Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Back For Breakfast

My last days in America heralded the coming of winter, with heavy snowfalls and freezing temperatures. On the one hand I was glad, as low temperatures mean more layers of clothing, which in turn leads to a lighter backpack. However that does not help balance out the discomfort of colder and shorter days. Plus I had reached the end of the road on the American continent. The only way was back to Europe. It was time to go home. Not that this was a decision that had pounced on me suddenly out of the blue. In fact I had already decided a year before that I would be home for Christmas 2013, and was sticking to my plans.

My only possessions (apart from my backpack) to have survived the entire, 45 month circumnavigation: my sleeping bag, my sleeping bag liner, a base layer shirt, my Czech passport, comb, razor and my toothbrush.

It was definitely the right choice. Not because I was getting tired of the travelling, or disliking it, far from it. But it is important to realise that there are other things in life as well, and that to have a properly rounded life you shouldn't devote all your energies to a single facet of your self to the neglect of all others. Otherwise you risk becoming one-dimensional person. I have met a fair few long-term travellers, in their 40's and 50's and, although fascinating and interesting people, I feel they are lacking something in their lives. I do not want to get that way, and feel that the time is now right for devoting myself to something else. For, despite the attractions and innumerable benefits of travel, for the mind, the soul, the karma, it is also a drug, and one that is deceptively addictive. It's time for me to go cold turkey before I pass the point of no return and turn into some vagabond hippie.

The overland thing didn't work out unfortunately. To book a sea passage you have to be able to plan and commit quite far in advance, something I wasn't able to do. And so instead I turned up at JFK international by subway; went through the typically paranoid American security screening; waited patiently in line at the boarding gate; made my way to my seat, stowed my bags under the seat in front; endured the safety demonstration; stayed awake until the complimentary meal; dozed for a few hours; and woke up in a new continent. A far cry, and altogether less exciting, from turning up at a deserted border crossing, being told it's closed, and spending the night in an army barracks (thank you East Timor). On the other hand it allowed me to return home quickly and surprise my mother by turning up at her apartment, unannounced on her birthday.

The whole family together for the first time in 4 years.

Perhaps a damp squib of an ending to an epic journey, but maybe that's because we are led to expect fireworks-heralded tidy conclusions. Life, however, goes on, oblivious to my little dramas and achievements, and so must I. There are a myriad things I need to do, most of them mundane, as I readjust to a more sedentary life: rationalising my possessions, disposing of the chaff; going through a 4-year backlog of paperwork (despite my mother and brother helping take care of various bureaucratic necessities whilst I was away, I still had a crate of letters to sift through waiting for me); reconnecting with friends; and, perhaps most important of all, deciding on where to go from here. For my generation the possibilities and options are so rich and varied that making a choice becomes bewildering. I imagine (or perhaps hope) though that by next February I should have a better idea of where I'm headed.

A new adventure awaits!

1 comment:

Laura said...

You kept the same toothbrush all the way around the world?! Man, that's one hardy toothbrush...

Love from Latin America,