As of the end of today, I have been travelling around Europe for four weeks. This makes it just shy of five months since I left South Africa after packing up my life there. The further I get down this timeline, the faster is seems to be moving.
I have written quite a bit about my time in England… the pub, the countryside, the friends. These last 4 weeks have been amazing too. I have experienced an absolute kaleidoscope of sights, feelings, thoughts and reactions.
I may have noted some time ago that I am working on a new collection of poetry around the thematic notion of HOME. Travelling like this has been a visceral research experience. When you are nowhere for longer than 7 days, generally only 3, not only does it not become home, but it is not even a comfort zone. There are no comfort zones. Not physically. Maybe intellectually. Certainly maintaining the equilibrium emotionally is challenging.
But it is, like so much else I am realising, a process. You keep going, you keep noticing and things change. I have been having a ball. But it has been difficult at times. Loneliness, fear, uncertainty have all visited me. But the longer I keep going, the more familiar I become with a series of short cuts, attitudes and approaches, the less those negative factors plague me.
Home certainly is becoming a certainty that I want to continue doing this. For now. And that’s fine. I don’t need more actually. I have been trying out the ideas of returning to SA, of working in London of… anything other than keeping moving. They are all interesting. But none have locked on with any real traction. Unconvinced, I was getting frustrated. But then I realised that all this meant was that my original decision held true: it was time to kick lose. That time is not over. Simple.
This process is the main reason why you have only been seeing such occasional blog posts from me. My inner journey has absorbed my attention. Don’t doubt that it continues, but right now it’s very quiet on that front.
I have learned that not speaking the language of a country you are in precludes a lot of experiences you take for granted when you do: easily meeting new people, acquiring information, making decisions. But it doesn’t stop you. You just have to be a bit smarter, more prepared, maybe a little bit braver. Use those 4 words you know, make hand gestures, maybe look a bit of a nut for a bit. Because people don’t mind you know, they’re generally glad to have you there.
The French are supposed to be so rude, so intolerant of the English. Well, I found them to be pretty cool, pretty helpful. Someone remarked that this was because I have not been to Paris! Well, not this time, but I found it was OK there too last time around.
The biggest barrier to obtaining the experiences I want from my travels is me: My insistence on being a certain kind of person, on acting certain kinds of ways. For example, I still have to remind myself to take out my phone and take photos of as much of what I see as possible. Why? Because I am self-conscious, I don’t want to look like a tourist, I wanna be COOL. Ahem. I am a tourist. So I suck it up, I take out the phone and I take pictures. Over and over. I am getting better!
It ties into this notion of Home: How I see myself and WHO I want to be are tied to when I am happy, how I like to ‘be’ as a person. If these things are untested and untried, you may never truly be able to answer these questions truthfully. Under pressure you will most likely have to answer, ‘I don’t know.’ That’s not an answer I like when it comes to my internal states. I would prefer to know. I’d like to know WHY I am doing things. Unconscious acting out bothers me. I think I did enough of that in the past!
I’ve had a few comments about where I should or shouldn’t go. As advice some of these have been great and I have changed plans accordingly. But one or two have been along the lines of ‘If you don’t go hear, you’re not really travelling…’ etc. Well, I am travelling and much of my journey has little to do with where I am as opposed to where I am not. And while I am checking off a list, it’s not a democratic hit-list of the coolest places to go; it’s a private list of places I want to go and people I want to see.
There seems to be an idea that if I don’t go to all the coolest and best places NOW I will never again have that opportunity. I resent that. That’s not part of the vision I have for the rest of my life. There will be other opportunities. And that’s a change, cos at first I kinda accepted that. Shrugged it off, but was like, ‘Yeah, maybe…’
So, I don’t know how frequently I will be blogging from now onwards. I will continue that I am prepared to promise. And as I go, I am still looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, finding new ones and changing my route on a whim to do something new. So please shout! I am still up for that dinner/drink/coffee with you on the road. So shout if I am heading your way. But please, don’t expect me to do something just because it’s on your list!