Giving Notice

Time is moving on and I’m two weeks away from handing in my notice at work. It’s been an interesting time mentally because it seems like a huge step. And it’s looming… A timely email update to a travel blogger has led to a taking stock of where I am and where I have been.

Certain changes in personal circumstances have led to a decision regarding getting to Split. My flatmate and I are spending the last week in February 2016 driving to Croatia. February is not an ideal time to be driving over the Alps so we are going through France and into Italy, to take the ferry from Ancona to Split. Given the political situation a friend is going to be meeting us there and then driving back with my flatmate. The thought of a woman driving back north alone makes us all a little nervous.

The Idea

Where did my idea come from? Well, it was partially my flatmate, partially my ex-boyfriend, and partially by father. My flatmate is a programmer and whilst working on a job, she went to Cyprus alone for 6 months to get away from the noise of family life. She rented a farmhouse just outside a tiny village and was able to really concentrate. But fortunately she also learned a little of the culture, the locals, the language…and I wanted to experience that for myself. She planted the seed.

My father spent the last 10 years of his retirement in an isolated spot in northern Spain. It was a stunning location and a very happy time, something which I’d like to recreate for myself. Being a practical and resourceful person he managed to make it work. I want to test my limits and see what happens when I am left to my own – rather limited – resources. Unlike him I cannot build stuff , make an illegal distillery, assist the local farmer in the grape harvest etc. I can only write. Will I sink or swim?

My ex and I have had some incredible times in Croatia. It is a place of romance, beauty, healing, and fascination. As I wrote at the time:

Sometimes the colours are just there
Waiting for you to stop and stare.
They wave and shout, a call to care
You will be back, you say, do not despair…

But there were also family times there which had an impact on my future life and direction. I was there in the late 80s at a time when Europe was on the cusp of a historic moment; the formation of a collection of new old countries, changing the map, bringing war, and eventually leading to the looking East of the EU. And this counteracts my romantic notions of the region! I am eminently practical.

The Planning

I’m not a planner by nature. This has been the first time ever that I’ve saved, planned, considered, and made something truly momentous happen. I was always academic and theoretical by preference but never really had to think about my route through my late teens and early 20s. A levels to University and straight into a really incredible career in law librarianship. Working in some of the best places in the City of London and sometimes I am seriously startled at how I managed to get here.

As I have written before, ‘How often do you get the opportunity to get from A to B via ZYX? How often have you been told that the journey is more important than the destination? How often is the longest journey one that takes place in your head? My entire trip away will be a journey of sorts because I don’t – yet – have anything planned.

Planning isn’t really one of my strong points and as a result, everything in my head is in a jumble. By setting things down on paper here, I hope to make sense of my mental post-it notes and their total disarray. The feeling of chaos has been exacerbated by the completion of my structure-giving MA. Now I don’t have that to hold on to, I feel strangely directionless.

Why is it my imagination only flies within the constraints of an academic essay? Why is the lively spark of a poem initiated by the stern rhythmic metre of a first line? Why does my chaotically creative insight only appear when I am tied by deadlines, pressure and plans? Which I know I’m terrible at starting.’

So to stray off this highway and deliberately get lost amongst foreign country roads – or islets – is interesting. And terrifying. Mentally, I wonder if doing a navigation course was a sign that I needed some direction! I now have my Royal Yacht Association skipper theory certificate which will support the practical sailing I want to do there. Is it best to save all the scary practical stuff for when I’m so out of my comfort zone?!

Accommodation

The priority two years ago was money so I’ve been saving and saving and I’m confident that I have enough to be comfortable. My accommodation is sorted and whether it is adequate that’s always a gamble – for both Sipan and Split.

I went with my gut instinct for a tiny apartment in a small fishing village called Sudurad. Sipan is part of the Elaphite Islands and although I’ve been to Lopud and Kolocep nearby, I’ve never been so it’s a bit of an unknown. I reserved it for 6 months but they seem really flexible and laid back! I think because I’ve paid the rent in full in advance, they are extremely happy. Either that or the apartment doesn’t exist and I’m going to be homeless. Still, it’s all part of the fun.

The place in Split was recently booked through AirBnB which I hadn’t heard of last year. If I had thought about it more, there would have been cheaper ways of doing it, but I’d rather be certain and secure. If I get to Zagreb, it could be more homely as I have a contact and an invite to spend time there!

Being in Croatia in London

I’ve been rather haphazardly making contacts in the Croatian expat world in London. I’m sure I could make even more effort but it can be hard fitting it all in. I’ve been to some British Croatian Society events and I actually have a photo in their next exhibition at the Embassy. Given my passion is art, it has been fortuitous two of their events have been art related – Contemporary art in Croatia and then ‘English artists inspired by Croatia’.

What’s next

It takes 3 months to get a temporary residents visa for Croatia. My renewed UK passport has been issued and is already to go off with the application form, photo and other paperwork. I need to include proof of health insurance, evidence of my savings, and where I’m staying whilst away. How this is going to work in practice, given they are holiday flats, I’ve no clue…I’m going to throw myself on the mercy of the Ambassador and point at my artistic photo as proof of my good character.

I’ve had a clear out of my wardrobe and started to think about the books that I want to take. I’ve been pondering telling my bank and letting the tax office know. I’ve even considered telling my pension scheme. But, you know what, it’s a year. it will all be here when I get back, and I will only be a ferry – plane ride away!

I started this with a panic about giving notice at work, so it seems a good place to end. It’s been good to write and take stock of where I am. It’s a flavour of my incredibly random thought processes and demonstrates that there has been very little in the way of planning. If anyone asks me, how are the plans coming along, I’m replying with a plea for ‘what should I be doing?’ because I’m at a loss!

Looking Up

I’ve done it. Actually done it.

The language, the research, the planning…all of those are mere dreams. To actually put your money where your mouth is and to pay cold hard electronic euros into a bank in Croatia, is to actually solidify your plans.

Three months rent has ben paid. From here on in, this jaunt is for real.

Looking Down

It occurs to me recently that I’ve been too kindly treated and overly nurtured. I only say this because it seems that various people around me are struggling. Struggling with jobs that don’t pay; jobs that suddenly don’t exist anymore; struggling with circumstances beyond their control.

Everything I have is miraculously intact, despite my best intentions to hurl insults at fate. And what the heck am I planning to do? To take a year out and live on savings, with barely a thought as to what I’ll do on my return.

It’s not the most sensible thing to do, granted, especially against the backdrop of various life dramas that are taking place. To not take this opportunity would be a shame. Once you’ve embraced the shallowness of first world existence, I suppose it’s just another day on the paradise island of unthinking pleasure…

How bloody lucky am I?

The End and Beginning

How often do you get the opportunity to get from A to B via ZYX? How often have you been told that the journey is more important than the destination? How often is the longest journey one that takes place in your head? My entire trip away will be a journey of sorts because I don’t – yet – have anything planned.

Planning isn’t really one of my strong points and as a result, everything in my head is in a jumble. By setting things down on paper here, I hope to make sense of my mental post-it notes and their total disarray. The feeling of chaos has been exacerbated by the completion of my structure-giving MA. Now I don’t have that to hold on to, I feel strangely directionless.

Surely a sense of freedom after the stress of writing on demand should be welcome? But clearly not, I’ve struggled to come up with anything slightly sparky this week. If I lack direction and structure, the result is a surprisingly imaginational rigidity. By trying to take control myself and do what is perceived to be the right thing, or go about things the right way in a vague pretence at being an adult, my thinking goes annoyingly stale.

Why is it my imagination only flies within the constraints of an academic essay? Why is the lively spark of a poem initiated by the stern rhythmic metre of a first line? Why does my chaotically creative insight only appear when I am tied by deadlines, pressure and plans? Which I know I’m terrible at starting.

Seriously, this is enough to drive anyone to martinis and chunky chips.

So I was given a verbal shake yesterday when I was reminded that the journey to the island of my dreams was a way of providing mental focus. Although driving is clearly the sensible way of getting belongings to a new home, it gives us the freedom to explore as we head south.

It is this freedom which is making my head scream and post-it notes whirl. Therefore I’ve taken the security blanket of some books, a paper map, and started to draft some places which we need to take in on the way. My head has already diverged and I have a practical list and a dreamy floating unreality list.

So situation normal and my head is already feeling better.

Lost count already

I suppose I should start writing lists. Things to cancel, things to do, what to keep and what to discard, timelines…

It’s far easier to write lists than it is to do maths. I spectacularly failed in my task this week, which was to work out exactly how much I can save per month.

After a hysterical moment involving a missing grand, I’ve decided to put ‘an amount’ aside and if I go over drawn, it’s too much; and if I end up buying champagne at the end if the month, it’s not enough. Clearly I’m a modern day Ms Micawber.

I just hope I don’t lose count of how many lists I’ll need…or how many glasses of fizz I’ll have polished off whilst writing them.