I’ve been ‘back’ for over two months now. It feels like both an eternity and no time at all somehow. I can’t say that it has always been plain sailing, yet it feels good to be here and I would not really want to be anywhere else right now. The month I spent at the artistic residence in Italy was the perfect half-way house between Brazil and Malta. Between travelling and ‘being home’. I wrote that in inverted commas because this feels as much my home as it doesn’t. My home due to the familiarity of the faces here, due to the length of time my ties here run deep. Yet the more I move around, the more I see that I carry my sense of home with me, that I create it inside me. Just as I can carry my sense of travelling with me back home.
This idea of bringing my travelling mindset back with me has been in my thoughts a lot recently. My five month solo stint in Brazil was nothing short of life-changing for me. It was a time when I learnt what my inner voice sounds like, what following it feels like, how feelings transmute through the act of experiencing them, that writing is my way of unravelling my experience, understanding it and sharing it with others. I was terrified of leaving Brazil. Would the magic I found there stay locked somewhere in that geographic location? Was this newly found sense of myself inherently tied to the freedom that came with being in this far-flung country where I had no history, where I could re-invent myself anew every month or so?
I have been asked time and again, ‘Why did you leave? You seemed so happy there!”. I can assure you I was honestly blissfuly happy. In Brazil I somehow managed to find a way of living that truly supported me to feel alive, awake, vibrant. Not that I did not have downs that came with the ups. I had many challenges: physical, emotional, financial, personal, professional. I navigated love and rejection, I felt my way through the sadness of letting go of what I felt was not supporting me to be fully myself, learnt to notice the validity and beauty in my own way of doing things, even when this was very far from perfect.
One of the most beautiful things a very dear friend taught me: observe yourself without judging. Learning to do that completely rocked my world. Suddenly joy, pain, strength and weakness all provided material for observation. Places where I could notice things and add to the intricate picture of myself that I was slowly piecing together. Patterns started to emerge with the help of many people who helped me see sides of myself that I had never quite noticed. By embracing real openness with everyone I met (taking away judgement meant I could share my thoughts and feelings with honest enthusiasm), I started to receive little reflections through observations that people made about me. By sharing myself I was putting all that is me on the table, available for inspection, interaction, acknowledgement. And rather than that table-top being a place where I would be dissected, criticised and wounded, my vulnerability was honoured with the humbling act of being seen. Slowly but surely, my experience started revealing who I am to myself; a slow, joyful uncovering of my own mysteries. I spoke, I wrote, I danced, I surfed, I observed, I took notes, I joined the dots. I saw that the emerging picture was in constant flux and that this would be a life-long process.
How, then, could I transport this sense of harmonious feedback into the daily grind? How could I take the childlike awe with which I experienced the world during these five months back home with me? I must have driven my artistic residence companions a little crazy during my month there. I have no idea how many conversations I had about my fear of leaving the magic behind me. Of forgetting the feelings I had unlocked in Brazil, of doubting the applicability of my findings to the ‘real world’. I left Brazil because I had this unexplainable feeling that it was time to go. That it was time to gather together my newfound information and do something with it. Yet so much of me was terrified about what that actually meant in practical terms.
Following an enriching month in Italy dedicated solely to creativity, I landed back in Malta after being absent for an almost-solid 8 months. An expanded version of the person I was when I left. Yet this expanded version of myself suddenly found herself at her old room in her parents’ house. Almost 10 years after having moved out of there, single for the first time in 17 years and with an altered vision of the kind of work she wanted to be doing. It sounds overwhelming but somehow life has since provided me with a kind of calm, steady stream of baby steps that I could take progressively. I moved in. Living a nomadic life in Brazil helped me learn how to quickly settle in a place, whether I would spend a night or a month there. Unpacking my clothes, laying out my stone collection, hanging my scarves and necklaces are some of the ways I make my mark on wherever I am at, ways that tell my mind that I belong there, irrespective of how long for.
I kept up the morning routine that I developed in Italy: Morning Pages followed by yoga and meditation that seem to ignite my creativity, condition my body and give me space to listen before getting immersed in the noise. I’ve missed days here and there, sometimes a whole week, but I’m really seeing how this morning routine supports me to have calmer, more purposeful days. Another practice that I’ve brought home with me is that of taking notes. My notebook (or often notebooks) is my constant companion and I often take down quotes, passages from books, thoughts, revelations. I try to put most of it in Evernote and organise it by topic, something that is greatly helping to fuel my content curation efforts.
Work-wise I have shifted my focus from website building to writing and content curation on one hand and marketing and branding on the other. I’ve also set my targets on putting into practice some of the art projects that I find dancing around in my head. An artistic residence, two interview projects, an effort to witness and preserve the stories around craftsmanship in Malta, an intention to support the budding art scene that’s coming through here. Many days it feels like my head might explode. That the journey from here has so many intricate details, so many potential pot-holes to fall into, so many unknowns that I often have the urge to run back to the familiar, the tried and tested, the safe. Yet in reality I know it’s far too late for that. This boat has very much sailed out of its berth and has gained new additions that mean that it can never go back to exactly where it started from. So whether I feel prepared or not, I’m out sailing open seas and uncharted territories.
It’s this very sense of navigating something entirely new that has helped to keep me within the travelling mindset. Armed with new knowledge, new dreams, new ways of doing things, I seem to have so far kept my childlike awe, punctuated with moments of realisation that I have entirely no idea where all this is heading. Thankfully I have also enjoyed several bouts of encouragement, many signposts confirming that this is actually going somewhere and countless connections, conversations and experiences that remind me that the magic has survived the transatlantic trip back intact.