ‘Daylight Robbery’, April 2012) proved a blessing in disguise as I was able to let go of 99 per cent of my ‘stuff’. As long as I have my passport and Santander debit card in my pocket and Birkenstocks on my feet I can cope. Problem-solving daily challenges, whether they’re linguistic, bureaucratic, technological or cultural becomes an intellectual game you improve at as you go along.

3. Family and close friends become more, not less, important when they’re far away. I was able to manage three months of solitude knowing those beautiful people were out there and that they loved and cared about me.

4. Paradoxically time alone was good for my marriage. I appreciate Stuart much more now. If you don’t believe me ask him!

5. Good health really is the most precious thing. Hearing long distance about Mum’s awful experience in hospital and during her long recovery when I could do nothing to help her was the worst time. Thankfully my father and sisters were there to care for her. And after Stuart’s prostate cancer and his stroke (see ‘Lucky Stroke’, May 2012) we’ve both made lifestyle changes that have stuck. Managing Stu’s high blood pressure, reduced alcohol and salt, and more awareness of what we eat are now the norm. Getting enough good quality sleep, adopting a more relaxed approach to what would once have been high stress situations and finding more reasons to laugh at the absurdity of life also help.

6. Your body will balance and heal itself if you give it time and the right environment. Stuart has proven that. Second case in point, the Grenoble thieves purloined my supply of oestrogen pills along with my suitcase. I’ve been on low dose oestrogen to counteract severe menopausal symptoms, the worst of which was confusion, since my hysterectomy at age 47. Yes, I hear you saying, ‘Too much information…’. But you know that was a big deal for me. Without the medication the hot sweats started bothering me again day and night. I almost went to a doctor in England for a replacement prescription but I decided this was an opportunity to come off them cold turkey even though I felt terrible much of the time. It took about four months of healthy living but now I only have a mild, hot flash/flush a couple of times a day and no confusion. So far so good!

7. Age is a state of mind and body we can influence to a great extent. I’m now 56 years old and haven’t felt this well and energetic since my early thirties when I was teaching 10 aerobics classes a week. Two hours of daily flamenco dance classes Monday to Friday (or running-walking when there are no classes), regular yoga and minimal computer desk time work magic. When I was working 50 hours a week I had to see an osteopath once a month to sort out neck and shoulder pain. Now I have a massage as an indulgence when the opportunity presents but I don’t need them. A friend in Seville on my most recent visit confirmed what I’d noticed myself, I do look younger. Mentally too I feel sharper and am much more calm. Stuart will vouch for that as well!

8. There really is no time like the present for Aussies to take off to Europe and the US. Travelling as we have costs less than living our former lifestyle in Australia. Food, drink and accommodation in most parts of France, Spain, and Italy are markedly less than in Australia. Ultra low cost airlines are a godsend and rental car company competition is great for consumers. The weekly and monthly house and car bills disappear along with maintenance costs, memberships and subscriptions. While travelling I don’t make impulse purchases of clothes, makeup etc. etc.. A small suitcase curtails that. My biggest expenses have been flamenco classes and replacing my stolen belongings which the insurance company will eventually reimburse me for.

9. Spending time with old friends and making new friends, most of them much younger than me but with shared interests, has brought me such joy. I love hearing other people’s different world views and experiences. It renews my belief in the possible.

10. Language skills make all the difference. Many times I was frustrated because I couldn’t communicate with local people sufficiently to enjoy a casual chat. Now that my Spanish is reasonable I get a lot more out of daily interactions. I intend to keep studying to try to improve further.

We can always find reasons not to make changes in our lives that enable us to live our dream for we are all grand masters in self-deception and procrastination. I’m no exception. It took me two years to plan and prepare for my ‘Gap Year’ and there were a couple of times during it when I just wanted to leap on the next plane home. What motivated me originally to travel aged 17 when I first went to Bali and what still drives me today is the urge to seek out experiences, people and places that help me grow as a person and fill me with delight and wonder.

2013 will bring a whole new calendar of travel plans and adventures for Stuart and me together and separately.

We also have the joy of Cameron and Eliza’s wedding in November 2013 and Tristan and Jenny’s company in Brisbane to cherish.

Friends and family, we welcome your suggestions for international events and destinations. I’ll give you a heads up as soon as the draft is ready and we hope to see you somewhere on the road!

I strongly identify with this quote from British-born Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon (1883-1870) that dear friend Pip sent me. I thought it apt to end on.

‘Life is full of froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.’


PS I’ll keep this blog open for the next instalment of our adventures. Tentative new title: Global Roaming

8 Responses to “Closing the Gap”

  1. Rachael September 26, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Hi Sharon,
    So glad to read your Gap Year conclusion. What a wonderful journey! Looking forward to your next adventures and blogging. It’s been a great ride with you!
    Rachael x

    • Sharon Tickle September 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      Thanks Rach!

      Hope Sevilla has gone well for you.

      Hope to see your smiling face back in class with Sim soon???

      Hasta pronto,


  2. Tony Fox September 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Hi Sharon,
    Well you really put it all out there which is quite brave of you. Yours is the first and (so far) only blog I have followed. Whilst I don’t know you I feel I do via reading the blog. If you recall I contacted you first after our first startling exposure in May to flamenco in Seville. My wife and I have since followed your progress round Europe with so much interest it’s been like reading postcards home from a friend. Your turn of phrase and subject matter has always created an interesting read. We lived in Spain for 2 years (2005-2007) and our experiences were at times stranger than fiction so much so that an e-book provisionally entitled ‘A Valencian memoir’ has been started. Whether it is ever finished is another matter! It does make me think that you must have a book in you. All the very best to you and Stewart.
    Best Wishes Tony

    • Sharon Tickle September 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      Hi Tony,

      I do hope you are able to publish your e-book soon and send me notice when it happens as I look forward reading it.

      Maybe you could publish chapters as they are ready?

      Let us know if you and your wife plan a return trip to Spain in case our paths cross. My email is always Stranger things have happened!

      Bye for now,


  3. Michelle Noble September 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Wow! What a year….and thankyou for sharing some of it with us. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your adventures around the world, though painfully aware that good luck wasn’t always on your side. Funnily enough Bryan and I opened the lovely bottle of Italian Borgoglo Barola wine today (thankyou x) and toasted you both before I even opened this last post.

    I have kept a copy of a number of your travel gems to discover for ourselves someday. I too have been on a bit of a pilgrimage this year due to peri-menopausal problems (notably anger). I saw my french doctor yesterday who has been treating me with plant extracts and micro nutrition and pleased to report I feel sane again.

    And the mantra I’ve been carrying with me since volunteering at an English church last year has stayed with me.
    “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
    The courage to change the things I can
    And the wisdom to recognise the difference.”

    I wish you and Stuart a wonderful new start to the next exciting chapter…
    Our very best wishes, Michelle and Bryan.xx

    • Sharon Tickle September 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Michelle,

      Great to hear from you. You must be starting to gear up for the approaching winter season.

      Happy to hear the wine was drinkable!

      There’s a lot of talk now about the new HRT using the bio-identical hormones rather than synthetic. I don’t know if that’s an option for you. I sure identify with your situation and you are too young to have it affect your life like it is so I hope things improve.

      Let us know what your travel plans are when they gel!

      Big hug to you and Bryan,


  4. Suzanne September 27, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Hi Sharon,
    What wonderful insights about your incredible journey, and I completely agree about lifestyle changes. Since moving to Tenterfield, Tim and I have found a renewed vigour for life with city stresses simply on the periphery. Although we’re both still working, it just doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Peace and quiet has a lot to recommend it. I do travel to Brisbane most weeks for flamenco but that just seems like a fun little sojourn to the big smoke. As for renting around Byron, what a great idea! I think there is a flamenco teacher doing classes there too – at the Ewingsdale Hall. Might like to check that out.

    Really looking forward to catching up. We’re only about 3 hrs away straight down the Bruxner Highway. Distances don’t have the same impact in the country.

    Talk soon,

    • Sharon Tickle September 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi Suzanne,

      Congrats on your move! Thanks for being a reader.

      I look forward to catching up with you in class with Sim and hearing about your travel plans.

      Hasta pronto,


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