Monday 19 May 2014

Homeward Bound

The end of a long trip always triggers a level of unease. A small but noticeable knot in the pit of the stomach and a slight, halting lump in the throat. Exactly the same emotions experienced when starting a lengthy bout of travelling, but with contrasting reasoning in the background. On departure there are worries of foreign lands, strange surroundings, a lack of routine. Once this has become standard day-to-day life, the impending return to previous normality plays on the mind in much the same way.

Dualism underlines the interpretation of this end of journey feeling: It can be channelled as negative worry or adrenaline-fuelled positive excitement. Both caused by a sense of the unknown, a return to a world you've ceased to be a part of in recent times. A world that nevertheless has continued in your absence. Has it moved on without me? Will I simply slip back in without missing a step? Or will subtle changes have occurred? Relationships between contemporaries developed, deepened and realigned. Will there still be a spot for me?

Human bonds are strongest between those who see and share the most together. Those who continue to grow and develop side-by-side, evolving and understanding in tandem. As such, it is always a risk to remove yourself from this constant process for an extended period of time. There are a number of people who fade from your life and don't return. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It reveals who are really the true amigos. Those with whom a deep connection endures and effortlessly reignites even after six months without contact. Such friendships are often stronger afterwards, mutual appreciation heightened from the prolonged absence. An effortless and swift re-establishment of relations, a reassuring reminder that this is genuine amistad.

I am anxious but not apprehensive to get back home. Ready to see those few cherished friends and family again. Reconnect, reflect, renew.

Having nothing but the unknown lying ahead is no doubt a disconcerting situation to be in. But again, it can be construed in two distinct ways: Something scary, or something wonderfully liberating. I feel free when I don't know what's going to happen in the next few months, weeks, days. Possibly an unsustainable long-term state of affairs, but luckily all that really exists is the current moment (which is about as short-term as you can get). This time round there is at least some sense of stability in what I'm doing. I'm not experiencing again the sheer terror of stumbling back onto our green and pleasant land without a job, no money, no future security and few solid prospects. Some of these elements remain but I'm not completely skint and I'm pretty sure I'll be back out in Latin America tour leading again before the year is out. That's about all I need to know.

These references to 'coming home' are also a little absurd. Obviously, the UK and more precisely, London, is the insinuation here. But I don't technically have a 'home'. Four walls and a place to receive increasingly-irate letters from the Student Loan Company. That role is filled my mum's house (thanks, Mum). Still, even without the existence of a house, returning 'home' still feels like the right phrase to use. There's something warm, cosy and inviting about that word. A welcoming hug in four letters. It doesn't just signify the building in which you live, I'm not flying back to a bricks-and-mortar physical construction of a home, but more the concept of home. The safety, familiarity and reassurance garnered from the things and more importantly the people around you.

I say I'm going to be 'home' for three months, but ironically don't know where I'm going to live. Or what will be filling the days. Slight trepidation sure, but outweighed by excitement. It's another adventure really, albeit this time in just one place. Without a mochilla permanently attached to my back. And hopefully involving fewer spectacular bouts of diarrhoea, slightly less death-baiting bus drivers, a more sensibly-denominated currency, no more snoring bunk mates, generally a little more time to stay still and take stock. See where life decides to go next.

You know what, this could be a fun summer. Someone tell the sun to come out, I'll be home soon.

(scroll down for a short highlight reel of the trip in photographic form)

This seems like a long time ago - first week with Host Family mum and fellow Spansh student, Quang. Quito, Ecuador.
Otavalo Market, Ecuador
Sunset. Montanita beach, Ecuador.

Tungurahua Volcano erupting. Riobamba, Ecuador.

Searching for the perfect beach. Los Frailes, Ecuador.

My birthday night. The big 27. Montanita, Ecuador.

The beach bums. Mucho amor for these guys! Mancora, Peru.

Santiago, Chile.

Valparaiso, Chile.

Atacama Desert, Chile.

Atacama Desert, Chile.

Atacama Desert, Chile.

Chiloe Island, Chile.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina.

Paradise. Trekking in El Chalten, Argentina.

The trekking crew. El Chalten, Argentina.

Looking down over the tiny town of El Chalten, Argentina.

Ze Germans! Ushuaia, Argentina.

Boat trip on The Beagle Channel. Ushuaia, Argentina.

Boat trip on The Beagle Channel. Ushuaia, Argentina.

Beached bottle. Cabo Polonia, Uruguay.

Footsteps in the sand. Cabo Polonia, Uruguay.

My wonderful host and a wonderful drink. Emi & Fernet. Cordoba, Argentina.

Fede & Emi. Humbled by their hospitality over Easter week. Cordoba, Argentina.
My boy, Yannis, and my home away from home. Chill House Hostel, Montanita, Ecuador.

Night time hilltop viewpoint. Cuenca, Ecuador.
What I'm actually meant to be doing here - Tour Leading! Final group on their last day in Cajas National Park, Ecuador.