In my family, you know that Christmas is just around the corner when you open the mailbox to find an envelope containing the annual holiday letter from a nephew’s wife. It’s the one piece of mail that I look forward to each year.
To be honest, these letters are rather predictable. Everyone in the extended family gets an update on how my nephew’s boys have fared in baseball, track and field, hockey and a host of after-school clubs and activities. There’s generally talk about birthday parties, summer camp, weekends at the cottage, Thanksgiving dinners, my nephew’s annual snowmobile trip with friends, and maybe a mid-winter trip to Florida. It’s not like I expect to read that the four of them have shaved their heads and got matching ‘Young Thug’ tattoos on their necks. I’m not likely to learn that my nephew and his wife have quit their jobs, pulled the kids from school, and are moving to Ecuador to save the three-toed tree sloth. I’m pretty sure I won’t learn that they have invested in a time-share for nudists, spent a weekend in jail after instigating a bench-clearing brawl at the Uxbridge arena, or traded in the Dodge Grand Caravan for a Lamborghini Centenario.
No, what I love about the annual letter from my nephew’s wife is its predictability. In a world full of shocking headlines, where Presidents tweet about the size of their “nuclear button,” and where every second day there’s a new sexual harassment scandal, this letter is a pleasant reminder that some people live stable, well-adjusted lives in which everything seems to be progressing according to plan.
I didn’t write a holiday letter this year – and I’m not likely to write one in the future as I never seem to get anything done in the weeks before Christmas – but I will finally fill you in on what I’ve been up to since the last blog post. I’m aware that few people will care, but I assume that you MIGHT as you’ve read this far!
When we left off I was in Madrid and it was Saturday #143. The end of my near three-year adventure was rapidly approaching and I had booked a flight back to Canada on the following Tuesday. So what has happened between Saturday #143 and this past Saturday which would have been Saturday #184? Well, I could probably sum it up in two words: not much.
I haven’t been skydiving, sleeping in yurts, riding camels, herding yak, or dining on “scallop meat smell of urine burst” (as one menu in China advertised). I haven’t climbed any active volcanoes, ridden scooters through the chaos of Phnom Penh, fished for piranha in Brazil or taken any early morning trips through crocodile-infested waters in a dugout canoe. Bungee-like jumps over rushing rivers in New Zealand are now a distant memory, as are visits to iconic sites like the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, the Amazon, Turkmenistan’s Darvaza Crater, the Taj Mahal in India, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
Celebrations like Stampede Week in Calgary, Diwali and Pushkar Mela in India, Songkran in Bangkok, San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, New Year’s Eve in Sydney, and Pride in Vancouver, Sydney, Phuket, Lisbon and Madrid are now a fading memory. I’m glad I attended Burning Man, graduated from the World Wide College of Auctioneering, walked the Camino de Santiago, rode the Orient Express, and traveled the length of the Silk Road in a truck, but I’m also happy to lay low for a few years.
I’m currently writing a column about horse racing for the local racetrack and this keeps me busy four days a week. I sleep in my own bed every night, make most of my own meals, and watch a lot of Netflix. The most exotic form of transportation I’ve taken since returning to Toronto is the Queen 501 Streetcar. The most chaotic Saturday market I’ve attended was a trip to the North York Ikea. The most thrilling sporting event I’ve attended has been winter harness racing at Woodbine where I’m often the only member of the “press” in the press box.
And you know what? I’m perfectly happy with my lot in life. As much as I loved it at the time, three years of constant change and adjustment was taxing. For now, routine and predictable is okay by me.
Don’t get me wrong – hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about retiring and getting back on the road full time. I still haven’t been to Africa or Antarctica and I have another 1000 km or so of overland travel before I can say that I’ve circled the globe on wheels. I’d love to ride the Trans Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok, look up some family in Scotland, attend the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, and see Michelangelo’s David in Florence. I’m pretty sure I could walk another Camino or two and Burning Man still has a lot of appeal. But for now, taking public transit to the suburbs to watch a niece or nephew’s son play minor hockey or to spend Christmas with family is pretty cool too.