Saskia Griffiths is a woman of a thousand places. She thrives nomadically—regularly selling most of her belongings, packing up her few essential items, and moving across the world. Saskia grew up in Andorra, a tiny country of 7,000 people housed between France and Spain. She remembers herself as a little girl looking at a globe and knowing that she wanted to travel the world not to “know what the map looks like, [but to] know what [the countries] felt like.”
For our interview, I spoke with Saskia from her new home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She had arrived to the city ten days before our call and had an instinctive feeling for much of her life that once she landed in South America—she would never leave. She shares her first impressions of Buenos Aires: “It feels more raw here . . . and I am attracted to places that feel raw.” In our discussions of travel and wanderlust, I notice how easy it is for me to project feelings of romanticism or idealism when thinking about living a nomadic lifestyle. Although I love to travel, I am at my best when I feel grounded and rooted with a consistent home base. Sharing these sentiments with Saskia, I am surprised at her response:
“It’s interesting that you use the exact same words that I feel for the opposite. I look at people who have roots and I’m like wow that must feel so secure and so good to have that deep knowing. And I’ve tried so hard, so many times. To me, [being rooted] feels romantic and solid and stable [but there’s] just something inside of me . . . [that has] this deep desire to explore and adventure around the world. It’s in my family; I just have to accept it.”
Our conversation goes on to explore the idea of transitions, security, and the desire to feel stable. Saskia and I come from very different worlds so we are able to demonstrate a wide spectrum of how these words can hold meaning. As Saskia had recently lost most forms of security and stability in her life, she recollects a recent encounter in which she told the following to a stranger in passing:
“I wish that everybody in the world at some point in their life loses everything to realize that there’s no moment in time where you feel more secure than when you have nothing. [Then] you realize that your security depends on nothing.”
The main story that Saskia shares with me for Gutted is a tale of love and illusion with a man that she was in relationship with. She met her now ex-husband on New Year’s Eve of 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Her story is one that fits the mold of a fairytale. It’s the story of being in love that so many of us have been taught to trust and believe wholeheartedly. And this isn’t to discount or discredit what Saskia and her ex experienced—it is simply to illuminate the illusion of love that is sold to us from a very young age. It’s a type of intoxicating romance that encourages you to fall head over heels, allowing the irrational part of your brain to govern your decision-making. What I love about Saskia’s story is that it starts off with “Once upon a time . . .” and I even think it ends with “happily ever after” but not in the traditional sense.
After their initial meeting, they spent five days together falling in love in Budapest. At the end of their time together and before parting ways at the airport, they made a plan to meet up a few months later and hike Mount Kilimanjaro. An hour or so later, while Saskia sat waiting for her flight—this man appeared in front of her, got down on one knee, and proposed. And she said, “Yes.”
Over the course of the next many months, Saskia and her ex traveled the world, met each other’s friends and family, and eventually got married in Utah a little over a year after they first met. She reflects on how her friends and family felt about what was happening: “We had this incredible whirlwind of a relationship where everybody around us was constantly like ‘Whoa, you guys are kind of crazy’ . . . but at the same time they loved it. [I think they thought] ‘Well, maybe [this will] work out.’”
After the wedding, Saskia packed up her bags and left the community she had spent years creating in Mallorca, Spain to move to Phoenix, Arizona to be with her husband. Upon settling and becoming adjusted with her husband’s reality (which included a lot of stability and resources), Saskia began to feel like her world was crumbling all around her. She notes,
“Our realities were just so different—that to me [the stability and shiny things] really weighed me down.”
“Our discussions about what he found fulfilling really wasn’t fulfilling for me. And so this dream that we had created in traveling around the world together and always meeting in amazing places on adventures— [was a dream] . . . And seeing all of that and then realizing that [his actual reality] wasn’t for me and then having the realization of what I had left and how easily I had left it [was really painful].”
Reflecting on this beautiful yet heartbreaking whirlwind romance, Saskia starts to question which parts of the romance were reality and which parts were an illusion. As she is sharing, I can hear her curiously ponder whether any of it was real or whether was she just fooling herself. When the relationship eventually dissolved, she felt like she was losing her mind, watching what she had created and assumed to be truth fall away piece by piece. She was living in a new place, with new people, with a new identity, and no longer knowing who she was. She was forced to face sides of herself that she had never previously met and she did not have the safety or security of her nomadic lifestyle to support her through the unraveling.
At the conclusion of the interview, Saskia shares about the shame and guilt that she felt after everything had fallen apart. Not only had she lost her sense of self and a relationship with a man she loved, but she had also beat herself up for not knowing better. And this—above all else—was really damaging. It wasn’t getting caught in the storm between reality and illusion that got her; it was how she punished herself for making a mistake.
Finishing our conversation, Saskia shares what she learned about the idea of making mistakes:
“What I’ve learned is that there are no mistakes. Even when we choose to not listen to [our] intuition and to not be guided by the invisible signs, [we’re] being guided because [we’re] taking the detour that [we] need to take. And it is necessary. The bigger the detour, the greater the outcome. The higher the mountain we climb, the greater the view from up top. And so, if I could tell myself or anybody who’s on that climb right now, when you get to the top, the views from up there are so worth the climb.”