Life In One Place

I keep seeing travel meme’s in my newsfeed. Beautiful photos of iconic landmarks with a wistful scrawl across them. “The world’s a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Or this one “Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before.” And this, this one keeps popping up all the time “Travel. As much as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”

Life’s not meant to be lived in one place?

I have no idea how life is meant to be lived.

::

I had an email from a friend, we were talking travel plans. His wife has turned forty and he wants to make sure she gets a trip to Paris to celebrate. I’d talked to her about it earlier in the year, he would look after the children and she’d have a week walking the streets of Paris. She may possibly skip rather than walk. She’s planning on going alone, in the same way that any mother of two young children dreams of being alone, just better, because she’ll be in Paris. When I asked what his travel plans were, he talked of maybe coming to see us before heading to Hong Kong. “I was going to just go to Hong Kong but I decided I’d be too damn lonely. She’s much better at travelling alone than I am.”

I’ve been the lonely traveller. It’s the bit you don’t see in the memes. The long haul flight shared with the master farter sitting next to you who does a bit of crop dusting every time he makes his routine hourly cabin walk. The arrival that is both exciting but slightly terrifying when you can’t find your travel documents, or the visa desk you were assured was there. These are not real problems of course, just minor hiccups. The lost bag, the forgotten cell phone charger, the broken handle on your overstuffed carry-on luggage. They are all things that can be fixed. It’s the moments that make you wince with a tinge of embarrassment or a hint of homesickness. When you pronounce the name of the landmark you’re looking for incorrectly to the men behind the hotel desk, you wouldn’t have even realised had you not heard them giggling with each other as you walked away. When someone bumps into you in the street spilling coffee down your front and keeps walking after realising you don’t speak the language. Why say sorry if you don’t understand me? Why say anything if you don’t understand me? Or when you notice a sign, something familiar, something that means everything in your world, and you turn with an excited smile and realise theres no-one to share it with. That’s the lonely traveller.

::

My grandparents never had passports. They had a caravan and a regular gig each year in a beachside town. They were married happily for fifty years, side by side.  My grandfather refused to get on a plane, he saw no need. “I have everything I need right here” he told me once. I believed him, I think he really did.

::

I was waiting in an underground car park the other day, it must have been 40 degrees down there. The cars sat like bread baking in an oven, a man in red overalls approached me as I stepped out of my car. “Cash wash madam?” He held a spray bottle of water and a cloth, he was charging $5 for the job.

“Where are you from?” I asked through the haze of the heat.

“Nepal” he said with a smile.

“When will you be home next?”

“I go see my family next year. I come here to work for my family” another smile.

My calculation of his daily earnings led me down a thoughtless path. “You have enough to send home?”

He shook his head and smiled.

Life’s not meant to be lived in one place. As much as you can. As long as you can.

To be able to afford to live life in the one place. To not have to leave.

It’s a luxury for some.

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