We met at the University of Bristol in 2012 when Stacie was enthusiastically embarking on a PhD and Johnny was less enthusiastically writing up a PhD. During our first few years together, travel was something we read about, rather than something we did. Through our academic interests — though focussed on periods centuries apart and completely different types of literature — we explored how stories travelled from country to country and the function of those stories, how they connected people and how they could be mobilised to set people apart. We didn’t even take a holiday together for the first two and a half years. By that time, we had moved to Oxford where Johnny took up a job in publishing. Travelling, for Stacie at least, then meant commuting; it meant spending a lot of time waiting for trains at Didcot Parkway (an interchange station for south/south west England). Later, travelling meant commuting to London on the Oxford Tube (a cheap bus), often with the accompanying sickly feeling that being on a hot and stuffy coach can induce. In London, Stacie taught a course on French objects in London’s museums and galleries: how did those objects end up there? What did they say about about links between France, Britain, and the rest of the world? Once again, travelling was accessed through stories, history, rather than experiences.
These interests in mobility and connections to places led us to choose Kathleen Jamie’s ‘The Graduates’as a reading at our ‘braw’ wedding in 2017. The poem is about the personal changes and opportunities that come with going away to university — an experience without which we wouldn’t have met. It recognises one’s roots in the past, in places and family, whilst also describing the horizon-extending journey of gaining an education; that despite being far away from home and living very different lives to our families, those ties are still there and will still be part of us wherever we may journey in the future. Just as ‘People make Places’ (an adaptation of the slogan ‘People make Glasgow’, the city of our own wedding), ‘Places make People’.
Wedding photo by Harper Scott Photo
The honeymoon was our opportunity to travel and Japan was our intended destination. We quickly drew up a list of places we’d like to visit, things we’d like to do. But, with busy lives and jobs, planning such an extended and complex trip took a backseat. After a visit to a travel agent who could arrange the trip for us produced a jaw-dropping quote (we’re talking the equivalent of a house deposit in certain places), we spontaneously booked a last-minute deal to a private island resort in The Maldives. How we laughed at the thought of us — ‘inherently off-beat but in a thoroughly uncontrived way’ according to our wedding photographer, the very excellent Carole-Ann of Harper Scott Photo — going on such a stereotypical honeymoon! And yet, as we settled into our villa on the beach, as we settled into life on an island a mile in diameter, where the only question to answer was mojito or piña colada, we felt calm for the first time in a long time. Our honeymoon trip to The Maldives proved to be a lot more decisive in our lives than we had ever anticipated.
At first, we came back saying that we needed at least a week in The Maldives every year, at least a week every year to slow down the pace of life. Later, it became clear that the whole time that we’d been together had felt like one long, stressful period: finishing one PhD, transitioning out of study, climbing up the career ladder, finishing another PhD, working all hours, juggling three jobs, being on the (brutal) academic job market, receiving rejection after rejection… In short, the emotional strain of trying to make our extended periods of study seem professionally worth it was exhausting. Our life lacked peace, lacked calm. We needed a break; we needed to break out of our routines, out of our approach to life.
Ironically, Stacie’s efforts to make a career out of studying the effects of intercultural encounters had grounded us. We felt trapped in a city that we never had really gelled with, paying high rents, and without much time to go away. A weekend in Warsaw was bookended with Stacie working on her research during the outbound and return flights. Other trips were tagged onto the end of academic conferences. Yes, we had a great time in Berlin, in Paris, in Scotland, but we lacked the freedom to wander at will. No mortgage, no children, no financial concerns and still we felt stuck in a routine, in a restrictive way of life, in a stifling city. And so, we made a change: we became location independent house sitters and started working remotely. We chose to live to travel, rather than to live to read about travelling. We chose to build a house on the road, a maison péripatétique.