Carcavelos, Portugal - October 2010
Our life consists partly in madness, partly in wisdom; whoever writes about it merely respectfully and by rule leaves more than half of it behind - Montaigne
In other words, in recounting the places and events of the past 12 months on this blog - while they have been fantastic by many measures - I should not over-romanticize things by obscuring the rough patches.
Some stormy skies have rolled in very occasionally, but lately they have become more frequent. Maybe there has been some research done on this phenomenon, but I will call it the Traveler's Wall. Or maybe something catchier, like Expat Excrement.
Culture shock plays a part for sure, as does the loss of all things familiar - your friends, your car, your surroundings, your subscription to Sports Illustrated.
We know this when we travel - after all, we do so specifically to lose those very familiar things for a while and to re-energize. Having this knowledge does make the tough times much easier, especially when considering how lucky most of us are in the big picture. But to not mention the less-than-ideal times seems somewhat dishonest to the people reading this blog.
Some moments have been written about - the short but jarring terror scare in May, the simple acknowledgment of there being days like this.
Others have not been mentioned:
- the quiet misery of a Paris hotel room in the midst of a snowstorm over the holidays.
- getting soaked to the bone at 3am when biking home alone, with a fever, from a pub while your entire home country celebrates an Olympic gold medal thousands of kilometers away.
- needing to use a highly dubious restaurant toilet - complete with folding door that closes with a magnet and a timer that leaves you in total darkness after 40 seconds - for several days in Lisbon due to a broken home commode.
- countless hours of lonely time spent on public transit in a strange place.
- several days where I didn't need to be anywhere nor did I have any idea where to go anyway.
- waking up several mornings to see one of Amsterdam's million mice emerge from a toaster or swimming in a pot in the sink.
- the unending amount of dog crap on European streets. Seriously people.
It's all what you focus on of course. I've traded the above for many, many more hours of great experiences and learnings. Plus, each of the above can ultimately be used positively at the same time (who wouldn't enjoy some quiet time to themselves rolling through the Dutch countryside?) or at least laughed at. Humour is a great balm, even if it's hard to find in the exact moment.
But lately, the resilience has worn off a little, the energy has waned, the funny stuff has been more difficult to unearth. Done traveling? No, never. But a post coming soon highlights a few signs that a break from the unfamiliar is due.