Coming Full Circle, 5 Years of Travel

Almost five years ago we found my Grandmother unconscious in her apartment after slipping into a diabetic coma. That started a three-week roller coaster journey that involved my taking leave from my job and sitting by her hospital bed with my Mother. It was intense, draining, and the beginning of this blog (originally called ‘SpunkyGirl Monologues‘). Three months after we found her unconscious, she passed away from pancreatic cancer. Nine months after that I left my job to pursue my dream of long term travel.

It’s been a roller coaster.

In the last five years, I have had successes and failures.

As a solo female traveller I’ve travelled by bus and jeep-share from Beijing to Ulaanbataar, Mongolia – and almost became a Mongolian bride while in UB. I’ve cruised the Yangtze River in China and got accosted by an old woman on the streets of Xi’an because she was fascinated by the size of my, er, rack. Oh, and then there was the time I travelled by boat from Northern Thailand to China because I read somewhere that it was possible. I’ve taken a 45-day group tour from Kenya to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel and spent time wandering the streets of Prague, Paris, Dijon, London, Budapest, Istanbul, Edinburgh, Vienna, Köln, Warsaw, and Poznan in Europe. And then there were the road trips and train trips across Canada and along the Pacific Northwest in the United States.

I’ve lived short-term in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Penang, Banff, Québec City, and Bucerias.

I struggled during my attempt to do the Mongol Rally. My journey lasted from the Czech Republic to Turkmenistan due to visa issues and a disagreement with my teammate. It was one of my biggest failures, and I struggled with depression for months afterwards, feeling like I had let my readers down, my sponsors, my friends. Everyone.

And let’s not talk about my epic failure during my road trip in Mexico – one horrific day out of a month of great ones.

The rally was not my only failure. I’ve struggled with trying to keep up with a growing industry (travel blogging) – changing the theme of this blog numerous times because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, but also because I was trying to keep up with the Jones’ – and in doing so I have lost my way a few times.

Trying to be all things to all people is futile.

Earlier this year I was presented with a rather exciting opportunity here in Canada that I was really excited about. It meant I would have to put travel on hold for a little while, but I was okay with that and even cancelled my tickets to Vietnam. The first couple months were great and I even moved to Québec City as I now had more steady income. The plan? Become an expat in Québec City and travel regularly between Québec, Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver as I worked for this new venture. And then everything fell apart due to a dispute between the company and the Canadian agent (who had hired me), and there was nothing I could do about it. My exciting new project was put on hold indefinitely until legal issues between the two are resolved.

I held tightly to my dream of using Québec City as a home base for the rest of my life. I loved the city, the people, the culture, the history, the food. I created Urban Guide Québec, a website focusing on life in the city. I made friends. I bought furniture for the first time in four years!

And then I received a calling telling me that my Dad’s dementia had progressed to a point where he needed 24-hour care. Normally this is where families discuss putting their loved one in a long-term care facility. That is not an option for our family. My Mom wants him at home with her. I spent a couple days staring out the window and thinking, then I called my landlord. Two weeks later I left my apartment, my furniture, and Québec City. That was at the end of July.

A family illness and tragedy gave me the push I needed to travel long-term, and now a family illness has pushed me to put those travels on hold.

I’ve come full circle. Something I never dreamed would happen.

Orangeville is now my home base. I have a bedroom in my Parents house and I work from a temporary desk I’ve set-up. Most of my days involve helping to care for my Dad, who declines in health -mentally and physically – every day. I also help out with my nieces after school during the week. I love my family. I know this is where I need to be, and while there are definitely challenges, there is fun and laughter as well. And as it happens, travel!

In the last couple months, I have taken short trips to Scotland and Poland, and I hope to take a couple more short trips this year. I’m also busy working on Urban Guide Québec.

I don’t know how long I’m basing from Orangeville. At the moment my deal with my Mom is that I’ll stay until spring and then hit the road again, but that will depend on Dad’s health. In the meantime, I had pages of travel posts to write for all three websites, and I plan to write more on caring for a parent with dementia as it is a big part of my life right now, and dementia is a disease that I think needs a little more attention.

I love to travel. I love exploring the world around me. Yes, everyone should travel at least once in their life, and long-term travel is definitely fabulous at times, but I also understand how family obligations can sometimes trump travel. The most important thing any of us can do is to make decisions that will make use feel good. You know what your challenges are, and how you can take on those challenges.

Living at home is where I need to be right now, but I know, for myself, that when I return to the road full-time I will be a better person. I will be mentally and emotionally free to give my travels the love and attention I want to give. For now, that love and attention are focused at home.

I’m most definitely not perfect. I still struggle, a lot, but I hope you will continue to stick with me, and share your ideas and stories whether it is a comment on a post, on the facebook page, or in an email.

Here’s to another 5 years of travel, life, love, and writing!

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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3 Responses

  1. Marta

    Thank you for sharing Pamela. I think its extremely important to interrupt this “peachy perfect” image of life that everyone portraits on social media and on blogs. This is LIFE. This is how it goes. How it always went and how it will always go. Not perfect. The art is to never give up, keep going and pick yourself up. AND priorities. Do whatever makes you feel warm in your heart. I am very happy for you to be reunited with your family even tho its under such sad circumstances. I can’t even imagine the turmoil. However – I want you to know – that I admire your persistence. “Just keep swimming” Marta

    • Pamela MacNaughtan

      Thank-you, Marta. Social media does feel very polished at times. I know for myself I worry about sharing too much on social media. It has taken awhile for me to become comfortable enough to write about my Dad’s dementia and I still worry about talking too much about it on social media. Same with my failures. I really should worry, I know!! Here’s to having a more transparent future. 🙂

  2. Wendy

    Pamela, just reading this now. Thank you for the honesty and vulnerability you show in this post, it’s actually quite refreshing. Life happens and we adapt. Just keep following your heart and do what’s right for you. I too have learned a lot about the life of travel blogging and figuring out how it fits for me, in my life.
    I’m still following you and am enjoying your documenting Haiti now!

    p.s. We’re close now- I’m in Mississauga!


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