I left London on the eighth of May for a year. I’ve been travelling for just over six weeks. Forty-three days since I bowed out from the Smoke with a tear soaked rendition of John Denver’s ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’.
The hangover the following day was indescribable, from the moment of peeling my still fully clothed body from an English sofa to settling down for the night on a very Spanish one in Seville.
That was the way I wanted to leave: dehydrated, wobbly, exhausted and still in awe at just how much fun the previous day and night had been. It took days for the whole concept to sink in.
A sunny Stanstead was the last I was going to see of the UK for three hundred and sixty-five days.
Unbeknown to me I’d arrived in Seville just as they had finished their biggest fiesta of the year, the week-long Feria. The city was hungover, my host (Kevin from New York) was hungover, his girlfriend (Tati from Buenos Aires) was hungover. I was a square peg in a square hole. Yet as I settled down on the sofa with my bottle of wine to unavoidably listen to Kevin’s housemate have sex with his new girlfriend, I couldn’t help but wonder what the fuck I was doing.
Since then I have realised and accepted, if not welcomed, one not inconsiderable truth. I am not a natural traveller and I never have been. To quickly dispel any worry at the reading of this: I don’t actually consider it a problem… well, I don’t now. I love new places, I love new food, I love new drinks to drink, new facts, new weather, and new experiences of all kinds. So far there have been four countries, eight cities, three thousand seven hundred and thirty five photos taken, countless nights out and one night spent on the street. My problem, if it is such, is that I get attached to the things and people that I find (proportional to the time I spend with them, of course).
Rewind to six in the morning on the eighth of May.
There are around thirty people gathered around a flatscreen TV at my leaving do after party. Some of my favourite people in the whole world, all pretty much blind drunk. Resultantly they are listening to me sing the aforementioned John Denver ditty. The scene is an odd one, more than one person is crying, nearly all are smiling and everyone is swaying. I am a complete mess of emotions, outrageously happy that they are all there, yet cripplingly sad that this is the last time I will see many of them for a year.
Excited but terrified about the next day’s leaving.
But also indulgently proud, because frankly, I was really teaching this song a jolly good lesson. It has since become my trip theme tune; yes of course it makes cry every time I listen to it. Clearly this lot have ingrained themselves over many years, like a load of wrinkles, which is why it’s been so hard to wrench myself away.
However on a small scale this is what I end up doing in each stop. I meet people, I find places, things I like and I get comfortable, only to perform a tiny wrench every time I move on. I’m always in the here and now, the immediate. For example, in twelve hours or so I arrive in Istanbul. For years I have wanted to go there but at this precise moment I’m lamenting leaving scruffy Bucharest behind. Yet tomorrow, as soon as I step off the train the ‘here and now’ excitement will start all over again.
Now before there is mass rolling of the eyes at what a complete wiener I am: I do realise that in the great scheme of the world’s problems this is probably just below someone having just knocked over a cold cup of tea….. into the sink. My point being (if I really have one) is that if this is the worst problem I have six weeks in, then I strongly suspect this is the best decision I’ve ever made.
After all the self-doubt and never-uttered worries I’ve bottled up in the last six months, this has been better than I could have ever dared hope. One just has to work out how to do this for a living.