The Curtain Comes Down on Act I

I am about to finish my second housesitting job in France. I ended my travels in Italy on October 17th and flew from Pisa, Italy to Girona, Spain, an easy drive to the southern part of France. I was selected for an eight day house sit in Montauriol, France through a housesitting organization, Trusted Housesitters. I had signed up with the organization prior to leaving Denver, in hopes that I could pick up a few housesitting jobs to ease the financial burden of traveling. I was selected for my first house sit by a lovely couple that owns a Bed & Breakfast in a small village in southern France. I arrived the day before they left and then proceeded to have an incredible week of no sightseeing, mountain biking along dirt roads with views of the Pyrenees and vineyards, taking care of Frieda their frisky cat, sitting in the sun by the pool and most special of all spending time with the host’s mother, a spunky nonagenarian that lives in a cottage house on their property. The experience was beyond what I ever expected and the graciousness of the hosts combined with getting to know such an extraordinary woman in the process, had a profound impact on me. The hosts were very kind and allowed me to stay a few extra days after they arrived home so that I could immediately travel to the northern part of France for my second house sit in Lille, France. Here in Lille, I am currently roommates with an older cat, Scarlett, who is quite firm in her likes and dislikes, which I can greatly respect. This week, I have the ability to walkabout a new city, and have all the creature comforts of being in my own space, cooking my meals and having a nice place to do yoga, write, and watch a little Grey’s Anatomy, the only English speaking television show I can find.

Having longer stays in one location during these two housesitting opportunities has created a purposeful divide in my journey. On Monday, November 5th, I will travel to Paris and stay there for three weeks before beginning an entirely new segment of my journey. Staying in Paris will mark the only destination that I have previously been to, this will be my fourth visit to a city that I absolutely adore! The opportunity to spend three weeks there makes my heart skip a beat. My planning for my time aboard consisted of listing the countries and cities I would love to visit and a few specific things that I’d be overjoyed with fitting into my travels. I knew the first countries I would visit would be Spain, France and Italy, in that order, but after that I was waiting on final logistics of some destinations to pan out and other opportunities to surface. I was certainly open to anything that presented itself and also figured that the distance between locations would dictate some of the order in which I would visit countries outside of Europe.

So now I find myself in an intermission of sorts. My first Act of this journey was filled with non-stop exploration, three countries and back to the second one, multiple cities, thousands of photos and a lifetime of memories. I only planned my destinations one or maybe two ahead of where I found myself. The openness of Europe easily allows for that kind of spontaneity. As I look through my photos, neatly arranged in albums by country and than city, of course, I am in awe of all the wondrous places I’ve visited. I was watching a cute British romantic comedy during my time in Montauriol and there was a part of the movie where they were on a boat in the Mediterranean and pulled into a harbor and I instantly recognized it as Cannes. A perfume ad in a magazine had a beautiful piazza blurred in the background and I looked closely and knew it was Florence. I am so thankful for witnessing the beauty of these places firsthand and think that traveling alone made the impact of these places richer. When you are traveling with other people, you are more likely to be involved in conversation, talking about where you are, where you are going next, where you should eat dinner. But nearly everywhere I went, with the exception of my birthday retreat and 4 days when I did group activities, I walked the streets by myself, I sat in squares and piazzas and took in everything around me.  I looked at magnificent works of art, I basked in the sun on the beach and I hiked trails along the Mediterranean.

Act I, three months, one quarter of a year, immersed in brand new experiences every single day. I have had great days, okay days, and a handful of really challenging days. There is no mistaking that I am a changed woman. I have more depth and clarity of myself then when I left. I have also learned to have gratitude for my strengths too. My journey isn’t over, both in self-discovery and world travels. Act I was about figuring it out, building skills needed to navigate myself through changing landscapes, drawing on my resilience to embrace the life stuff that was coming up. These last two weeks housesitting and the three weeks ahead of me in Paris, provide a break from figuring out where I’m going next, an intermission to reflect on where I have been and what I have learned but it is also a time to prepare for what lies ahead. Usually during an intermission, you grab a drink, run to the bathroom, mill around talking, but my intermission includes filling out numerous visa applications, buying copious amounts of mosquito repellent, spending a small fortune on my malaria prophylaxis, and wondering how in the world I got so lucky to get these opportunities!

Act II is going to be a whole different animal, lots of animals actually as I travel to a continent filled with wild, majestic animals and mystique that doesn’t exist any other place on the planet. I fly from Paris to Nampula, Mozambique on November 27th, arriving on November 28th, then onto Ilha de Mozambique, an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. I stay in Mozambique until December 10th and am a guest of the American team with the Slave Wrecks Project. Check out the link, it’s an incredible project dedicated to “preserve and protect irreplaceable heritage related to the slave trade”. I am so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer on a project with such significance.  After Mozambique, I travel to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to embark on a private 7-day safari with Sababu Safaris. Going on safari was one of the experiences that I was trying my hardest to make happen but the only planning I did before departing was to seek out small, independent safari companies on Instagram. During my travels I connected with one of the owners of Sababu Safaris and they were so gracious to work with me to create my dream safari! I am absolutely beside myself that I will be exploring the Southern Serengeti including Ngorongoro Crater, staying in tented camps, and a Maasai lodge overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro. At the close of my safari, I am traveling to Mombasa, Kenya and will be spending Christmas and New Year’s there awaiting my next adventure – plus I had to leave Tanzania to be eligible for a different visa. I found a really inexpensive Airbnb just a block from the beach. On January 2nd, I fly back to Tanzania into Kilimanjaro airport and begin a three month volunteer project with Anza, a Tanzanian non-profit dedicated to helping Tanzanian entrepreneurs succeed in their business endeavors. One of the ways they do that is to have international professionals with various skills and backgrounds come to Tanzania for three months and provide business consulting services across a variety of sectors. As I planned this adventure, I was committed to finding volunteer programs that would provide an opportunity for me to immerse myself in a completely different culture and learn from others and share some of my learnings as well. I could not have asked for a better opportunity that being able to volunteer with an organization like Anza that is making a significant social impact in Tanzania. It just happened to work out that since I was already going to be in Tanzania, they were able to accommodate my start date right after the first of the year. 

My volunteer time with Anza will come to a close at the end of my 90-day business visa. Prior to leaving Paris and heading to Africa, I must purchase a ticket to leave Tanzania in accordance with the visa travel guidelines. I don’t know if I’ll be buying a ticket back to the states, another country in Africa, or somewhere else on the globe. That’s really my last bit of planning for the second act of my adventure.

Once I arrive in Tanzania the second time, the majority of my time will be filled with working, which is an interesting concept to grasp at this moment. But then I think about the people that I’m going to work alongside with, and look at a map and see all the incredible places in that part of the world and can only dream what adventures will fill my weekends during those three months. That will be some really fun planning! Stay tuned for my Paris escapades, and the vastness of Africa that awaits me and if you have any tips how I can make a little money during my travels, please reach out. I am missing my friends and family back home like crazy, but I am certainly loving being a nomad too!