Sunday, January 27, 2013

Home (and epiblogue)

It was strange to be home. I felt that it should seem different - but upon waking up the next morning, it didn't feel any different at all. I remember returning from my 8 months in Canada and sitting on the stairs, thinking how weird everything was - how it was all so similar and all so different. But this wasn't the case this time. Maybe because I'm older, maybe because I am much more adaptable, maybe because the timescale was shorter and maybe it's because things really hadn't changed as much. But slotting back into English life seemed to take no time or effort at all.

As I said previously, the journey was just too long to be digested all in one go. City by city, the memories come flooding back and I can put them in context - Seattle had a much more distinct flavour than the Californian cities, Beijing seemed so regimented and communist on the outside, but the culture and personality of the people and city oozed out everywhere. Hong Kong felt like an excitable ants nest, whereas Bintan probably wouldn't have looked any different 200 years ago. Kathmandu and Delhi shared so many similarities but had completely different feels - I know I would rather live in Kathmandu for 10 weeks than Delhi for 10 days. Dubai is fresh in my memory - an artificial, soul-less construct that I honestly hope is not the future of worldwide cities - but it's not fair to base my opinion solely on those two days. Given more time and a bit of company from people who know where to find the flair, then maybe it could be an interesting and exciting place to live - especially if long numbers in your bank account get your heart racing.

It is natural for a Brit to put other countries in context and comparison with his own. Everywhere I went, I saw things that were done better than we do them in the UK. But everywhere I went, I did miss life in the UK. I am not convinced I could live abroad for a long period of time without returning - my 10 weeks in Nepal were a blast because there was all the excitement of the foreign country, the work with the children and at the school, and the excellent company of my fellow volunteers. But to live in a country like that for years at a time? I'm not sure I could do it. That is to say, I'm not sure. Maybe I would surprise myself.

The things I missed in the UK were mostly the 'soft' things that you don't even realise exist. Like how easy it is to chat to people - in queues, on public transport, even in the supermarket today when a young woman and I had a brief conversation expressing our mutual surprise at there being no semi-skimmed milk. Like how dense our country is - there is always something interesting happening nearby, and it's often world-class. Like our public transport system which is expensive and quirky but very far-reaching and well-established. And of course our weather - how could we not mention that - where its most comforting aspect for me is its variety. I love the rain, when it has been dry or grey for a week! And only a Brit can understand the joy of the sun returning after almost a month of absence!

I am continually trying to make sense of these memories - they come to me all of a sudden, and I don't want to be that guy who proceeds every statement with "when I was in Nepal" or "in China, they do it this way..". So please, ask me about cities or countries or people or experiences and I will enjoy discussing the most interesting aspects of these while sorting out my own thoughts for myself. Because otherwise it won't happen! Most of all, I must ask those people who I've met on my travels to keep communicating - keep posting photos on Facebook, and lets keep interacting - you are the parts of my travel I will miss the most and added so much richness to my solo adventure.

My luggage did turn up - less than 24 hours later in fact. Before I was even half way though my flight to Heathrow, it had been spotted and loaded onto the next plane flying in that direction. Unfortunately, this didn't give me time to send out all the carefully-chosen Christmas presents to my friends in time for December the 25th! But it was good that my re-adaptation to UK life took no time at all - because 40 hours after I landed at Heathrow, my brother and father and I were back in the car en-route to Gatwick, flying to Austria to go skiing in Italy for Christmas while my mother stayed at home with her parents, keeping them comfortable and entertained and generally having a more relaxed festive season.

So I will close the blog with a final photo (this one is from Dad's camera) - this where I consider my trip to have ended. Thanks to all my blog followers and please do get leave a comment if you have enjoyed my prose!

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry it has taken me so long to catch up with your final blog entry Colin. I was theer at the beginning and I was there at the end - so maybe a tardy bit of reading can be forgiven?/

    Great record of an amazing journey mate. And some thought-provoking reflections, too.