I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately.  It’s so subjective, and that’s a frustrating and a beautiful thing.  It’s beautiful because it allows us to make choices that would otherwise be considered impractical, unwise, foolhardy, indulgent and feel justified.  It’s frustrating because it can cause us stress, guilt, confusion about the choices we make.

A lot of the time we think of value in regards to money.  Is this outfit worth it?  This cheese?  This vacation? This gift? At times, I’ve let value, in relation to money, rule my life.  I’ve missed out on experiences with friends, I’ve missed out on wonderful meals, I’ve scrimped and sacrificed and suffered moments of regret (both from spending the money, and from not spending it!).  I’ve always been much more willing to spend money on what I could unequivocally consider an experience than a material or fleeing moment investment.  Over $4000 backpacking South East Asia with one of my best friends – she twisted my arm a bit and I think we could have done it for less if we’d researched more – but yes please! Twelve dollars for that appetizer that looks super good and that I’d really like to have and that I wish I had while everyone else is eating their delicious appetizer – sorry, can’t justify it when I know the meal I’m ordering will physically satisfy me.  And I don’t necessarily think either of these choices is a bad one or a good one – it depends on the value.  It takes conscious thought to think about value, and to think of it outside of the monetary cost.  Sometimes I’m sure I made the right choice about a meal, other times I recognize that my frugality – on that particular night, for whatever reason, made me feel cheap and envious and dampened the overall experience.

And that’s what value comes down to – experience.  And this goes for value that reaches far beyond any monetary concern. It’s about assessing our priorities, our desires, what aids our contentment and joy. Should I feel guilty about spending time researching something online that brings me joy, that will bring a loved one joy (even when I don’t have to figure out a certain gift right now) when there are dishes to be washed or there is work to be done – maybe, maybe not.

What is more valuable: securing extra jobs so I’ll have more available money, money which I may be able to spend to bring more joy to my life, or which may be spent on things that really won’t make a difference, or accepting that the work I’ve secured for the moment will cover my bills and deciding to instead spend what time I have left over to invest in myself and the people around me, even if it’s as simple as taking a bath.  It’s not possible to give a definitive answer – at least generally.  I think I’m learning though, that for each situation there is an answer that is at least the better one. I think the trick is to take a moment and ask, what do I really value? – and make a decision from there. And when we realize we’ve been making choices that don’t affect our true values (or what we want  to be our true values) we need to reassess our decision making.

Missing Nomadism

I’ve spent about five years of my life living more as a nomad than most people ever have the opportunity to. I’ve lived in 6 provinces, 4 countries, and travelled (sometimes extensively) through 10 others. Before I started these travels I always felt that until I had the chance to live in other parts of the world and soak up other cultures I would never truly be experiencing life.

And it’s true, my travels taught me a lot about life. I saw the way various cultures differ from the one in which I grew up.  I saw the way family units worked in ways that seemed foreign and strange to me at first, almost primitive, but that enabled me to make a decision about my life that has charted the course of my most recent 5 years. I had experiences that I know would not have been possible if I’d never had the courage to venture ‘past my on front door.’ But most importantly, I learned that no matter where you go and no matter how different a place and people seem from the places and people that are familiar to you at their core all people are essentially the same.  Whether in a jungle village in Thailand, an urban neighbourhood in Poland, a flat in London, or an apartment in Nova Scotia, we all have pretty much the same essential needs, wants, fears, hangups, and flaws as well as the desire to be understood and loved. And because of that, we are all just as capable of having eye opening, life changing experiences in the place we’ve lived our whole lives.  The difference is, we’re often not open or aware enough to recognize those experiences for what they are.

I loved my travels and had some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life because of them. I also had some of the worst. I also, despite the excitement of new stimulus, became very tired and worn out from constantly having to say goodbye to the many people I came to connect with and even love. I desired to be closer geographically to the people who’ve always been in my life and always will be.  I wanted roots again.

In the past five years of living in the same city (with the exception of about a 3 month hiatus spent backpacking) I’ve had to adjust to being the one left instead of the one leaving. And lately I’ve been getting that itch to take off again. Some movies I’ve watched recently have fanned the flame from that ember of desire.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you choose to look at it, my situation in life doesn’t give me the freedom to just pick up and follow the cry to ‘Go West young [wo]man!’ or East or North or South.

I will explore foreign locales again at some point in my life – I’m determined to do that. But until that point I’m lucky enough that I can live my experiences over again through my writing and even give myself entirely new ones. I can’t remember where, but I read something yesterday about scents and touch and sound being essential to writing that draws the reader in and lets them truly experience a piece of writing. So that’s my new goal – drawing from my experiences around the world and reaching deep into my memory bank, I’m going to work to write stories that carry the life pulse of the many lands I’ve loved. And by doing so, visit them once again.

Hopefully that will quiet my travel itch for the time being!

Fellow writers and/or travellers: I’d love to hear any anecdotes, experiences, or lessons you’ve gained from your own travels and perhaps how they’ve influenced your own writing!