It’s a weird title, right? I mean, how are travel and my bedroom (one that I’m not in) flooding?
Stick with me and you’ll find out.
The Great Flood
Our story begins this weekend, when I called my mom for our weekly chat.
She opened with an abashed smiled and asked, “Ok, do you want the bad news or the not so bad news first?”
That could mean a million things. Our family dog has been struggling recently. My grandmother is 90. My step-dad is regularly playing with power tools. She could be ill. The trip to Russia could have been cancelled. Someone could have lost their job.
All of those possibilities and more flooded my mind.
So I asked for the bad news first. Get it out of the way and end on a high note, right?
Well, it turns out it wasn’t a true catastrophe, just a minor one: my basement bedroom had flooded.
The O.G. Flood
It’s not the first time this has happened. I think it’s the third now? Or maybe just the second. But it’s been years.
I still remember coming home from vacation to water raining from the ceiling into our kitchen. My bedroom, beneath the kitchen, was already taking on the water. The carpet squelched coldly under my feet as I tried to gather my things before they were as waterlogged as the floor.
That flood avoided most of my valuables. A few notebooks were warped and my room never quite lost the stale-carpet smell. But, for the most part, it was all ok.
I don’t know how that could be possible when our house had become a waterfall attraction over the weekend.
The Be All and End All
This time, was worse.
The dishwasher had broken in the night, flooding my bedroom first before it tried to take down the kitchen.
Apparently the appliance had been spewing water all night. My poor ceiling couldn’t take the flood and collapsed.
This time, the water wasn’t concentrated in the middle of my room, where there was nothing to destroy. Instead, it went for the wall my bed is pressed against. It went for the wall with my bookshelves. It went for the wall that connects to our hot water heater.
It was a true and proper flood.
Water Water Everywhere
The “not so bad” news? My clothes are fine.
Most of my other stuff is salvageable too. My dresser drawers and makeshift shower-closet protected my garments.
But my bed was not so lucky. Both mattresses (my usual one and the one I moved home from university) are trashed. The cardboard boxes holding my TV, my microwave and my kitchen electronics were victims of the flood. The two pairs of heels I keep just in case I ever decide to wear heels (which is never) are drenched.
Our driveway is filled with the remnants of my room.
The rest, we moved upstairs to a safe haven that’s never flooded (knock on wood!). The guest room is my new place.
After my room was stripped to the concrete base of the house, it became clear that it was done being a room. Industrial fans and opened walls make it look more like a factory now, although my lilac walls and solitary “Hollywood” poster remain.
Losing More Than Just Books
Suddenly, I had to say goodbye to my last “home” in Toronto.
That’s not to say that I’m not still welcome in the house. But my room – my designated place in the house, that I’d decorated and suffered through puberty in – is gone.
I’m not going to decorate a room at my parent’s house anymore. It’s not worth it when I’m only in the city for a few weeks of the year.
The goodbye wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be.
I teared up when my mom told me my Chaucer was wet – which, admittedly, had more to do with my room being destroyed than my favourite middle english book needing a blow dry.
But I was otherwise ok.
I didn’t feel the intense separation anxiety I used to get when I’d even imagine my parents moving. There was no pang of loss in my chest or a nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t demand they rebuild it before I arrive home in three weeks (unrealistic, yes. But 13-year-old Nina would 100% have done it).
Instead, I accepted the news.
It was no one’s fault (except maybe the house gremlins). I hadn’t really lost anything.
Since my first thoughts had been someone being hurt, this felt like a paper cut.
The Calm After the Storm
The calm attitude I had was the more jarring thing.
When had I ever handled a crisis in a reasonable way? I’m more of the cry-until-your-eyes-are-so-puffy-you-can’t-blink or pick-a-fight-with-whoever-is-nearby-and-say-horrible-things type of person.
Or I used to be.
Ever since I started travelling long-term, I’ve become more easy going.
Material things matter less. Losing things isn’t the end of the world. My attachment to items has lessened.
That’s not to say I don’t like things – cause I definitely do. But now, if something rips or I lose something, I can survive it.
Living out of a single suitcase for 8 months helped lessen my attachment to items. When you travel with so little, you start to look at the stuff you have as necessities. My shirts mattered only as things to cover me so I could work on the farm or lead hikes.
They weren’t a statement of my identity the way they had been.
Living away from home for so long also made me realize that Toronto and my parents’ houses aren’t really my “home” anymore. Sure, I still call them that. But that’s because I call wherever I’m sleeping for the night “home.” But I know they aren’t really my place in the world.
Home is changeable now. At the moment, it’s my Airbnb in Auckland. Soon it’ll be a dorm in Oxford.
I’ve learned that I can move around and not lose the meaning of home. As a kid, when I used to feel physically ill at the idea of my dad moving out of my childhood home, I feared that losing the house would mean losing all of the good memories and emotions that came with it.
Now I know better.
Caring less about stuff I haven’t seen in nearly 9 months and being ok moving are two small changes in me since I started travelling alone.
There are so many more that also contributed to how I handled my bedroom flooding.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I process information. Travel has helped me realize what actually matters to me – like my family’s health over my old Twilight books getting wet. It’s helped me accept change in my life and in my surroundings. Growing through travel has been much more fun than growing at home ever was. It’s pushed me to learn quicker and adapt to unexpected things.
And I’m better for all the changes travel has caused.
I think that’s the real “good news.”