So I am home.
Barely a few weeks ago I was trying to find my way around strange cities and lands. Now I wander around the house trying to find a place to put the fistful of old phone chargers and electrical cables. The joys of moving house and being suddenly confronted by HOW MUCH STUFF I HAVE AMASSED!!
It’s a flood of things. Physical things, memory laden things, curious things but also of course practical things. But stuff is everywhere. I am not sure if I could have imagined a space more apart from where we have just been and what we have just done. Freedom to move, yes a sometimes frustrating amount of luggage…..but not against what I see now.
When does the trip end? When do I stop writing? When does it slip away?
The return has been strange to say the least. I am not sure what I imagined, but it wasn’t this.
I think I had a vision of a glorious, triumphant homecoming. Not others cheering us through the gates, but us as a unit high fiving across the finish line yelling “We did it!!”
The kind of return you feel at the end of a long hike. Your feet are sore, your back aches, you want a bath SO badly – but there is this deep, slow burn of accomplishment and this elation of completion.
I thought we would have had enough of living in the confines of the van, living on top of each other, constantly moving, eating in the cold, camping in the rain, not having anything remotely close to the luxury of a house-like space to expand into and relax.
But I wasn’t. None of us where. As I kissed Tully goodnight in the days before returning she would solemnly express a desire to keep going and not go home.
Maybe it was because the last few weeks were in the comfort of others homes, then the joy and warmth of a family wedding in Ireland and all the emotions and familiarity that comes with seeing long unseen family. It was bliss…..and very easy.
So by the time we stepped onto EK601 from Dublin to Dubai, Mel and I had returned to this bizarre normal. I felt like I was on the Melbourne to Sydney Qantas run, off to do some work for a day. Everything worked, the flight was smooth and blissfully event free. The girls wallowed in their long fantasised about reality of unlimited TV watching or screen time. All rules about screen time were null and void on the 24 hours from Dublin to Melbourne.
Then suddenly we were being spat out at Tullamarine airport. Straight into the arms of family and the wave of heat, dry grass, eucalyptus and aviation fuel that is unmistakingly Melbourne airport. After the science fiction enormity of Dubai it looked like some remote country backwater. Grass and trees up to the runway, farms and sheep bordering the airport fences. Then everything went normal.
I describe it as a strange paradox of ‘over there’ and ‘here’. That every day on the trip time seemed to stretch and crawl. It actually seemed infinite. As did choice and control. Then as we approached our return everything started to accelerate. We had to pick and choose our cities to see in Italy. We had to work back from end dates anda obligations. We had to unpack, post home, shake down, sell off and clean up. Then suddenly we were home. This ball rolling down a hill that was getting faster and faster until it suddenly stopped.
The first weeks have been this strange waking dream. Sometimes like I am watching a TV of reality or staring out at the world from behind a sheet of glass. Amongst the beauty of catching up with friends and the (bloody amazing) experience of moving closer to the ocean with family 2 doors down the street, everything has seemed detached. Mel and I have found ourselves not talking, telling stories or sitting there quiet while people ask questions. Maybe people don’t know what to ask? Maybe I don’t know what to say. How to sum up, abbreviate, annotate and change life alstering stories in “sound bites”…….
Most people don’t even ask to looks at photos these days. Probably due to self preservation. It’s not like the old days of film where you took a few rolls of precious, thought out photos. No sireee….I shudder to think of the billions of terabytes a day being filled with inane photos that never see the light of day. People don’t ask to see photos because they are scared they will get stuck for 4 hours with a pained false smile saying “wow…..nice….where’s that?…great…..awesome…..” until their host graciously turns off the computer.
So there is no debrief or summing up. There is no external processing.
But I think that it is just time. Already something has shifted. When asked some deeper questions the other day by a very intuitive old friend, I found myself talking non stop. And just the other day my first, full body, cued recall emotional memory arose. Those ones where you see or usually smell something and not just the memory but the physical sensation of a time or place comes flooding back. I was sitting at traffic lights looking at my car window tinting and I noticed that the windscreen wasn’t tinted. Then suddenly the image of sitting in an East Timorese taxi pounced upon me. They tint their windscreens there, dark black, almost block out right down to the top of the steering wheel so they are forced to stoop forward with arms draped over the wheel or reclined right back gangster style. The smell, sound and feeling of a Dili taxi struck me between the eyes.
And then following that I got my first wondrous anticipation of things to come. I was reading a story to the girls that vividly described the hustle of Japanese city backstreets. First I smiled a knowing smile because we all knew intimately what Asian backstreets were. Then I had this image of us five again. Alighting at Tokyo airport. Small, tight, travel hardened packs. Moving light on a 2 week trip. Shuffling out of the Airport and heading for the subway. Moving well, eyes wide, toes tingling, knowing smiles. New and unknown lands but experienced enough for that to be thrilling not daunting. The little gang of five again. The little travellers. Two roads.
So I am home.
Welcome home everyone!
It must be very weird, and lovely.
Thinking of you all, see you on the other side!
Love Sarah x
It’s good to read that you have safely arrived in Melbourne. And I read with great interest and sympathy about your ambivalent feelings during the first days and weeks after crossing the finishing line. I do hope that you will write a book looking back on the long and winding road you took on your long journey – it sure will do a lot of good to you and your future readers. I certainly would be one of them!
I hope that I will hear (or read) from you again. Until then – all the best to the incredible five!
Heinz from Austria, who often thinks of our short encounter on the campsite near Venice.
Never stop. You 5 are a Tardis XX xxx
It’s good to read that you have safely arrived in Melbourne. I read with great sympathy and interest your detailed, vivid description of your ambivalent feelings after having crossed the finishing line. You really should write a book about the long and winding road you followed on your extraordinary journey. I’m sure it would do a lot of good to you and to your future readers – I would be glad to be one of them.
I often think of our short encounter on the campsite near Venice! I wish you all the best – Heinz (Austria)
Dear Matt, Mel and girls,
Thank you for your wonderfully vivid and thoughtful musings of your amazing adventures. What a great gift you have given your daughters. Your trials, tribulations and triumps will stand them in good stead for their future lives.
Yes please do write a book.
lots of love and best wishes.
Dear Matt, Mel and your beautiful girls, I have read with admiration the informative and entertaining accounts of your fabulous adventures. And congratulations to you all on a wonderful achievement. I believe that the way you both shared your thoughts, learning experiences, anxieties, joys and triumphs went a long way towards your success. Just crystallising your thoughts into such lovely prose and sharing them so generously with us must have been effective in keeping you so focussed on your plans, and helped you to get the most from your journey. Yes, a book would be great, and don’t forget the terrific photos. Welcome home !