Home; traveller’s blues

Well I am back in the UK after just over 6 frantic  weeks travelling and working in Switzerland, Italy and Austria. As always it is a really strange feeling to be ‘home’ again. It feels like I have been away much longer and as I have had so many new experiences it feels as if things should have moved on here too, but as ever, nothing here has changed and it is as if I have never been away. Moreover, it is impossible to really talk about what I have seen and done during the last six weeks. People want to hear that I have had a good time and that everything went well, but they are not really ready for more than a five minute conversation on the subject and how do you convey and convert six weeks into five minutes?

It is possible to talk about specific events; difficult classes I taught, amusing aspects of flights and train journeys, maybe even details of famous sights and museums I have visited… Of course being in Britain everyone is interested in how the weather was! (Hot and sunny most of the time).  But it is much more difficult to talk about how it all felt at the time. How do you convey what it is like to spend an hour sipping wine in a little street cafe in Genova watching local passers by enjoying their ‘passagerio’? How do you explain the slightly tipsy feeling at the end of an evening being wined and dined in a fancy Swiss restaurant by people who are trying to impress you while you have been trying desperately hard not to let your chic business-woman image slip? How do you talk about the process of winning unruly and disinterested city kids over slowly, in uneven steps during the course of a week and the sense of achievement or frustration that involves? How do you do justice to all the personalities you have met during that time; people you fancy, people you’d love to meet again and people you’d cross the street to avoid next time? How can you truly describe the smell of the air in a small Austrian town or the way the heat of the sun warms your feet as you walk across the stone roof of the Dom in Milan? And how do you explain that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that you were really working hard and not just sightseeing and that getting up between 5 and 6am every day wasn’t very pleasant and yet it was still very worthwhile? And last but not least how do you explain that it is the smallest details that make experiencing different countries so fascinating? The way the Italians drink their coffee… The fact that is ‘Sturm’ season in Austria and that the locals really do measure the passing of the seasons by what they eat and drink… The friendly Swiss-French ticket inspectors on the train… The different styles of trams and busses in every city and the different ways in which people use and abuse them. The things people find funny… The subtle ways fashion and local traditions play out… The times people get up, work, go shopping and go to bed… The fact that Italian TV is endearingly crap. The different ways each country avoids or gets round the supposed smoking ban..

So now I am back home again… All those phrases about what home is come to mind; “home is where the heart is”, “where-ever I lay my hat is my home”. Hmm… I guess I have always been a traveler. Home at the moment is a base where I leave my stuff and look after my Mum and have a bit more time to do stuff on the internet. But in reality I am just as much at home when I am on the road, if not more so… That is where I feel most free to be myself. It’s not that I particularly enjoy the process of travelling anymore, in fact I find it quite exhausting, but I just like being in other places. I could imagine settling in Italy or Austria permanently one day. I never feel more like a foreigner than I do here in the UK, although I am still very British in many ways…

Ah well, I do have some photos of my travels. I will try to put some of them up here soon but I am waiting to buy a new computer and once I have transferred everything onto that I will jazz up this blog with some more colour. Meanwhile I have changed the theme and hopefully I will at least have time to post here a bit more often during the next few weeks and maybe even bring this blog back to life again! 🙂

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