I didn’t start out expecting to roam the world as a nomad. I thought I was going to spend my life with my husband. It was a good life and a glamorous one. We ate in the best restaurants, went to the Academy Awards and the Grammies, and had a high profile list of friends (most of them writer-friends whom he had acquired through work). We didn’t do a lot of traveling because he was phobic about planes.
Then, in 1986, he asked for a divorce. Once I accepted the fact that it was inevitable, I looked around and tried to picture my life as a single woman in L.A. My kids, ages 22 and 23, were in Vail, Colorado and Singapore at the time. I knew I wasn’t going to be the kind of mom who moved in down the street and saw them every day. I was too independent for that. And so were they. I also knew that I didn’t want to hold my husband hostage for the rest of his life by accepting alimony. We’d had too many years of happiness together to do that. I also hated the idea of being dependent on that check. I wasn’t going to give that kind of power to anyone, even if it benefited me. No. I resolved to create a life that would work for me.
I looked around at the possibilities. I would have rent an apartment and get a job. My career as a children’s book writer didn’t bring in enough money to live on and I had resolved to invest the money from the sale of our house so I wouldn’t have to worry about the future. Royalties from my books brought in around ten thousand dollars a year and if I wrote one or two new ones every year, I could add from three to six thousand dollars. Not enough for an apartment, a health insurance policy, and a life.
I also thought about the women I knew who were living life-after-divorce. They were mostly looking for men and living through their children. Some of them were perpetually angry at their ex’s for having done this to them. Others were still in court, years after the split. I wanted to go on. I especially hated the thought of a job and an apartment. There had to be other choices.
At the time of my divorce, I was in school at UCLA, studying anthropology. I loved reading about other cultures and I dreamed about visiting them. I had no trouble seeing myself in the place of the ethnographers, interacting with total strangers and becoming a part of their lives. As a child I dreamed of visiting mountain tribes and sitting around a fire with tribal people. When I got married, I tried to convince my husband that we ought to honeymoon on a trip down the Amazon. He was having none of it. We honeymooned in Miami.
But now I was on my own. I didn’t have to compromise or ask permission. Why not take off and wander the world? I could write kids’ books wherever I was. I’d never done anything like it, but why not?
“Things” had never been important to me. Partly because “things” had to be cared for and organized and worried about. I was a lousy organizer and not a very good worrier. And now that my kids and husband were gone, I was free to do it my way. I just had to figure out what that was.
I decided to sell or give away everything I owned and take off……with what I could carry on my back and a vague plan that was totally loose to allow for serendipity. (I’m no better a planner than I am an organizer). I was excited when I realized I didn’t have to do it the way they thought I should. I could design my own life, one that fit my dreams.
There is more than one way to do life and I was going to discover one that worked for me.
TALES OF A FEMALE NOMAD is all about fifteen years of that life. I’ve been living it now for more twenty-five years.