Travel Blog 20: Home Alone 9: This time I’m Macaulay Culkin
Click here to see a route of where I went these past two months.
What’s worse about coming home then finding the grooves of your life already established in the earth? I only need to lay myself down onto those tracks and let my life chug forward, if I want it to. And that is a dangerous prospect for a being like me, who can’t yet tell if he’s gotten a real taste for adventure, or just a taste for trying something new.
So instead I reflect, write and remember. Writing this is actually a lot harder than writing my previous blog posts, as all I have now to see when I look up from my computer screen are familiar things. I can walk from one end of the house to the other and know where to step, where to find my toothbrush, how to twist the shower knob to get just the right temperature. The familiar sits in your mind like bland, grey objects. Realizing that, you can give them another look, and they suddenly gain a more definite form. Though they will never be as vibrant as all those things that are new to one’s life. To see something so often is to soften it, remove its spark. In memory, those recent images remain wholly incredible.
I am not one to take pictures of myself. I could say that I think it a weird new age vanity, but really I just don’t like looking at myself. Maybe I have a critical brain, and that is active even when I’m taking in my own person. Or maybe I do fear looking at myself and wondering if that too is the same way people see me. But Since there lacks pictures of anything new, I thought I’d share pictures of my brother and I, the few there are during our trip to Iceland and all my adventures beforehand.
I live in my friend Leah’s attic. It’s quite spacious, and would be ideal to inhabit most hours of the day if it weren’t for how the room steams in summer and freezes in winter. Where before I had limited time to write, sometimes waking up as early as 5 a.m. to sit in the common areas of hostels to get some work done. Suddenly I have so much more time than that, and it becomes that much harder to produce good work.
I haven’t really given myself time to decompress when the past few days have been spent reconfiguring. It’s not so much an adjustment, but an attempt to take some of that energy I had with the constant movement of a backpacking trip like I had done and translate that to home. I find that my work often relies on sudden bursts of energy. I’ve basically maintained an ember of creativity over a whole two month period. I’m afraid to let that go.
So let’s just look at the stats. I did approximately 3,375 miles during my trip all using public transportation. I’m not counting the flights I took to get to France and to Iceland, since I don’t count that so much as a trip but a necessary allocation due to there being a pretty big ocean between those two destinations. I visited well over 100 museums, landmarks and other cultural sites in seven different countries. I walked a number of miles that were probably ludicrous to somebody like me before I went out on this trip.
There’s also the physical impacts of the trip, mostly thanks to my walking regimen. The fact that I lost so much weight to the point that none of my pants fit me, and that I had to buy a whole new belt halfway through the trip, means I now have to find ways to maintain it without the intense amount of walking I was doing on a daily basis.
I have a lot to think about too, memories to condense and turn into ideas. I took enough pictures and video to fill up close to 10 gigabytes of storage on my phone. Some of those are places, others of artwork, some of people.
That is the question then, what to do now?
Some would immediately start thinking about their next trip. I’m partially there. I still haven’t visited England, Scotland or Italy, but beyond that I would love to see Japan, India, Thailand, Australia, and so many others.
Would I do the same thing again? It’s a question of whether I will have the time and money to do so. Things lined up that I did this time, but still I spent approximately over $6,000 over the past two months alone. For a guy like me, that’s not chump change.
But that’s the hardline realist side of me, the cheap side too. Better to make a public promise to myself. I will make efforts to see that I can go on another trip.
But will I do it the same way, alone? That’s a very interesting question. There were times, especially at the beginning during my trip to France, where the weight of loneliness was crushing me. I got over it, and met some amazing people on the way. The issue, I think, is due in part to the ongoing pandemic. Where some hostels saw near 100% capacity during these months just a few years ago, they now only do 30 to 40%. Most travelers are people touring their own or nearby countries. So many are English speakers, but depending on where you are, sometimes less people are willing to have a real conversation in it. Many French I have interacted with find it distasteful to talk in English. Worse, I found that even with my time studying French in both high school and college that I struggle to have even the most rudimentary intelligible conversation in the language.
And though I managed to create some lasting acquaintances (at least I hope) I also think it was the pace of my trip that helped me. I never had a day where I didn’t know what I was going to do. I spent so much time planning for the next few days, whether it was train tickets, hostel bookings or museum checks, not to mention doing this blog, I didn’t have much time to ruminate on my own mental well-being.
There are certain traps that exist in being home, or maybe just feeling at home. Maybe it just feels that way, but a few days in and I’m already getting a sense of harsh familiarity. It’s so easy to slip into old habits, especially where work ethic is concerned. I now have to continue looking for employment (something that didn’t really stop even during my two-month stint in Europe) and I have both my book and future fiction pieces to work on. I’m also shopping a freelance piece about the experience of backpacking Europe during a pandemic to different newspapers and magazines.
I had gotten so used to a certain kind of existence, and it’s half of the reason why I went in the first place. I search for final thoughts, but is it really final? Europe is so densely filled with history, culture and conflict. To think that anyone giving even the most minor town a cursory glance would be able to epitomize even a fraction of it is far fetched. I want to see more of it. I want to live more of it.
That will be my new ambition. More of it, just more of what I could possibly get from new places.
They will have to break my knees to watch me become sedentary. The rivers run into the ocean, and yet the ocean is not yet full.