The art of leaving, unperfected


I am laying on the futon in my living room, covered in a quilt that smells like home, sleep nowhere in sight. My backpack is neatly packed with flip-flops and sundresses, yoga gear and sunscreen. My bedroom, my sanctuary, has been wiped clean. All my belongings are stored in containers inside in the walls. My journals are kept safe in a fireproof box. My wardrobe is slashed in half, my jewelry and perfumes and trinkets tucked into pockets and bags. My luggage is reduced from a 50-lb suitcase to a 35-lb pack (which, I’m told, is still pretty “amateur”).

Isn’t it a wonderful thing, how little you need to survive?

At 5:20 AM I board my flight to New York City, kicking off my six-month reign of Newfoundland exile. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from home. I am terrified. But like my friend Matt says, nobody ever travels to be comfortable.

I’ve been feeling those peculiar sensations of last-minute traveller’s remorse for over a week. I felt it last night while clutching a purring kitten to my chest. I felt it while sharing a pint with some good friends inside Erin’s Pub, a squeezebox master and a guitarist serenading us with Newfoundland lore. I felt it while popping open a bottle of wine I couldn’t afford at The Reluctant Chef, along with a similarly too-expensive (for me) meal. Shucked oysters and rabbit pate and rare steak soaked in Vegemite. It’s maddening how I fall for my town just days before leaving it all behind.

And of course, the irrational (but somewhat rational) fears of dying, either by fiery airplane plunging into the cold Atlantic as I make my way from New York to Norway, to catch my flight to Brussels, then to Athens. Or being mobbed and beaten on the streets of Santorini, or kidnapped in the Balkans. Or simply falling victim to a freak accident, falling headfirst into an open archaeology site, coming to rest side-by-side with the tomb of an ancient warrior. People back home will be slightly amused by the fate of a young girl who met her maker in an already-dug grave. Every time these thoughts occur, I think, this isn’t right. I have a bad feeling about all this. Something is wrong. And then I can’t recall whether or not I had the same fears on my last trip, although I suspect I did, and so here I am writing it down to consult later when the fear returns on another voyage. I very well might not return. I also very well might get hit by a car on my way to a doctor’s appointment, or stabbed while shopping for fresh fruit at Sobey’s, or suffer a heart attack at spin class. Stepping outside that front door is a constantly terrifying ordeal.

I think about those long months after The Next Big Thing when I let the heartache come in waves, pulling all the happiness from me in a great undertow, and how it invariably led me to this moment. And then, how the tide broke. I was snowshoeing with my friend Melissa on the south coast, beating my way through deep powder and chasing the prints of coyotes and rabbits. The sun came through the trail and brought out the cyan sky, the near-neon of pine. I was thinking about him and our conversation earlier, and how he had said he still wanted me in his life. I thought I did too, but I wanted things to be like how they were before. What I had wanted was a second chance. I don’t know why it all changed that day out there on the trail, but it came to me when I was looking up over the treetops and the cold was freezing icicles into my eyelashes. There was no snap of epiphany, only the slow release of a knot. Like air being released from a balloon.

I still can’t comprehend that silly heartache. I know what loss and mourning feels like; I have seen my family deal with the likes of murders and suicides. I know what betrayal is. I have been followed home by men and propositioned for sex. I have rolled in a car across the highway and into the ditch, narrowly missing death, and I have vowed to cherish every emotion and sensation in my body because it means I’m alive. It seemed sensible, at the time.

Ages ago I went to add him as a friend on Facebook again, felt ready; saw his recent photo uploads, and came across that Dutch girl he had taken on a date. She was stunning — a beautiful woman with a mouth full of perfect white teeth, long blonde hair, thin wrists. I couldn’t hate her. She looked like someone I’d be friends with. But I could hate myself, and so I did. I put myself through hell and back to lose weight. I did it. It meant nothing. I’m told you’re not supposed to divulge these insecurities. But I’ll never not be me, even if it means aloneness. I’d still rather be me.

I haven’t checked his social media since. That was over a month ago. I have no idea what he’s doing, or where he is. Liberation in the age of Internet.

Recently a friend told me her boyfriend’s friend couldn’t “get over” how beautiful I was. Am. I was stunned anyone could think so. I was stunned by my own complete lack of self-awareness. I was angry with myself for needing the validation. I was angry. I grew strong and happy again, I became me. I missed him sometimes, but never enough. When you start to “get over it” you realize how one sided the whole unfair affair is. While I was transcending into not-caring-ness, he had already been there from the day we parted ways. The clarity was outstanding. It’s funny how the mind works. You assume because you’re consumed with grief that the other person feels the same.

The simple fact is that I told him some of my hardest secrets and he used them against me. I find this hard to reconcile. I wish I could take it all back; I wish none of it happened. Not the moonlit walk around an empty volcano, nor the elated first minutes of finding him on my doorstep. Sometimes I hear his pivotal words and I can recall their precise crack of cruelty and it takes my breath away. I wish I could forget. How awful it is to question your own independence, the one thing you are so very proud of.

No, no, no. I don’t need you.
That, I don’t need.

What I do need is to chase sunsets and hike mountains and seek chance encounters with the gods and goddesses inside the Acropolis. I need clean water and more Vitamin C. I need my mother to make me sweet tea in the evenings, and I need card games around the kitchen table. I need the sun burning halos against the inside of my eyelids. I need a steady breath to keep from toppling over into a fractured caldera. I need this journey.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing, how little you need to survive?

  • February 04 2014

    beautiful, I love how you write. And I hope your upcoming trip is absolutely fantastic.

  • February 04 2014

    Absolutely stunning piece. Safe travels. Hope to see you on this side of the ocean.

    • February 06 2014

      Thanks so much, Gigi! Hope to see you there at some point.

  • February 04 2014

    Candice, you write so beautifully. It’s like reading a new chapter of a novel every time you post :)

  • February 04 2014

    Candice, this is so beautifully written, love it. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  • February 04 2014

    *warm fuzzy hug* I think you need to write a book!

  • February 04 2014

    You make my day whenever you put pen to paper, as the saying goes. Have an amazing adventure, can’t wait to follow along with your updates!! xo

    • February 06 2014

      Thanks so much Tiffany, that means the world to me!

  • February 05 2014
    Angie Orth

    Speaking to my heart today! Thank you for sharing this!

  • February 05 2014
    Flora the Explorer

    Beautiful :)

  • February 05 2014

    Oh, Candice. Beautifully said. My heart aches for you, but here’s the thing about life: it goes on. Always, always, always. You’ve just got to be ready for the next adventure, and you SO ARE. Enjoy, savor, soak it all up.

  • February 05 2014
    Sara Lieberman

    I haven’t read your blog before, but this post has convinced me to become a regular reader! So beautifully written. I can totally relate to the whole “remorse” before travel feeling. I get so nutty and scared about going at it alone as I so often do; getting lost or, worse, found in some ditch somewhere. And then I arrive and, well, I ARRIVE. Hope you find what you’re searching for (and even some of what you’re not) when you arrive, too.

    • February 06 2014

      LOVED this comment, thanks Sara! So glad you’ve found me/I’ve found you. And agreed, it’s always hard until you arrive…

  • February 05 2014

    wonderfully beautiful. And heartbreaking.

    excited to have found this at the beginning of your journey so I can follow along!

  • February 05 2014
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    This is so beautiful and it meant a lot to me as I’ve felt a lot of those feelings. Thank you for sharing.

    • February 06 2014

      Thank you, Ashley, it’s nice to know I’m not alone!

  • February 05 2014

    Candice, you are so beautiful. This post is beautiful. Your travels will be beautiful. I remember sitting in a hostel in Budapest almost four years ago, messaging you. You wrote me back such words of encouragement. This experience you are in will be magical. Life-changing. Ridiculously empowering. I cannot wait to follow along.

    • February 06 2014

      Thanks SO much, D! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. And I remember that conversation perfectly. :)

  • February 06 2014

    Candace, I don’t even know you but I’ve been following your blog for quite a while and I AM SO PROUD OF YOU. You are brave and independent. You have learned things it took me 30 years to learn. Never stop growing, never stop pushing out of your comfort zone. You are an inspiration and girl, you are Beautiful! I may be biased because of my Irish heritage and all the gorgeous redheads in my family ;) (wish I was one of them). I’m not a traveller and live vicariously through you but Newfoundland is on my bucket list. I’ve been to the other eastern provinces but not Nfld/Lab. Take care and have a great time. Check out Poppy’s blog…a Canadian ex-pat in Greece Julie

    • February 11 2014

      Thanks so much, Julie! That means so much to me. I actually came across your blog awhile ago while searching for Canadian expats in Greece. It’s been great reading. :)

  • February 06 2014
    Kasey Curtis

    Very courageous and beautiful! Thank you for opening up and sharing with us. I identify in more ways than one.

  • February 06 2014
    Jessica Ann

    Echoing many of the other commenters this is a beautiful piece with so much good and so much truth! I myself and preparing to leave and had all these thoughts the other day of the million ways I would meet my doom. The mind loves to play tricks but sometimes that fear is what drives me even more in the end. I especially love the ending of this piece and believe this journey for you will be all that one could hope and wish for! I’m slowly reading different posts from your blog and I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner. It’s a gem! Safe travels!

    • February 11 2014

      Greatest comment EVER! That’s how I make all my friends. I lure them in. Like a venus fly trap. Thanks!

  • February 06 2014

    Wonderful post, Candice. Wishing you all the best on your journey of travel, awareness, and loving yourself on the inside and out!

  • February 07 2014

    So beautifully written and with such an amazing string of truth and honesty.

  • February 07 2014

    Enjoy your trip, Candice. May you find what you are (or are not) looking for.

  • February 11 2014

    I love how honest and open this post is. I’m glad to hear you’re moving on and hope you have the best time on your next journey – I can just tell you’re going to have an amazing time!

    • February 11 2014

      Thanks so much, Catherine! In the airport getting ready to leave now. Whee!

  • March 14 2014

    You are an incredible writer, Candice. Your posts have been so raw and real lately, and I think it has really made a difference in your writing. It has always been great, but it feels like it has been elevated.

    I’m already enjoying reading about your Greek adventures, and I look forward to reading even more. <3

  • August 01 2014
    Sky Fisher

    This almost made me cry. Such a beautiful post and so relevant to me right now. Thank you for sharing. <3

  • January 18 2015

    “Traveler’s remorse”–I didn’t know that was a thing, and now I can put words as to EXACTLY what I feel! It happens almost every single time I leave for a big trip! There were so many deeper things I loved about this post–including the thoughts that run through your head before leaving (I thought I was the only one) and leaving for a trip after heartache. Thank you for writing this.

  • February 14 2017

    Really beautiful words – I can definitely relate, and you’ve articulated those difficult feelings so well. I hope our paths cross one day!
    Brenna recently posted…When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring?

    • February 14 2017

      Thanks, Brenna! It’s an oldie and a lot has changed since then, but the sentiment is still there. Def hope our paths cross!

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