A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about migration philosophy

Ascent: An Ending

Epilogue to the Esoteric Globe

sunny 6 °C

It’s been over a year since I wrote my last blog entry. I wrote it just before the year turned to 2013, in the wake of my father’s death. When I wrote it, it felt like an ending.

The title of this blog is based on the haunting song by Brian Eno called An Ending (Ascent), written for a movie about the Apollo space program. You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It4WxQ6dnn0. The song came into my head as I finished my last entry.

I originally started writing a blog when I started travelling more, both for work and for pleasure. I had lots of different thoughts about what the blog would be over the years, even at points wondering if it might not be the start of new career as a travel writer.

Ultimately, though, the blog was my motivation to live a more interesting life. It made me more adventurous. As I have gotten older, I have found myself becoming more introverted. When travelling, especially for work, if left to my own devices, I would probably be happy just staying in my hotel room and watching TV.

Knowing that I had a blog, and should write an entry about the place I am in, it forced me to get out and experience something. I never regretted getting out and doing stuff once I was out, but often would suffer from a lack of motivation to get started. The blog, and knowing I needed an entry, provided that initial push to get out and do something.

In the past few years, though, things have changed. I no longer live the nomadic life of a consultant, and instead am trying to settle into a new life in a new country. When I first moved to the UK in 2008, the blog was still an inspiration and motivation to get out and do things - make new friends, immerse myself in a new life, explore the interesting parts of my new city.

After living in London for a few years, I decided that I would make a life for myself here. No longer did I need motivation to get out and experience London as a tourist. I needed not a breadth of experiences, but to dive deep into a specific life.

I realised, though, that the blog was holding me back. I was going out observing life, taking some pictures of it, and then writing about it in the blog. I felt like the blog was giving me an excuse to stand on the sidelines, when what I really needed was to get into the melee.

I thus made a resolution to not blog for a year, and instead to use my energy to immerse myself in my London life. To do things not because they would make a great blog entry, but rather because it would give me a deeper connection to my life in London.

While the blog has been quiet, I have been busy. I got my permanent residency for the UK. I moved to a nicer house to a more interesting neighbourhood. I gardened and BBQ’d and had people over. I left my job to take some time off. I have taken a wine course, and driving lessons, and met people who share interests of mine like formula one, sailing and skiing to gain some new friends. I did some online dating for a bit, and may pick it up again in the new year.

Best of all, I’ve still kept going out, experiencing things. After ten years of the blog acting as my motivation, the habit of getting out has become so ingrained I don’t need the blog as a crutch anymore. Further, as I am not experiencing things as an observer thinking of how to write about it, I am meeting more people and getting more involved in the experiences.

So with that I am ending the Esoteric Globe, with the final chapter being about how my father inspired me to live a brave life, and this epilogue telling you how it is coming along one year on.

I may pick up blogging again in the future if I feel the need arises, but will start fresh in a new blog. I am still writing, though in only 140 characters, on Twitter, where I also post some pictures now and again, if you really cannot do without my musings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting over the years. I hope I was entertaining, and perhaps provided some inspiration for you all to travel. Writing for you has inspired me to have a more interesting life, and as I move forward I will continue to do the same.

To live a brave life.

Posted by GregW 03:45 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged travel_philosophy migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Living Life Bravely

A tribute to the life of Reg Wesson, my father (1928-2012).

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My father, Reg Wesson, died on November 27th of this year. He was 84, and had not been well for the past year. He was admitted to hospital in mid-November, and I flew back to Toronto to be with him and my family. We spent a week together before he passed away.

It is, I will admit, something that I had been both expecting and dreading since I moved to the UK. Moving overseas with an octogenarian parent, I knew at some point I would get that call. As much as you want to pause the hands of time while you are on the road, they keep ticking back home. I most feared a call saying he had died. Every time I spoke to Dad on the phone, I knew that the goodbyes we said before we hung up could have been the last. I was thankful that the call I got allowed me to get back to Canada and say my goodbye in person.

I count myself lucky on two counts, one that I was able to make it home in time to spend some time with my father before he passed, and also that he passed peacefully, without any prolonged suffering.

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

After my father passed, I stayed in Canada for a few more days for the burial and the “Celebration of Life” for Dad.

My dad didn’t want a funeral or a memorial service. “I’ve been to too many god-damn funerals,” he said. “I want a party.” So we planned a celebration, with music and wine and laughter. It was tinged with sadness, of course, but mostly was a great opportunity for people to get together and share memories of my dad.

Despite not wanting a memorial service, we did have a few parts that were memorial-service-like. One such piece was speeches. People wanted to get up and share, either through reciting a poem, singing a song or sharing a favourite anecdote.

I played emcee, and shared a few memories I had of my Dad. I wanted to share some big, life affirming story, but couldn’t really think of anything, so told everyone about the little parts of life I remembered with him. Most of them revolved around trains, actually, which I hope goes some way to explain the recent train nerdiness I have exhibited in the blog. It is (a tribute to / the fault of) my father (pick whichever one you feel best describes your feeling towards the train blog entries).

My sister Jen spoke last, and I was struck by what she said. I paraphrase her here, because (true to my father’s spirit) she spoke without notes and I wasn’t taking a transcript. She said that when she was younger she wouldn’t have described Dad as a brave man. He didn’t especially like heights, and dealt with pain much in the same way I do, by feeling faint and nauseated. He didn’t partake in a lot of physical sports.

Yet as she looked back recently on Dad’s life, she realised her analysis was wrong. As a young man, Dad gave up the safe option of working for his father’s business as he really wanted to work in a bank. Having never been involved in auto racing, he applied on a whim to be part of the Oakville-Trafalgar Light Car Club and took up rallying. Later, he wound up a part of the Canadian Racing Driver’s Association, running Grand Prix and other racing events in Canada. After moving to Burlington, nestled at the edge of Lake Ontario, Dad went out for a walk one day, down to the local yacht club, and though he didn’t have a boat or knew anyone in the club, he joined.

He was a real “give it a go” kind of guy. He was constantly finding new interests, and on finding that interest, he pursued them. He didn’t let the weight of opinion of others influence him, nor the fact he was venturing as an unknown into an area he knew nothing about. He just did it. And in doing so, thrived. For every new club, organisation, interest or career he tried, he became an invaluable part of the group. Often acting as treasurer for groups, or working his way up into the executive. He would immerse himself in his new circle, making new friends, bringing in old friends to his new group, becoming a key part of the social circle.

My dad may not have been physically brave, but he was a brave spirit, willing to put himself out into a new world he didn’t know, and give it a try.

As my sister said this, and I remembered my big, life affirming story about Dad.

It was when I was between high school and university. While in high school I had worked as a waiter at our local Pizza Hut. I was pretty good at it, and saving a good bit of money for university. As summer approached, I decided I was a bit too good for Pizza Hut, and should be working at a more upscale restaurant. So I quit my job without another one lined up. “I’ll quickly find a new job,” I said, confident in my skills.

I didn’t quickly find a new job. I struggled, and even tried to go back to get my old job at Pizza Hut, only to find it was already filled. Desperate, I took a job doing door-to-door sales of … well, anything I could carry – tube socks, books, calculators – this company had the lot.

I hated it. The money was alright, but the job made me miserable. I knew by the end of my first week I wanted to be doing anything else.

My Dad, giving me a ride home from the train station on Friday evening, could see it on my face. “What’s wrong, son?” he asked.

“I hate my job,” I said. “I wish I could quit. It really makes me miserable.”

“You see no way you could be happy at this job, if you changed something,” my Dad asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like the sales part of it, and that’s the biggest part. I don’t know what to do.”

“Quit,” Dad said.

“Quit?” I asked. “I can’t quit. What will I do about money? I need money for university.”

“Don’t worry about the money. We’ll figure out a way to make it work,” My dad said. “You can’t keep doing something that you hate. Son, life is too short to spend it being miserable.”

I believe this was the philosophy that drove that braveness my sister had been speaking about. It is about putting aside those things that aren’t contributing to your fulfilment, and taking up those things that you think may contribute.

Obviously that isn’t the only decision point. My father was not selfish in his choices, he took his responsibilities seriously and if he said he would do something, he would try his best to see it through. But his current responsibilities didn’t hold him back from trying something new, and he didn’t feel the need to be chained to something that wasn’t working for him.

Dad always told me how proud he was of me for having taking the step to move abroad. I had never really understood why he used the word “proud,” until I started to look at it in the context of the bravery my sister described. I think he was proud of the move because it was me doing something daring, striking out on my own and taking a new adventure because I was pretty sure it would make me happy, in much the same way he might have done. In my actions are reflected his lessons and example.

So as we enter 2013, I take the next steps in that journey, in becoming a permanent resident of the United Kingdom, and continuing towards becoming a British citizen. More so, I start to think to myself, over and above the paper work, what can I do to become more integrated into my new homeland? To fully immerse myself in this, as my father had done before in the many adventures he undertook. I may not stay in the UK forever, but if I do leave, I want to leave knowing that I threw myself into my life here with all that I could give it.

I will bravely live this life, and in doing so, hopefully reflect some small part of my father, and honour his lessons and example.

2006 08 26..er Sign.JPG2006 08 26..re Sign.JPG

Posted by GregW 08:39 Archived in Canada Tagged travel_philosophy migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Thanksgiving 2012 - The Gin Martini

Things I am thankful for...

overcast 13 °C

Stealing, as I do, posts from my facebook page...

Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. So in the spirit - along with turkey sausages for dinner this evening - stuff I am thankful for...

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As the day wore one - and I had consumed my Turkey sausages, I called my family back in Toronto. I spoke to the family back in Toronto as the clock turned over to 11 PM here in the UK. They were sitting down for Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings. I hung up the phone, knowing they would soon be on to pumpkin pie.

So to you all reading this, regardless of the day or your nationality, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Early October may be the Thanksgiving day for Canada, but we should be aware of what we need to give thanks for every day.

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Look up, this is the world you live in. It may be harsh and hard at times, but it can also be beautiful. It gives so many gifts, even when at the time they seem like blows to your chest. Hard lives are hard won.

Thankful for everything that has happened - the good, the bad and the ugly. If it hadn't of happened, I'd be a different man, in a different place, in a different set of circumstances. Maybe it would have been better, maybe it would have been worse. But it wouldn't have been me.

Posted by GregW 17:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged history travel_philosophy migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Still Overseas. Still Outside.

Is this home?

sunny 14 °C

Night fall covers me, but you know the plans I'm making. Still overseas, could it be the whole world opening wide?
- View to a Kill, Duran Duran

It has been a busy few weekends past. First was my trip to the Paralympics, and then, with a friend from Canada in town, two weekends of day trips to Hampton Court Palace, Brighton, Canterbury and... um, this is a little embarrassing... The Harry Potter Studio tour. Actually, Harry Potter was surprisingly good, even though I haven’t read any of the books and only seen the first of the films.

Award winning beach, Brighton

Award winning beach, Brighton


Rose Garden, Hampton Court Palace

Rose Garden, Hampton Court Palace


Canterbury Cathedral at Night

Canterbury Cathedral at Night


Dumbledore's office on the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Dumbledore's office on the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Given all this activity, I decided to take it easy this weekend. I slept in, did some laundry and as a final activity got my haircut. I planned to grab some take-out chicken from Nando’s and head home for a Saturday night in.

My haircut finished up about 16:30, so a little early for dinner. Instead, I popped into a local pub to catch the end of the Saturday Premier League football. I had a couple of pints, watched the football scores come in and surfed the internet on my phone.

18:00 rolled around, so I decided to head home. Wandering out of the pub, a thought flashed into my mind. “I am enjoying visiting this country,” I thought, “I will miss it when I go home.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. “Wait a second,” I thought. “I am not a visitor here. I live here, just around the corner.”

It’s not the first time I have caught myself thinking like that. Thinking that this is just a temporary situation - a holiday away or a longer-term business trip. I still, after four years living here, sometimes find myself surprised at the fact that I really am living abroad.

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The truth is, I don’t really feel like I am British. Certainly, legally I am not - not at least for another couple of years.

However, at some point I would have thought I would start to feel like I belong here.

This isn’t an externally driven feeling. The people of London who I know have never made me feel like I wasn’t welcome. I feel accepted here. I feel like I have a life here. I feel like people are happy to have me here.

But I don’t feel natural here. I don’t feel far outside, but I do feel like an outsider, just always outside of the circle of those who have lived in the UK all their lives.

I wonder if that ever goes away?

Posted by GregW 02:17 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Stranger in a Familiar Land

“Everything flows, nothing stands still. Nothing endures but change.” Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher

sunny 25 °C

Without a way to connect my iPod to the rental car’s radio, I was forced to listen to the local radio. I tuned the radio to a classic 80s station. Wave Babies by Honeymoon Suite came on the radio as I made the turn off from the Queen Elizabeth Way (Niagara bound) to North Shore Boulevard.

If I hadn’t caught a glimpse of my receding hairline and grey-haired temples in the rear-view mirror, I could have sworn it was 1988 again, my teenaged years spent in this same town, driving these same streets and listening to this same music.

But, as Honeymoon Suite sung, just like summer, it is over too fast...

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= = =

I flew back to Canada to visit with my family, and take care of some personal business. I stayed in the town where I grew up, Burlington, which is about one hour outside of central Toronto.

Despite only having left Canada 4 years ago and having been back a few times since, I hadn’t spent much time in Burlington since I moved away 15 years ago (originally to Toronto, and then to London). I had spent a few days, and the occasional overnight, but mostly had focused my Canada life on Toronto.

On this trip I spent 7 days and nights in Burlington, the longest I had been there in a very long time.

It was all so familiar, but at the same time, very different.

I ended up feeling like a tourist in the town I grew up in. A stranger in a familiar land.

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It was partially the physical changes to the town - new buildings erected, old buildings torn down, new roads build. The constant turning of a corner and being surprised by what was there.

That was only a small part, though. When I lived in Burlington, I knew a lot of people. This was, of course, because when you are a teenager you know so many people in your local area. Everyone in your school and the place you work are likely from the area, so you have a wide social circle.

Now, though, I knew no one. In seven days, I didn’t see a single person I knew by chance. Even though I walked through the malls and the parks and ate in the restaurants of the town, I didn’t happen upon a single person who I knew without pre-arranging a meeting.

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Mostly, though, the feeling was driven by the changes in the life of myself and my family. When I last lived here, my parents were both alive and lived in a house on a leafy street. I returned to a place where I have just a single parent, and he is going through the process of moving from his modern, waterfront condominium to a care home. My family is in the process of moving from having parents as caregivers to giving care to our parent.

When I say I was a stranger in a familiar land, there is a double meaning.

Not just familiar because I knew Burlington from my past, but also familiar in the sense "of my family." I am in the place where my family lives, but much changed since I lived here.

New places, new configurations, new structures. Physical, emotional and mental.

All change. Same place, but different.

I am local, and I am the foreigner.

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“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” - Heraclitus of Ephesus, c. 535 – c. 475 BCE.

Posted by GregW 03:42 Archived in Canada Tagged migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

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