Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slow Traveling: One Year Down the Road

Dream Kitchen, Redbourn, Hertfordshire
(click image to enlarge)
Photo/Text © 2013 Sean M. Madden. All Rights Reserved.

It's been a year (and two weeks) since Mufidah and I left our quite comfortable householder existence in Lewes, East Sussex to live as slow traveling nomads.

In that time we've ...
  • Experienced Brighton and Hove afresh, as tourists rather than nearby residents and organizers of writing workshops within the realm.
  • Meditated for several days in Herefordshire.
  • Camped just outside Hay-on-Wye, Wales during the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, where, in addition to running writing workshops at Richard Booth's Bookshop, we worked in the busiest restaurant in town and I picked up a shift cooking in a hot new tapas bar. In fact, a week ago we were offered jobs working for the former restaurant's on-site concession during the Hay Festival, presently underway, but we'd already committed to house- and pet-sitting in Redbourn, near St Albans in Hertfordshire (see above photo). We'll be staying here until Saturday morning, at which point we'll be heading to our next house/pet-sit in the Lake District.
  • Stayed with various friends in the South East of England (Hove, Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, South Chailey), prior to, and since returning from, the Continent.
  • Spent the Summer of 2012 in France, staying for nearly a week in Lille, four days in Paris, a night camping in Fontainebleau — getting to meet some lovely folk who were arriving for the gypsy folk festival which we unfortunately couldn't stay for — before camping for two months just outside of Vichy, where we very much enjoyed our stay as well as exploring nearby towns and villages. We were then invited to spend a week at a friend's house in Monbazillac, just a few minutes' walk from the Chateau de Monbazillac as well as a host of other vineyards that produce gorgeous white wines which are very nearly to die for. Our last stop in France last summer was an afternoon spent swimming in the just-right waves of Biarritz on a perfect blue-sky day.
  • We then continued driving to our destination where we'd spend the next seven-and-a-half months — Burgos, Spain, the ancient capital of Castile. We made countless friends there, taught English to a wonderful group of folk, learned to cook a proper Spanish tortilla, and grew fond of a great many more Spanish dishes as well as the regional Ribera del Duero wines. And we made a bit of a splash with our 1,500+ Instagram photos which we took in Burgos, both city and province. We're presently in the process of producing a high-quality print book of the very best of these Burgos photographs. Like to know when the book is available for purchase? Simply subscribe to the MLG newsletter.
  • Also while in Spain this past year, Mufidah and I both completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. And we've both delved deeply into the exciting world of self-publishing via our new ebooks, all available via Amazon and other major retail outlets: An Essay concerning Human Enquiry, Red Shoes and Odette.
  • On 11 April, we (temporarily) said goodbye to Burgos and arrived back in France that same day, returning to Monbazillac and Bergerac, staying with a lovely couple living, literally, on the banks of the Dordogne overlooking the latter. While there we ran a two-day Write from the Heart writing workshop at Le Grand Fougueyrat in St. Julien d'Eymet before making our way back to the UK via two nights in OrlĂ©ans as well as a return to our friend's place in Lille with whom we stayed last summer.
  • And since returning to England on 18 April via the Dunkirk-Dover ferry, we've already run our Write from the Heart writing workshops — as part of our Spring/Summer 2013 British Isles Writing Workshop Tour — in Hastings, Brighton, Chichester and Lewes, and are presently organizing workshops for June through August in the Lake District, Scotland and Cornwall as well as a soon-to-be-announced workshop at a superb location in the South East upon our return there in August before continuing our slow travels elsewhere. If you'd like to know as soon as these workshops are announced, again, I'd suggest subscribing to the MLG newsletter.

People keep asking us — What now? Where are you going to settle? etc.

Our immediate answer, as it's not one either of us needs to think about, is — Our slow travels continue unabated, here in Britain this spring and summer, and, God-willing, back on the Continent and beyond once the summer begins to wane.

For now, we're looking forward to our remaining time here in Redbourn, where we're caring for two unbelievably sweet Great Danes (both of whom we'll sorely miss), as well as our now-confirmed house- and pet-sits in the Lake District, Scotland and Cornwall, all of which will carry us through mid-August. If possible, we might still try to squeeze in a visit to Ireland, and perhaps a writing workshop or two. We'll see. If you happen to know of a place for us to do so, we'd greatly appreciate your letting us know.

Also, before signing off, you might recall that Henry Makow asked me to write an essay concerning our day-to-day life in Spain. Here's how he introduced the resulting piece:
To a casual observer, Sean Madden and his partner Mufidah seem to have escaped the confines of everyday life. But, maintaining their nomadic lifestyle in Spain is a daily act of faith.
With the hindsight of three additional months since writing the essay, I can tell you that maintaining our nomadic way of life remains very much a daily act of faith, and we still wouldn't have it any other way. And our original travel motto, borrowed from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, likewise remains: "A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving". We've been called upon throughout the past year to make good on this motto, having to turn on a dime on countless occasions rather than to remain fixated on our best laid plans. As Lao Tzu suggests, this is the very nature of true, or what we call slow, traveling — learning to feel the fear, to trust in our on-the-spot intuition, and to put forth intentions all the while staying fluid throughout, like water making its way over, in between and under would-be impediments.

And, as I say in my writing classes, learning to trust, wholeheartedly, in the process. Even, that is, when the sun has dropped and you still don't know where you're going to spend the night.

Anyway, if you'd like to read more about "Slow Travels: The Art of Voluntary Homelessness", a week-and-a-half ago I published, for the first time, the original, unabridged version of the essay written in response to Makow's request. If you'd like to read this longer version, exactly as it was written, you can do so by way of my other website, SeanMMadden.com, by clicking here.

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