October 2016 – AJ of the Month

Written by: Camila Victoire

 

Who: Audrey Crête
Age:26
Hometown: Valleyfield, Quebec

For this month’s Average Jil I wanted to talk about a very special lady, who couldn’t be any less ordinary if she tried.

Audrey’s life is full of stories and it’s hard to know where to begin.

As we sit on my bedroom floor drinking wine in mason jars, with a huge world map spread out in front of us, one thing becomes clear: most of Audrey’s stories seem to revolve around one thing — travel. Travel is not something she does, but rather is the core of who she is. She is a nomad who has constantly proven through her adventures that the world is small if you have an open mind, and that life is too short to stay put.

Audrey was a born vagabond. At the age of 14, she traveled to the Dominican Republic on her own, where she stayed with a host family for three weeks. It was after this trip that the travel bug struck and Audrey made the decision to study tourism at college.

With her degree in tow, Audrey realized that it was one thing to learn about countries and cultures, but another thing altogether to actually step out into the world and discover this strange and exciting place for herself. So, without a plan or a clue, she threw some clothes in a backpack and set off to Australia with a friend.

Audrey stayed in Australia for a year, travelling down the East Coast, surfing, partying and living the aussie beach life. It was everything she hoped it would be: travel, road trips, parties, late nights, the beach, falling in love. But the travelling life wasn’t always easy. It took tough, brutal jobs, like picking tomatoes on a farm and waitressing insane hours, to scrape together enough money to keep going. There were also many nights spent on stranger’s couches but soon enough — and mirroring the girls’ positive attitude— everything started coming together.

Audrey has always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that reason came in the form of a community of white circus tents and nomads with whom she would share the next months and years of her life.

“When we look back, it’s terrifying,” she says.

“And it’s also amazing, to see that everything needed to happen in that exact way to lead us to where we are. All the good and the bad.”

It was in Melbourne where the girls met up with a circus called Cavalia — an equestrian show of French-Canadian origins, just like them. Coincidentally, the circus was travelling around Australia in the same trajectory as the girls. They were hired on as hostesses in the VIP tent and worked their way across Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. When the circus left the continent and moved to Europe, Audrey was promoted to VIP tent supervisor, where she followed the circus to Belgium.

“The circus changes people,” Audrey tells me.

“There’s something indescribable about it… something that no-one can understand unless they’ve lived it for themselves. It’s like a virus. The travel, the people you meet who become a family that follows you from city to city, the like-mindedness of everyone there, the sense of freedom… it’s a virus, and once it bites you, it’s in your blood.”

Audrey worked as the VIP supervisor in Belgium, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. During breaks between cities, she embarked on all sorts of adventures. From getting her water bottle stolen by a monkey in Bali (who poured it out in front of her whilst laughing maliciously) to exploring the caves of New Zealand to shooting guns in the states to lying on a beach in Trinidad and Tobago and to Greece and Italy, but that’s a whole other story. There was no stopping this girl — wherever her heart wanted to go, her feet followed.

“We won’t remember what we thought about or stressed about. We’ll only remember what we did”.

After a few years of travelling non-stop, it was time to ‘settle down’. Audrey found herself managing a team of 50 employees in Sydney, Australia, working at a popular CBD restaurant. Within one year, she went from Assistant Manager to second-in-charge, but soon, the novelty of routine had worn off and Audrey was ready for a new adventure. She packed her life up once again and traveled throughout Indonesia, the Philippines, Hawaii, Shanghai and Beijing before finally making it home to Valleyfield for the first time in years.

Audrey at the Great Wall of China.
Audrey at the Great Wall of China.

“It wasn’t a huge shock to be back because I kept myself busy. I saw friends and family. I went hiking all the time to satisfy the frustrated nomad inside me. Anything to take my mind off travelling.”

“Sometimes, I can’t believe everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been. We get so caught-up in the moment, in stressing out about not having enough money or getting a job or what we want to do with our lives… the truth is, a year from now, we won’t remember any of it. We won’t remember what we thought about or stressed about. We’ll only remember what we did.

“If I could choose to improve something about myself, it would be to learn to live more in the present moment. To stop overanalyzing every little thing, to let go and embrace the impermanence of everything. Because there’s no point travelling if you’re not good in here,” she says, pointing to her head.

“You can be heartbroken and crying your eyes out in Trinidad and Tobago and everyone thinks you have this amazing life. Or you can be as happy as you’ve ever been in your home town, eating a home-cooked meal with your Mom.”

What’s next for Audrey? Who knows! She takes a whiteboard marker and traces a hypothetical-itinerary on the laminated world map, which includes Central America, Europe, the Trans-Siberian, and about 20 other places she wants to go right now. We spend a good hour looking up flights and making a budget for a grand adventure that may or may not happen.

“You want what you can’t have. When you’re home, all you want is adventure”.

“That’s the beauty of travel. When you plan or overthink, it loses its magic. The more you try to wait for the right time, the more the right time eludes you. You can’t ever plan ahead. When you travel, you never know who you’re going to meet or where the road will take you. While working for Cavalia, I stopped measuring time by months and years. Instead, I began to measure it by cities and countries. So I’m going to buy a one-way ticket somewhere and see what happens. Going out of your comfort zone… that’s where the life you want really begins.”

“It’s true that a life on the road isn’t always easy,” she says, That’s the paradox of travel. You want what you can’t have. When you’re home, all you want is adventure. And when you’re on the road, after a while, you start to miss home. Like Christmas. I always miss Christmas. I’ve spent so much time in tropical countries, that I always miss the idea of a white Christmas.”

“But as long as I have this voice in my belly,” she tells me. “I’ll follow it. Maybe one day it’ll die down or fade completely, and I’ll be overcome by the desire to settle down. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep listening to that voice, and I’m going to let it guide me, because that’s the only way I want to live my life.”