21 days ago, we bared our soul to the world and shared ‘our truth’ – the worst kept secret of my husband’s past and the reason why we left the UK in 2015.
Though we were not looking for validation or understanding, the response from our friends and complete strangers was overwhelming. Messages of support kept flooding in. It took many days for Chris to absorb the reassuring, encouraging words of acceptance. He sat for many hours in complete silence, reading and reflecting. Whilst there was no sudden outburst of relief, I lovingly watched the weight on his shoulders visibly lift with each passing hour.
He was so deserving of the response he received. I admired him so much for allowing me to tell, what was ultimately his story. When I pressed ‘publish’, he truly believed it would result in a backlash of abuse against him. He was willing to open an old, painful wound in support of my writing, such is his love for his family. As he paced the floors waiting for the hate and judgement to return, I agonised over my decision and prayed that it was the right thing to do. Those first few hours were excruciating.
We really did not anticipate or expect the wonderful response that followed. Instead of hate, we were consumed by kindness and understanding. For once, the people who judged and vilified Chris for years were overshadowed and overpowered by a community of amazing, open-minded, non-judgemental, free-thinking individuals. Troopers, superstars, heroes and friends.
The power Chris’s past had over us no longer seems so suffocating. The fear has suddenly lost its almighty grip. For the first time in 16 years, the power has transferred. We no longer feel the need to hide or run from shame. The shame is not, and should never have been, ours to carry. The burden of dishonour should be borne by the people who did this to him. The attackers who stabbed him. The police, media and barristers who made a mockery of justice. The worms who turned, and the snakes in the grass.
From here on, we refuse to carry the shame that is theirs.
I guess you could say that we are gradually making peace with the past. We never set out to achieve that when we published the missing chapter, but it is a wonderful by-product of our story. Whilst we will never accept what happened to Chris, we feel encouraged to finally move forward, without the past influencing the present. We are cleansing. Slowly.
When we moved to Nicaragua in August 2016, we were desperate to maintain our freedom for as long as we could afford. We did not have the funds to continue travelling in the motorhome, so we immersed ourselves in a foreign land with no memory, nor care. We essentially purchased a reprieve. Blindly, we kept running, with the notion that something wonderful would happen.
We waited. Hoped. Pushed. Searched. But the ‘something wonderful’ evaded us.
Then, completely out of the blue this week, we were offered an amazing opportunity. An opportunity that would enable us to stay in Nicaragua for the foreseeable future, if not indefinitely.
You would think, given that our financial situation is so dire, that we would jump at the chance and be truly grateful for the risk-free investment. So, why did we retreat? Procrastinate? Hide?
Much to our surprise, our instincts screamed No. Despite feeling incredibly grateful, we had to listen to our intuition and politely decline.
And just like that, we knew. Months of indecision and inaction, hoping for clarity, passed like a parting black cloud. The life we want to lead is not here.
Yet rather than feel euphoric about our realisation, I felt sad.
I can only compare it to the first time I read the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I recall being totally absorbed by the journey of the shepherd boy and his search for treasure – but I never understood the ending. I was thoroughly disappointed that he ended up in the place where he first started. It took Chris to explain to me that, though the boy did not find the treasure where he thought it was buried, he was wiser and more fulfilled for having embarked on the adventure.
It mattered not. I was still desperately disappointed. I wanted the treasure to be discovered in the romance of the foreign land. I felt that all of his troubles, effort and bravery to travel thousands of miles, and overcome storms and adversities were totally worthless and pointless. Why, after so much hardship, would the final reward be located under the very tree he started at.
The recognition that Nicaragua is not for us, was like finding out that our treasure is buried elsewhere. I lost my temper and shouted in despair ‘What was all this about?’ ‘What are we supposed to learn from all of this?’. Our journey here seemed so senseless.
It has taken until today for me to realise that the boy who returned in ‘the Alchemist’ was not the same boy who left. His adventure opened his heart and mind, gave him love, hope, desire, courage and wisdom. He did not return a shepherd boy. He returned a man with great aspirations. It was never about reaching a destination. It was a story about his journey. He did not regret travelling to Egypt. He was grateful for all that it taught him. On his journey, he acquired all the skills, knowledge and experience he needed to fulfil his true life.
His adventure through Africa was far from a wasted experience. It was an essential requirement. Had he not completed this part of the journey, he would never have discovered where the actual treasure was buried. If he had stayed at home, stopped, or taken a different path at any point during his travels, he would never have found it, nor lived his true life.
Yet, despite knowing and understanding this, Chris and I still have an issue with leaving Nicaragua. Turning around and heading back to the start does not sit comfortably with us. We equate returning with failure. Even though staying is as ludicrous as standing beside an empty treasure chest.
As a result, we have sat idle, not moving forward or backwards for some time. It took someone to offer us a lucrative alternative to our dream for us to truly value its worth. No money, no gold is worth settling for. It was the inspiration we needed.
Returning to the UK is not a failure. Failure would be to stay, through pig ignorant pride, knowing that it is wrong. The brave, bold move, is to go back, temporarily, in order to move forward.
So, we are heading home. Again. Yesterday we booked our flights before we had the chance to change our minds.
We leave Nicaragua on the 27th January 2017.
This time, it feels different. This time we are excited about returning. We need to feed on the love of our family and friends, whom we have missed beyond expectations.
It has taken a third world country to appreciate the comfort and convenience of home. It has taken a new community to appreciate how precious and cherished old friends are. It is has taken a detour to realise our true direction. Emigration to realise the grass is not greener. Consistency to appreciate change.
Staying in one place, even if it is a tropical paradise, is not for us. We don’t want the same. We want variety.
When we asked our children what they wanted to achieve in life, they talked of places they want to visit and experiences they want to have…Scotland, Norway, Iceland…It was the validation we needed. We have too many dreams outstanding. There are so many countries we still want to explore. We need a base so that we can achieve these aspirations. And I can think of no better base, than the place where our friends and family reside.
It is going to be a difficult year ahead. We’re starting from scratch. We must stay focused and avoid the allure of comfort and consumerism. Returning to the rat race would make everything we have achieved null and void. We must maintain our simple life, work jobs that we have no affinity with, live in a home that has no attraction. The rope of the anchor must only casually drape over the port wall.
We are returning to launch our on-line business. It has been impossible to achieve from afar. The ability to earn an income that supports our travels is still our priority – only now, we have a better chance of achieving it.
I have also decided to write ‘that book’. Our story is missing several important chapters. It is my intention to pull it all together. What I do with it once it is complete is not important, but indulging in my true passion is.
Today I transferred our first £100 to our motorhome pot. Watching it grow will be the single most important aspect of our return.
I feel incredibly fortunate that at the age of 40, I now know EXACTLY what I want. I’m pretty sure I sit with a privileged few who can say the same.
This experience was absolutely essential. I chased and fulfilled a dream that I have harboured since childhood. I achieved it. The fact, that it did not meet expectations, is neither here or there.
I emigrated. And it led me home.