Almost three months have crazily carried me from my last post to this moment, sitting on my old bed in Cambridge, looking out over a slate, spitting sky jagged by skeletal branches that haven’t quite had enough sun to show us their spring-green dresses. Naturally, the English weather has welcomed me back with algid arms, and naturally I have fallen into obsessing over it. As seems to increasingly be the case, I have been caught in a whirlwind since leaving the serenity of my home-come-hostel in San Gil. I think I may have had an epiphany, that actually seems rather obvious, and I roll my eyes along with you at this seemingly benign realisation. I thought I thrived on chaos, and so my continual quest to maintain some kind of equilibrium perhaps seems futile. However, living in San Gil, I often felt a sense of calm that I have rarely, if ever, achieved in my life. Even my 10 day silent Vipassana retreat was freckled with frustration and mind movies. At Villa Isabela, my days largely consisted of early rises to morning runs or yoga on the terrace, assisted by the bruised dawn skies that soothed, brought back to base by our boisterous puppy. Having exhausted my funds after around three months into my six month trip, starting up the hostel was one way in which I was making some green leaf to tie me over. That and becoming San Gil’s resident cake lady, baking a banana bread or two a day to sell about town, providing me with enough income to buy what I needed. And when you live on a finca up an emerald hillside, with a vast garden replete with mandarin, banana and coffee trees, and plenty of projects for entertainment, one rapidly realises that what you need, monetarily, really isn’t much. Also the relative ease, value and sense of achievement in making what you need, rather than running to buy it, quickly becomes apparent. Want to sit and while away your afternoons on the veranda? Make the lounge chair! In our ever increasingly consumerist, disposable, unsustainable society, these lessons and skills are wonderful. I even managed to squirrel a little away, so that 3 weeks before my flight out of Bogota, I got to see a little more of Colombia, this time more toward the west, in the coffee region. Peeking back to those weeks from my centrally-heated cubby hole, I romantically remember the acid and alkaline colours of Salento’s gorgeous streets; camping au-natural, sem pessoal, with the river as my bath, and the fire as my stove, warmth and company; coffee farm visits to acquire the skills to make the best cup of C-roast, something no visitor should leave Colombia without. It all sounds pretty idyllic, and it was. The simplicity of existence with little money, no car, no plans is difficult to contemplate, and the easiest to actuate. Blissful smiles erupt remembering it all, you know the ones that rise from the belly?
A wine fuelled flight (nervous fliers need to self-inebriate), which I passed nostalgically buried in the pages of my Colombian journey, carried me across the Atlantic to Madrid, where I met my cousin, Alex, who had fluttered over from Australia. It’s unsurprising really how, after six months largely living in a small, laid-back latino utopia, big city life just felt a little too much. So the very next day we took a bus out to Belinchón, a Spanish town, population 350, 2 hours out of Madrid in the La-Manchan scrubland. I had happened upon a cave-restoration project on Workaway that I immediately knew was just what we wanted and needed. It is Lucía’s project, the cave has been in her family for generations, and in the past actually made up part of a ‘cave community’ connected centrally by an orchard of nispero, olive and almond trees. Of course, after eight centuries of habitation by Spaniards and Celtic immigrants, the caves have all been abandoned for the economic pull of modern life, and Lucía’s memories are of family trips out to stay for the hot summer months, when life out there is perhaps a little more hospitable. We caught winter’s chilly tail, and although our days were spent under translucently clear, peacock pool skies, only interrupted by matrimonial eruptions of pastel blooming almond blossoms, the nights were still quite bitter. However, a return to life cooking meals over the fire, peeing onto pachamama, ‘banho de cavalho’ and the freedom of creating your own fun, away from the social networking bermuda triangle, more than compensated for the odd chilly-bottomed nocturnal toilet dash. Lucía is now living in Marseille, and although it is her dream to breathe life back into the cave her Father, Pedro, living in the local town, is overseeing the project in her absence. Although I have never met Lucía, I felt a strong connection to her from our initial, albeit electronic, contact. And discovered why after talking to her Father: we both spent a lot of our childhoods on Tenerife, both have similar permaculture passions burning, seem to have a thirst for South American adventures, and of course share a name. After Pedro had kindly collected and taken us out to the cave (it is 8km away from the village), we stood on the top of the mound in which it is dug, and he poetically imparted that “No importa que haces, lo mas importante es que limpia tu cabeza y conectar-te con el universo”… (It doesn’t matter what else you do here, the most important is that you clear your mind and connect to the universe). I was immediately in love, with this family, and the beautiful project they’re undertaking. The simplicity of existence not only reveals the reality of needing so little, but also the pure beauty and goodness of people’s souls. After a disconnected few days of walking, clearing out caves, bathing in milky full-moon light, larking about with our Venezuelan cave-mate, Luis, wailing sweet ‘rashinda ravagandas’ into the wind, we headed back to Madrid, and then on to Barcelona to meet the rest of the Holden girl gaggle. 2 minutes off the night bus Alex was victim to one of BCN’s famous scams, and had her bags stolen, containing pretty much all her important ‘stuff’. The next couple of hours were spent in the bus station cafe, cancelling cards and contracts. After the initial feelings of disbelief and anger one feels after being taken advantage of so badly, I was really proud of Alex for how calmly she handled the situation. She enacted the ideal we all like to think we live by, that material possessions aren’t worth shit. Rather than go to the embassy, we drank tinto veranos all afternoon, and proceeded to have one of our best days in Spain. Seriously, my favourite person in the world to be silly with; I always feel free and happy with my Ally. Meeting the girls the next day at the airport, we insisted on being shamefully Brit-abroad, donning full flamenco regalia, hiding coyly behind fans as they unknowingly stepped into the arrivals hall. We had an incredibly beautiful few days, all together again for the first time in over a year, and also the first time since we lost my Grandmother. So, we ate, drank, reminisced, laughed and cried, and just floated blissfully in our little family bubble, occasionally tuning in to the beat of Barcelona.
Since coming back, I have had various challenges brought by the ‘necessity’ of being a part of this ‘civilisation’. I had written in detail about how HSBC have, for a month, not lifted a finger in helping me transfer money from my branch in Brasil to here. They are NOT the world’s local bank. I have decided to delete the entire passage; what’s the point in increasing the negativity I already feel toward them by contaminating my pages with it, as well? I suppose my ‘opt-out’ lifestyle in San Gil had blissfully led me to take not being confronted, day upon day, with these pointlessly exhausting situations for granted. But you also pick your battles, and I have decided not to be part of this one. Another situation that led me to question whether it’s the society in which we live that leads us to play within a certain box was applying for my Indian visa. I had been warned of how I would need to put my well-worn bureaucratic boxing mitts on for the visa process. After dealing with HSBC in the run up to visiting the visa centre in London last Wednesday, I was prepping my zen head. I am flying to Kerala today, and having only been able to secure an appointment at the centre for today, was chancing the drop-in service. My heart, already pushing to be positive, sank when on arrival I was informed that this service had been pulled last month. However, the kind man on the door, after giving my application the once-over, let me through, and my number continued to be called before I had even found a seat. I got my visa moving after only ten minutes of entering the centre, proving how wrong our negative expectations can make us. I suppose this all goes to show that, rather than my pre-conditioned assumption that I thrive on chaos, the truth is that I just hadn’t quite had a handle on the delicate balance of calmness, acceptance and no negative second-guessing. When you’re moving on a negative and chaotic vibration, it’s difficult to decipher the fact it is that vibration in itself that is actually causing half the chaos. I intended to write more in this post. About my wonderful month back in blighty, about turning 30, about the bittersweet trip to Cheshire to wish farewell to Kidbrook, and all the exciting encounters I have had over the last few weeks, the precious people my meandering has brought into my path. However, time didn’t wait for me, and I find myself at Heathrow once more, an hour away from embarking on my Ayurvedic Indian adventure. All I can say is I feel like an insanely blessed, loved-up woman, and I am so excited for the next episode, never forgetting the things I have learnt that brought me here, and the splendid souls I have learnt from.