Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Greatest Affair~Facing the Strangest and Most Singular and Inexplicable Things That Befall Us ~Interview With Candace Rose

  Finally! I'm sure you've all been eager for the interview I had with Candace from The Great Affair. As I've been saying, it was tremendous fun. Very enlightening. And without further ado, here it is! Enjoy!

Candace Rose Mumbai

What began your dream to travel? Was it something you thought about as a kid, but didn't really seriously get into until you got older?

I’ve always had this little seed of wanderlust inside me, something that knew it wanted to see the world. We didn’t travel internationally as a family growing up – as I’m originally from the state of Virginia, nearly all of our summer vacations were on the East Coast of the U.S, never more than a long day’s drive away. But two high school trips to the Dominican Republic, on which we volunteered at an orphanage in the mountain town of Constanza, confirmed what I’d always suspected: that I would fall in love with the newness and excitement of a different culture.

Who/what people would you say has effected you most on your trips?

The Great Affair blog
One of my favorite things about traveling is how a chance encounter on the road can stay with you forever. There are certain individuals I’ve met only once, but the wisdom they imparted – whether spoken or unspoken – has been unforgettable. When I was walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain last year, I met a man from Barcelona named Davide. Three years ago, he gave up his house and job and moved to a hilltop outside León, where he now sleeps outside on a couch next to a barn.

Davide’s dream is to convert the barn into an albergue, or pilgrims’ hostel, and he spends his days clearing trash along the Camino, greeting passing pilgrims with juice and cookies, and cleaning a bar in a nearby town in exchange for food. I have never forgotten the example he set and the wisdom he shared with me – that every moment is divine, that to give is love.

How have you changed over the time since traveling, and how has it changed your plans for the future? How do you approach life now?

It might be easier to say how I haven’t changed since traveling! In all seriousness, though, I truly feel travel is such a crucible; if you open yourself up to the experience and to the people you meet, it will be impossible for you to return home the same person. I’m so much surer of myself now than when I started traveling five years ago. I know myself better – my likes and dislikes, my passions and plans for the future. I’m also more open as a person – more open-minded in terms of my opinions and worldview, and just more open to the people I meet. I’m not afraid to ask for directions, be around a group of new people, or strike up a conversation with a stranger.

And in regards to my plans, I am infinitely more patient in times of uncertainty. Travel has helped me relax a little when it comes to not knowing what the future holds. I say “a little” because a big part of me – you might say my head – still wants to know what next year or the year after is going to look like. My head wants the answers now. But another part of me – what you might call my heart – has learned that something almost always works out. My heart has learned not to stress over the answers I don’t have, but to enjoy the questions and the beautiful mystery that life often is. My heart knows I shouldn’t want things all figured out!

What was the change that began the actual traveling?

Candace Rose
I spent my entire last year of college trying to figure out a way to go abroad after graduation – be it through a teaching fellowship in the UK or working as an au pair in Paris – but I also very much wanted to pursue songwriting as a career. It was only when I started looking into jobs in Nashville and read that they offered one week’s vacation a year that it hit me: I would never see the world on one week a year.

That was the shift that kicked it all off. I began to think about my life in terms of one question – what would I regret the most? Songwriting was my biggest passion, but I realized I would regret not seeing the world more than anything else…more than pursuing a career as a songwriter, and more than moving back to my hometown for a guy I was seeing at the time. I viewed my initial journey as a kind of preemptive move to prevent regret or future heartbreak.

Finally, a month before graduation, I ran into two old friends at an end-of-the-year dinner. The first thing they said to me was, “Candace, come to London with us.” Their serendipitous invitation couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Three months after graduation, I’d sold my car, saved up $5,000, and moved to London with them for six months.

What are your future plans? What can we expect to see on your blog in the coming weeks?

As they’ve tended to be these last few years, my future plans are in flux :) But the beginning of 2014 will most likely find me hiding out on an island in the Pacific Northwest and finishing up my first memoir (which I talk about a bit more in the next question!).

I’ll also be shifting gears slightly on my blog. This past year, I’ve been on two sketching trips overseas – one in Southeast Asia and Japan, and another through Eastern Europe and Turkey – so my blog was largely focused on sharing sketches from both trips, as well as launching my first book of travel sketches and stories, Beneath the Lantern’s Glow.

In 2014, my focus is shifting to finish up my memoir, so I imagine I’ll be talking a lot about the writing process and memoir as a genre. At the same time, I also plan to document my new island life as it unfolds and will continue to share travel stories – and there are bound to be a few sketches popping up here and there!

I saw that you're trying to get your book published. How is that coming along? Do you plan on writing other books about your travels?

Yes and yes! My book is a memoir tentatively titled The Only Courage, which comes from a quote by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke that I’ve loved for a long time: “That is fundamentally the only courage which is demanded of us: to be brave in the face of the strangest, most singular and most inexplicable things that can befall us.”

At the moment, I have two-thirds of the book written – or just over 50,000 words – so I’ve got about 25,000 more to go. As I’ve been working on it since the fall of 2010, it has been quite a process putting it together and the premise has changed several times since the beginning. I’ve found that when you’re writing from life, it can be hard to know when the story is finished. But I do believe that the story I want to tell in this book is finally complete and ready to be told.

And I absolutely plan to keep on writing books! I already have an idea in mind as a follow-up to this first memoir, and as I’m obsessed with both islands and pilgrimages, I’d like to explore both of those subjects in book-length projects as well.

If you could share one story from one of your trips, which would it be? Why was it so important?

Eyliva Celebi Way
Mehmet and Fatima
What a question! If I have to choose just one, it would definitely come from my most recent trip. While in Turkey, I did a 22-day, 350-km trek called the Evliya Çelebi Way, which traces the beginning of Çelebi’s 1671 pilgrimage to Mecca. Although I’ve done a couple other such walking journeys before, this was the first time the path was not waymarked and I was forced to rely on a cheap compass I’d bought in Istanbul to help me stay on track.

During my second week on the trail, there was one day in particular where I kept getting hopelessly lost and it would take me far longer than necessary to get from point to point. It was raining, I was fuming, my shoulders were burning beneath my overweight backpack, and I really just wanted to give up. But then I came across a small farmhouse and decided to see if the family inside could point me in the right direction.

The couple who lived there were named Mehmet and Fatima, and they immediately sat me down in front of their wood-burning stove to dry off. Fatima served me tea, olives, and potato börek, and when I was finished eating, Mehmet actually put on my backpack and proceeded to guide me across their land to the next stretch of road I needed to walk – never before have I ever experienced such warmth and kindness as I did in Turkey.

That day was a huge life lesson for me in trusting the path and its provision – that even when we think we’re lost, we can still be going in the right direction.
The Eyliva Celebi Way
The kindness of strangers.

What is one place you haven't gone to yet that you definitely want to visit someday? 
(I know this might be partially answered by a previous question--if the previous clearly answered this one as well, feel free to skip it)!

The top three places on my bucket list are Antarctica, Easter Island, and Mongolia – as you can maybe tell, I’ve got a thing for distant, out-of-the-way places. Other than that, I usually let serendipity determine where I’m headed next!

For the story:

(Like I said, a lot of the blog questions can be used for the story. So there’s only a few here).

What attitude does it take to be able to keep traveling?

A tenacious one! I would say patient, but to me tenacity implies an attitude a little stronger and edgier than just patience. You are going to get knocked down a lot along the way, and traveling for an extended period of time – or creating a lifestyle that has you constantly on the move – requires a serious amount of faith and belief in yourself that you’re on the right path.

And without being too personal, what does it take realistically to be able to live abroad so much? How hard is it? Do you have advice for how I'd reflect those circumstances in a story form?

Living abroad is not easy – there are days when the lack of stability is enough to make me want to run home and unpack my bags once and for all. And by instability I mean that in a geographic and financial sense, but also in terms of emotional stability. People come and go all the time in a traveler’s life, and it can be difficult to form lasting connections with a community of people who truly support you. It’s vital to find a sense of home in yourself, and in your work. I love the idea of carrying your home with you, which helps make the constant uncertainty a little more bearable. And you also try to connect with people who have a similar lifestyle to you, people who understand why you’ve chosen to walk a less conventional path in life.

I read that you worked at a pearl farm in the Pacific Islands. It gave me an excellent idea for my book, as a way for her to begin her new life as a traveler—and as her desire to see the ocean is a theme in the book, I thought it would be really beautiful. Of course, I'm probably romanticizing it. So was it like a indoor factory, or did you actually get to work near the shore? I have no idea how this works. But I assume, even if my character has to work in an indoor factory, she'd likely have plenty of chances to go to the beach? How would you describe your life there? Could you give me an idea overall of what it would be like for my character?

Thanks so much for asking about the pearl farm, Elora! It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve actually written an article about my experience there that should hopefully answer some of your questions about the pearl farm – I’m attaching a PDF version of it just to show you a few photos of the farm itself, but as the text is a little grainy, here’s a link to where you can read the article online

Pearl farming in Polynesia
The pearl farm in Polynesia. Absolutely beautiful.

     Well that was awesome. Thank you so much Candace! We learned so much, and I'm definitely fired up to go WWOOFing. And of course, the first destination on my mind is the same place--if I can. Who knows when I'll manage it though. We'll see!
  Don't forget to hope over to Candace's blog, The Great Affair!


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