Santa Barbara: Food and Futures and Breaths

24. October – 1. November
The first three weeks of my trip was planned out as visits to friends. I was lucky to be able to spend two of those weeks with Kelsey on the road, but my second visit to a friend in Santa Barbara was more low key. In terms of travelling and sightseeing we didn’t do all that much. But sometimes that is okay. Travelling can be overwhelming at times. The constant activity, the constant influx of impressions, the pressure you put on yourself to do something every second of every day. Santa Barbara was a deep and calming breath. A silence before the storm, perhaps, as the Costa Rican adventure approached and the real backpacking would commence. Before the countless busses, the endless hostels, the packing and re-packing of my backpack every day, it was nice to have a little corner in Camilla’s small apartment dedicated to my road-mess.

When she had to study, I allowed myself time to work. I edited photograph, I wrote for my blog, and I did my eLearning for my PADI Open Water Diving Certificate. This scared me a lot, but it also made me very excited. At times it made me feel a little claustrophobic; I’ll be surrounded by such massive amounts of water and it will be pushing against me from all sides, and all the air I have to breathe is packed inside a small cylinder. It said if I see a shark (here I thought I’d pay really close attention) to just enjoy (what?) the experience, and slowly swim away if it stuck around. Fair – sharks do not usually attack people, especially not people under the surface, but at the same time I feel like I’d want to know what to do if it did come very close. This terrifies me even more, being defenceless in a foreign element. I keep telling people how scared I am of sharks, but in truth it’s all of this, the thought of being utterly helpless and completely at the mercy of an animal with which you cannot communicate nor fight. The ocean scares me. Sharks just personify this fear, because watching Jaws is what first made me realise that I have this fear.

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We cooked food together. This soothed me. I miss cooking, I miss being in control of my diet. To have dinner perpared for you can be nice now and again, but the past year made me realise how much I enjoy making food. How fun it can be to try new recipes, to cook healthy food that also tastes delicious, and, of course, to enjoy it with someone who can tell you that you’re not bad at it. That it’s actually really good. In Santa Barbara food became my main expense. We went out for acaî bowls, for tumeric lattes, for matcha. We had the best mac-and-cheese I have ever had at 3AM in the morning. I had it twice, and it was just as good the second time. We also bought cheese, lots of cheese, and saw Stranger Things with wine and crackers and life was really good.

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The easy routines, the sense of a purpose and the feeling of productivity after hours in the library awoke this longing in me for my student days. It’s easy to romanticise it, but I felt it strongly as I saw these three roomies laugh and enjoy their small apartment. Halfway through my visit I got the e-mail: Congratulations on your offer! I felt my heart stop, and then my blood race. My fingers shook as I opened the e-mail to read what I knew I would read: You have been offered a place to study a MA degree in Publishing, Editing and Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. I immediately called Miki, my dear friend from Australia, and I felt giddy as I told her that in four months we would be living only two hours apart. It was a powerful thing to learn that I would move across the world. That this thing I have been speaking of, planning, dreaming of for over a year is suddenly not just a dream or a vague plan but a fact. It is also powerful to suddenly have an idea of what life I will lead the next two years. My world thus far had ended on the day I would return from this trip, but now it stretched until the first day of 2019 and my 25th year of life. The world both opened and closed at these news. I will travel New Zealand, Indonesia, Fiji or the Phillipines, but I will have to wait for several years to hike Machu Picchu and to visit Yellowstone or Vancouver.

I ended the week with a free yoga class. Yoga is something I love, but never get around to do. I always find excuses: no mat, no class, no routine I know how to follow. No motivation. But Camilla got me in to her yoga studio, and I spent 90 minutes breathing and sweating and shaking from weak muscles. In the end I felt relaxed, like I had held an anxious breath and now it was gone. It was a positive deflation, and this is what I always feel when I do a good yoga session. After that, and after a quiet week with a wonderful friend, I felt ready to meet the world again. To hike volcanoes, jungles, to eat fresh fruit bought from pick-up trucks, and to collect passport stamps and coconuts.

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