Published: March 31st 2010March 31st 2010
It is nearly two years since I wrote anything on this blog (aside from the note on Mocorro I just found as saved, not published - I just published it now). Immediate rush of guilt as that is not because I have not done any travelling - a smaller, much more practical backpack has gathered miles going by train, bus and plane through france northern spain, morocco, germany, scotland and belgium - it's just that I did write on my first every entry here that I would write when I travelled.
But since returning from my epic trip of 2006-7 I've been rather busy with another epic journey that has been rooted to just one city. I landed a job as deputy editor of a financial magazine in London about three months after coming home in january 2007, and followed it up with my first ever promotion, to editor in summer 2009. The 18 months as deputy were challenging enough - more than enough - but the move into editorship has been backbreaking and breath-taking in equal measure. My plan to return to Bolivia and explore the rest of south america is as strong a desire as it was the
day I flew home from Rio in September 2008, and this time my boyfriend Alexis, who I met there on that trip, will be with me. We are both balancing perpetually itchy feet and the need for regular mini-backpacking events against the need to save and realise the committment we have made together to going back. And the flame is kept bright too by the questions people ask me about it. At Passover with my family in Glasgow this week, one cousin asked me what the plan was: instinctively, I turned to my boyfriend to get his view on that while answering, given that it's a two-person plan this time. But one thing that I wonder why no one asks if the age question - me being 30 now and planning to go away in another year or so, versus the usual babies question ladies of 30+ endure from various quarters. It's one I've asked myself, but I haven't figured out the answer.
However hard it gets working 65 hour weeks on a regular basis, I know that paycheque is furnishing the travelling fund with the money I need to move ever more swiftly towards the next installment of
my life beyond working and living in london. But there is this one thing: I was 26 when I made my last departure for far flung lands. I'll be at least 31 the next time. And my boyfriend will be around the 26 mark. So, even for a fully paid up member of the independent woman brigade, if I was to consider having any babies, well, I'd be on the road at what I used to consider babymaking prime time. (As a teenager whose world was actually flat and ended at the door of the local rock nightclub, 28 was as far into the horizon of life that I could actually visualise. I thought by 28 I'd be married with children and had already edited Kerrang! and bought a townhouse in London - which would still carry wall carry posters of Zack de la Rocha. So surviving past 28 was weird enough, but being alive and where I'm at now at age 30 is a complete mind-fuck really).
So, if it is to happen, and I go away, have I missed the boat, or am I to become one of those women who has a baby at that time
in her life when she has started to not only want but also to enjoy shopping in Marks & Spencer? I don't generally believe any of that claptrap about the risks of having children later, but I never really dreamed about popping progeny out of a uterus that got so bored hanging around for me it basically dried up like a piece of pot pourri and atrophied at right angles as a result.
The question is two fold. One, my rough sketch on this next excusion involves a triumvirate of activities: education (most certainly spanish lessons, ideally a stint on a course about latin american history also), working (certainly bread and butter freelance for English language publishing, ideally also, gradually, sutff for Spanish publishing) and volunteering (I've found a micro-finance business that seeks unpaid volunteers to track and deliver its programs and it sounds like something I could do) Of course actually travelling will be the platform for all of it, though this time we'll stay in one place for a time and rent a place to live, then the other times we'll be on the road. I'm still too selfish (some might say practical) to consider adding a child into the mix. Second, my boyfriend is four years younger than me. The years make no difference, but people find themselves in wildly different places in their lives in that space of time. In our case, I like the idea but don't know when I will have the time. While I think he likes the idea of having a family- and with me - he is 100% happy to have it as one of those ideas for the distant future when he enjoys dressing and talking like Alan Partridge as much as I like buying fawn-coloured slacks from M&S.
A lucky reprieve for me, then, and perhaps, a man might think, a stay of execution for him: neither of us wants our situation as a couple or individually to change that drastically for another couple of years. Both of us still have a lot of things we want to do. But this is the first time for me that children have featured in any of my thoughts as a semi-serious prospect and one I kind of like. I know that, for all the media blather about women being superios multitaskers and being able to have it all, most of the women you see 'doing' this (i use closed captions because I'm extremely cynical that anyone really does it as we're sold the idea) are already in the cougar or silver surfer clubs, and have successful, wealthy husbands and houses, cars, all the cheese needed to go on ahead and work by candelight while raising a family. I'm not there. In my head I'm 28 forever. And I wonder if having children older, I'll be more of a granny than a mother, as I'll be so out of touch with what life for da yoof is like that I'll be totally useless.
While my day job is most definitely a grown up, serious position with heavy responsibility and stupid hours, I feel no desire to be Martha Stewart or Madonna. It's still all about the travelling and the writing for me and I can't see that being quelled soon. I don't feel any burden from those stories to become another 21st century fembot, doing it all and having it all; but, y'know, one day I'd like to have some green shoots of my own. If I go away in my early 30s, spend maybe 2 years abroad, then I'll probably quite naturally end up in a place where I'm ready. Problem is, will the 28 year old boyfriend be? And if you buy the cliche that boys are always 3 years behind girls in terms how how fast they mature, he will actually be the same age in his head at that point that he is in real life now, and that feels pretty young to be 'settling down'. (which by the way is so the wrong term: 'settling' is bad enough, but 'down' too? It's up there with a beloved but defective family pet being 'put down' - or even worse, what you do when you've to pay off debts - settling them. Is starting a family then just settling a debt to society for the previous decades of footloosery?)
Anyway. The planning and discussing goes on, dates not yet in sight but kind of in mind. Which means that a little more regular discussion on onehorsetown looms. And for the immediate term, we're planning our summer trip to Russia in May via friends in Stockholm. So there will be more to report.