I can see myself sat in Gatwick airport twelve months ago.
I am sat opposite NewMan on a hard metal seat and my carry on case is tucked protectively under my feet. My eyes are parched from tears shed for those I'm leaving behind. The smallest part of me aches with anxiety that I'm making a big mistake. The rest of me pulses, alive with excitement ready to get acquainted with the unknown.
I know this was a year ago. I know that this was a very different Birdie and I now know that it was the start of the biggest change in my life.
Back then I thought five months would be enough; I assumed that was adequate time to scratch an itch. It didn't occur to me that an itch could grow, could stretch out across your body, expanding and swelling, becoming a life of its own. Well, that's what happened to me.
I'm one big rash of wanderlust.
But it's a calm want, a soft need. I do not desire to see every country, I know I cannot see everything and I'm not in a mad rush to go where I want to go. It's just incredibly liberating to know that I can do what I want, when I want to, within reason. Most simply put, I'm living a life less ordinary, from one place to the next.
My partner, NewMan, and I run our lives and businesses on the move, meeting and beating the challenges this brings but also benefitting from the advantages, which so far keep the balance tipped in its favour. I am as much committed to this lifestyle as I am to abandoning it if or when it no longer works for me or for us.
The most ironic thing of all is that I have never felt more settled.Thank you for sharing my journey with me, dear reader. I hope this list, which must surely be just a fraction of the many things I've learnt over the last twelve months makes you laugh, makes you smile and maybe makes you think about how many unknown brilliant things await you when you make even the smallest of changes.
In twelve months of travel I have learnt...
That a smile speaks a 1000 words, in any language.
How it wasn't just shipload of convicts that were among the first to arrive in Australia, but some brave groups of Irish orphan girls.
What a fjord is.How to wakeboard.
How to scuba dive.That camping doesn't have to mean a hot shower and comfort free experience in New Zealand.
How to set up my own business and not totally mess it up.
How to deal with a traveller's guilt.
How to make pasta that is edible if not pretty.What an earthquake feels like...
The magic that happens when men and nature work together.
How happy the sun makes me.
How happy the sun makes NewMan.That things don't always work out the way you hoped, planned or expected. Thank goodness.
That there are mosquitos in Amsterdam, and they bite. Hard.
Why Australians call the sea, the ocean. About the free markets that happen in the Netherlands on Queen's Day, the most orange of Dutch days.
That there is no limit to the number of new friends you can make in a lifetime.
That you don't have to see everything, everytime.
That you can defy gravity with a little help and a super strong rope.What a dim sim tastes like.
That I can share a bathroom with six other people and not smell or inflict violence.
That Montreal bagels are different to New York bagels, and neither tastes as good as the bagels I used to eat at 5am on Brick Lane after a night out.
That Barcelona is a dream to photograph and that it's also home to a nude beach.That I could live in Amsterdam for the rest of my life.
That there is lots to love and learn in Berlin.
That not everyone will understand a life of travel, but not understanding doesn't always equal not supporting.
What makes Lake Tekapo so blue.That NewMan won't leave me if I can't kayak, get really sick or not let him use my phone for roaming.
That "tramping" isn't what you think it is in New Zealand.
That Jakarta is a hard place to love but an easy place to fall sick in.
How much I love road trips.How the sun can look very angry when it sets.
That you don't always have to be facing west to enjoy the sunset.
That campervans are fun, especially when shared with your best friend. But just check they don't leak first in order to ensure full happy camper status.That true friends find happiness in your own, even if it means you are missing from each other physically.
That the moon also rises...
How in some ways Montreal is more French than France.That there is beauty in the things that scare you.
How to take a good photograph.
What the end of the world used to look like.
Frances M. Thompson
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