THE GAP: WHERE LIFE HAPPENS

THE GAP: WHERE LIFE HAPPENS

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Overview

The Gap, is a melding of both The Alchemist, and Wild.

The Gap traces Kim’s adventures as she tries to accommodate a new MS diagnosis with achieving her dreams.

Discovering that she might lose use of her legs, the race is on to fulfill her life’s mission of travelling and working around the world, searching along the way for love and meaning.

Across continents and cultures, her story navigates highs and lows, loves and loss, opportunities grasped and some misunderstood. She meets the love of her life at Uluru and travels to Glasgow to pursue the relationship only to watch it slip away.

She joins a UNESCO-sponsored course in an effort to find a career that might change the world, but her hopes are dashed as her MS worsens.

She travels to Southern Spain to seek a healthier, non-medical approach to managing her disease, treks through South America, and gets detoured to New Zealand on the promise of her perfect match.

Kim seeks enlightenment and meaningful work in India before meeting up with the father she hasn’t seen for three decades in Thailand and learning some home truths.

Behind her is the constant spectre of home – and it becomes clear that, despite her nomadic ways, she’s always been looking for a place to truly belong.

A chance message from her long lost Scottish love sees her returning to Scotland where she realises everything she’s been searching for was at home all along.

The book is a clarion call for those feeling trapped, misplaced or simply in need of encouragement, strength and support, in troubled times. It articulates that they can still achieve everything they desire and more despite being dealt a bad hand.

A little Eat, Pray, Love, a little Wild, a little Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness, The Gap is a hopeful book about never giving up despite what life throws at you and how sometimes you can search the world for something that was within you all the time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780987096098
Publisher: Scratch & Co.
Publication date: 10/10/2018
Pages: 242
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

THE NETHERLANDS

Just ten months earlier I'd relocated to Leeuwarden, Friesland – the land of the black and white cow. Filled with lakes and parks, I think it's one of Holland's prettiest towns – like Amsterdam in miniature. I'd driven from Glasgow to Hatfield to Harwich, my car packed to the gills and my bright, shiny, new pushbike lashed to the rack. Across the channel to the Hook of Holland, north past Harlem and Amsterdam I drove, stopping only to stretch my legs at the Zeider Zee, one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

I was there because I'd become disillusioned with the corporate world. I was twenty-nine, living in Glasgow, feeling unchallenged and itching for something new. I longed for greater direction and purpose – an opportunity to soar. The world felt like it was pressing in around me – I was desperate to escape.

Then, one icy winter afternoon after a recreation studies class I'd taken on spec to lift my spirits, Dr Lindsey handed me a brochure.

"You're studying at the wrong level," he'd said. "Read that. If you're interested, get back to me."

It was an exciting opportunity – too good to say no, really. Established by a Canadian organisation, the Masters in International Leisure & Recreation programme wasn't just ahead of its time, it was UNESCO sponsored. Since I'd first heard about the organisation as a teenager, I'd felt an affinity with the United Nations and UNESCO's cultural and scientific programs. Like many young people, I had been sure I had an important job to do in the world – one that would make a significant difference – and it was a dream to join the United Nations someday. I had an inquisitive mind, an insatiable appetite for new and different experiences and a desire to fulfil my potential.

The UNESCO-sponsored programme would expose me to a range of cultures and experiences beyond purely academic subjects. Thirty students from different nationalities were each carefully allocated to a house by gender, culture, placement interests and language skills. Each house would organise weekly social and educational events, hosting nights with visiting tutors and other community guests. I couldn't wait to sign up – not so much for the educational experience but the chance to find a purpose I could call my own.

I'd always been looking for somewhere to belong. My upbringing had been 'proper' – that's English 'proper.' Children should be seen and not heard, my parents said. Decorum and elegance was the order of the day. There were rules, rules and more rules, good behaviour, good manners, diligence and respect. Mostly, such demands stood me in good stead for later life. But they left their mark. I'd always planned to get away from England for good. The programme seemed the perfect solution. If nothing else, it would save me thousands of travel miles by dropping me into a different culture with readymade connections, community and purpose – the chance to settle into a new life. I wanted to escape Britain, and this was my ticket to ride.

I didn't know how I could afford it but I had to find a way – it was everything I wanted. I applied, was accepted for the next intake and was moving out of Glasgow in short shrift.

* * *

I pulled into a newish looking residential area that would be my home for the next year. I'd been expecting a more welcome sight – something more like the enchanting historic buildings I'd seen as I drove past Leeuwarden's town centre. Instead I saw twelve drab two-storey concrete boxes set around a square, looking like the kind of pre-fabricated houses that had been built hastily post 1945. Timber window frames, splintered. Paint, peeling. Scraps of fabric hung at some windows instead of curtains, gardens were more like jungles. They looked liked they'd been unoccupied since the war but cars in the driveways told another story. My heart sunk – they weren't in the least like the typical Dutch house with an odd-shaped roofline, wooden window shutters and a colourful, well-manicured garden I'd imagined.

My eye caught the winter sun bouncing off a window behind the large overgrown tree in the corner. I plodded to the front door.

A six-foot-two hunk of physique greeted me with a burst of energy. The swarthy skinned Latino had dark wavy locks and a smile that beamed two rows of perfectly aligned, large, white sparkling teeth. His face was angular and masculine and he had a sunny warmth that lifted my spirits the instant his deep, dark brown eyes met mine.

"You've come for the course, yes? There's coffee on – would you like?" he offered as he gestured me inside. As he went to get me a cup, he fired off that his name was Luca, he was from Argentina and that he'd also arrived a few days early to settle in and prepare for our adventure. He spoke so fast and with such a strong accent that I couldn't find a space to get a word in.

As he rummaged in a cupboard I looked around the living room. Despite being sparsely furnished the large room had a lovely homely feel. There were two squiggy brown, cumbersome sofas surrounding a huge television and a Dutch seascape. Nothing was to my taste but everything was impressively clean. With full width glass sliding doors that led to the concrete paved courtyard, it was also a great party space.

"This is going to be great," I heard myself say.

"New to the Netherlands?" Luca asked, placing a coffee cup in my hand.

"No, I'm not," I chuckled. "I came here many years ago to visit my teenage best friend, Sasha."

"She had a troubled life," I added. "I've often wondered what became of her."

We'd had so much fun. Sasha called me 'Gonzo' after the muppet with a hooked nose – my nose wasn't hooked but it made her laugh, so I let it stick. I called her 'Topo' after Topo Gigo, the Italian cartoon character. Topo wasn't pretty, but her dark skin, beautiful smile and striking features were still very attractive. Sophisticatedly clad in expensive clothes and wildly charismatic, she looked older than her years, while I, blessed with good genes, looked younger. It's funny how we were so alike, yet complete opposites. I had a heap of brown wavy hair that hung half way down my back, until my mother got sick of using 'no more tears.' I wore my Lithuanian heritage on my face – bright blue eyes, olive skin, high cheekbones and square jaw. Unlike Topo, I didn't care much for fashion, but I took pride in my appearance – outwardly pressed and buttoned up, I quietly wore my confidence on the inside.

Topo had been sent to England by her Dutch-Indonesian grandparents, where we'd schooled together. I don't recall how she and I first became friends, but I do remember we made a good pair on the hockey field. We always pushed our luck – sometimes our cheekiness won out. Even when it didn't, we thrived on the challenge. That's pretty much how we were – well mannered, hardworking kids who knew what they wanted and were determined to get it.

Eventually, when her pregnant mother remarried, Topo returned to Holland and asked me to come visit. She and her stepfather would meet me at the airport.

Stepping off the plane, I'd teetered towards them, focussing on staying upright along the slippery airport walkways in my wine coloured strappy stilettos to offset my white outfit. I was a little taller than the average girl my age and proud of my athletic physique.

"I was a bit of a tomboy back then and it was my first foray into the world as a wanna-be young lady," I explained to Luca, telling him the story. I felt my smile widen, shaking my head in memory of that night. We were dropped at Topo's grandmother's house and told to wait until her mother returned home. But Amsterdam called.

The old Dutch house stood alongside a canal. From its huge attic space – Topo's bedroom – we could see the spires of Sint Nicollaasbasilick (Saint Nicholas Church) in the distance, protruding above the city lights. I'd desperately wanted to get out and explore but we'd been expressly barred from going anywhere.

"You've got everything you need up there with a built-in bar, fridge and record deck," her grandmother had said peevishly when I'd asked if we could go down to the end of the street. "There'll be plenty of time to explore later."

"Well, that was like a red rag to a bull for two fresh faced, impish teenagers used to getting their own way," I said to Luca. Feeling as if we'd been banished to the attic, except at meal times, Topo and I began planning obscure escape routes and plotting magnificent schemes to rid ourselves of the wearisome grandparent.

First we'd danced and sung ourselves into a fever pitch with Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' on repeat – turning up the volume loud, then louder. Breathless and laughing our heads off we collapsed on the large mattress. Then we crept down the three flights of stairs barefooted to the entrance hall. We could just hear Topo's grandmother Annisa behind the closed door of the sitting room, listening to her Buddhist mantras and basket weaving. Topo carefully retrieved the door key from the hook beside the old wooden coat rack. The front door's lock clicked audibly – a short, sharp, solid 'tock' as the grandfather clock in the hall sounded it was nine pm. We'd synchronized it perfectly – the Buddhist mantras continued unabated. Slowly, quietly, we inched the door open until we could just slip through. Wide eyed, we sat on the step to slip our shoes on – we daren't speak. Then, hand in hand, we scampered down the street.

"There's a tram. Run for it!" I said pulling her along.

"No. No, we can't. We can't!" replied Topo with a strained voice. She pulled back. I tightened my grip on her hand.

"Come on!" I urged, "We've come this far. We can't turn back."

"We don't have any money," she wailed.

"We'll be fine," I'd promised.

Jumping on board, I positioned us next to the door, ready for a quick exit. We gripped the rail for dear life and sidled closer to a big group of travellers, hoping any one noticing us would assume we were with them. We rode for a good long time, marvelling at the city lights, but when the inspector lurched in our direction I pushed Topo out the door as soon as we reached the next stop.

The tram rattled away and we found ourselves alone again in the dark. Topo squeezed my hand hard in fear but I ignored her, dragging her behind me down the dimly lit street, remaining deaf to her insistence we turn back at once. I was drawn like a moth towards some lights pinned to an unbroken stretch of reddish brown brick buildings standing shoulder to shoulder to our left. Something appeared to happening there.

A dark alley came into view, smelling like a urinal. Peeping around the corner we froze against the wall – all mushy and wet with moss. There was a lady – in a window! Almost naked! It was a sight completely unexpected for two convent schoolgirls. We stifled a giggle as we took in her flimsy, bright red negligee and pale pink fluffy boa that draped down past the tiniest pair of black lace panties I'd ever seen. Her long shapeless legs were set akimbo, ending in shiny red stilettos.

She tilted her head, pouted and rolled her eyes – right onto us.

"Stront (shit)!" Topo called, pulling me back quickly. Giggling we ran back the way we had come.

"We can't be here," Topo cried breathlessly, when we finally stopped. "If my mother catches me ..."

"How will she ever know?" I scoffed. "Besides, do you know how to get home?" I asked.

Topo shook her head, taking off again. I was tempted to go in the other direction – I didn't want to go back to that stuffy old attic. When would I get another chance to escape again?

Topo was rounding the next corner before I grudgingly ran after her. We followed the tram tracks for a while, not talking or even looking at each other. When we crossed over to walk along the canal I reached out to stop her.

"Why did you make me?" Topo hissed angrily. "It's alright for you. You'll go home eventually and I'll wear the consequences when you're gone." I didn't have an answer for her – I didn't really know why I was so desperate to explore the city. The idea of escaping had just seemed such a rush – as if I could finally see Amsterdam my way.

After what seemed like hours of wandering we were both cold and tired. It wasn't fun anymore, not by a long shot.

"How much further is it?" I asked, flopping down on a bench, determined not to take another step.

"It's only going to get colder," Topo said shortly. She looked back and forth along the canal. "It can't be that far now."

"Call your dad – I'm sure he'll come for us," I said, hugging myself to keep warm. Why hadn't I brought gloves and a hat, I wondered, feeling doleful and trying to brush the damp mist from my hair.

"No way! He'll kill me!" She screeched back. "We need to get in before Granny hits the hay or she'll call the police." Her eyes lit up. Taking off she called back, "Wait there!" reappearing a little later leading two bicycles.

"Where did you get those?" I asked astonished. "Did you steal them?"

"Be quiet," she hissed back. "Just come on. Everyone steals bikes in Holland."

We rode this way and that while I tried to keep up with her as best I could. Finally, Topo began to recognise where she was. She made us ditch the bikes a block away, sprinting the last metres to her grandparents' house. As we turned into her street, we could see her grandmother standing on the doorstep.

"Verdomme!" She cried when she spied us. "Kom hier je stoute maiden. What do you think you've been doing?" Topo cringed.

"It's my fault," I stepped up. "I wanted to go to the end of the street. Sasha just came out to convince me to come back."

Topo's grandmother shooed us in harshly, a torrent of Dutch coming from her lips. I didn't know exactly what she was saying but I knew it wasn't good. She pushed Topo up the stairs, leaving me to follow along glumly.

"You'll go to bed now and I'll hear no more from you," the old lady growled. "I'll be speaking to your mother, Sasha." With that she shut the attic door with a bang.

Topo ignored me as she changed for bed and slipped beneath the blankets. I followed suit.

"So, much for you and old Frankie boy," I said to Topo, as we lay as far apart as possible.

"Don't speak to me," she huffed, turning away.

"It was never quite the same between us after that," I told Luca sadly. "Our contact fizzled out after I went back home."

"Not everyone's made for adventure," he said.

"It was more than that, I think," I mused. "I've always been determined to do things my way – I've never given any thought to compromise." Glancing down at myself, I doubt much had changed. I was action girl. I was strong, athletic and up for anything physical from skiing off mountains with a parachute to scuba diving – the more challenging the better. I ran ten kilometres three or four times a week – I lived for activity and I was always searching for something more.

Somehow, though, over the years seeking had become all that mattered. As soon as I'd found what I thought I was looking for, I was off on some other quest. Restless, I'd travelled around the world looking for something to satisfy my soul, make me feel better, make me feel like the life I'd chosen was the right one for me. I'd left friends, family and lovers in my wake in my need to do everything my way.

"What happened to Sasha?" Luca asked.

"I don't know. It was evident our friendship wouldn't hold – I disconnected. I tend to do that," I murmured, my attention elsewhere. "I wanted to find my own path forward and didn't want to be pigeonholed."

"Did you find your way?" he enquired.

"No. I'm still looking," I said. "That's why I'm here."

We were interrupted by footsteps in the hall.

"Hola Paco," called Luca. "Pacquiao's from Puerto Rico," he turned to tell me. The newcomer extended his hand. With a sleepy voice he said, "I've been exploring."

Pacquiao wasn't your typical Puerto Rican, except for the gold wrist chain. He'd spent most of his life at school in the United States. He had a brown but pale complexion, dark hair and the darkest brown eyes that, in contrast to Luca', looked kind of vacant, as if there was nobody home. I suspected some kind of recreational drug. Nevertheless, he was an interesting character. He'd spent his summers working the Latino cruise ships, organising onshore tours and shopping expeditions, returning later, of course, to pocket his commissions. On board, he spent most evenings partnering the spinsters or wives of men who couldn't/wouldn't attempt a salsa, lambda or merengue. Perhaps that's where he'd mastered his acceptance and placidity. I was never sure whether Paco understood or cared about what was going on – he seemed disengaged. I must say he scrubbed up well, though. I could see why the old dears would have loved to cha cha with him – he had a raffish, boyish charm.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Gap"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kim Venskunas.
Excerpted by permission of Scratch & Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

That’s Life!

A Question of Values

Prologue


  1. The Netherlands
  2. Canada
  3. Bali
  4. Australia
  5. Scotland
  6. Spain
  7. South America
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. India
  11. Thailand
  12. The Highlands


Epilogue

Old Proverb

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’

A Note from the Author

Bon Voyage, My Friend

Acknowledgements

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