Leaving for an unknown period of time is easy. I cried once before I left Sydney Kingsford Smith on June 28 and it was because my parents were crying. I had no grievances with leaving, in truth I thrived on the knowledge of the freedom that was to come. The freedom of a pocket full of cash, an open mind and an endless amount of time and plans. Everyone tells you it’s hard out there, solo-travelling. They tell you of the dangers of being a woman abroad without another accompanying her. Of the loneliness and the homesickness. They often forget to mention however that this solitude brings you the most beautiful, soul-changing awakening to yourself; a self-awareness and realisation that changes your life so dramatically you forget who you were seven months before when you boarded that flight with your one way ticket in hand. As Thoreau put it, “I grew in these seasons like corn in the night.” Intrinsically and naturally, I felt like I had blinked and found myself new.
And then I came home.
I’ve spent most of the last few weeks lying in bed trying to think of things to get excited about. It’s ridiculous. I have no shortage of reasons to be celebrating my arrival home. I got my old job back before I even had a moments concern about finding a new one. My family and friends surprised me for my birthday and intoxicated me greatly with (free) wine. There’s even this thing here in Australia, it's in the sky and it produces warmth and you can actually see it (it’s called ‘the sun’, for my friends in Scotland). And yet I feel empty. I feel no motivation to leave this hollow room of framed memories and eclectic possessions from far away places.
I feel more lost and alone now then when I was by myself 17,000km away. I long to leave again. My account is depleted and I am indebted to two more years of full-time study. I need an escape, some kind of sanity to keep me going through this period of perceived nothingness. So I scroll through the cheapest flights, planes and trains out of here, as if by occupying my mind elsewhere this present will pass faster.
I miss the icy breeze that froze my hands as I peeled my gloves off to snap a photo of a scenic sunset. I miss the people I met. The laughs over $4 wine drunk straight from the bottle and the nights slept in foreign beds. I miss the way I fell in love with every stranger and city and moment. I miss the poetry spoken in internal dialogue. The bewilderment and praise I felt at the glory of this world. Where is the inspiration here when it’s all so familiar?
I am in a funk I cannot get out of. Perhaps we do not travel for the thrill of getting lost, but because we are already lost? Perhaps everything in our day-to-day lives is so mundane and dull because we cannot seem to grasp the joy of it like we can the joy in unseen lands?
I know what you’re thinking: “Mads, you just returned from pissing your life savings around Europe for seven months. I cannot feel sorry for you.” And that’s reasonable because I am being so incredibly unreasonable. I despise the very travel snob I have become. The type that won’t come to your bar because “if the club isn’t underground and in Berlin then what’s the point.”* The one who starts sentences with “when I lived in the U.K. …” and references her “time in Russia” in all political conversations. I don’t mean to be a wanker, but I’m coming off an adventure high that I was very dependent on and I’d appreciate if you’d bear with me whilst I’m trying to get clean.
From now onwards I am home. I’ve traded my hostel dorm for my queen-sized bed and broken-in Birkenstocks for trendy sandals. I’m not sure what home means but I am sure there is joy here too. I guess you just need to be looking for it to find it.
* quote from Amy Pracillio: fellow lone traveller, avid writer and dear West-Coast friend.