Here I sit with dirty feet on fresh white linen. Seems I can’t keep clean these days. As I look out of my guesthouse window I see brooding pigeons congregating on a crumbling residential rooftop. There are clothes hanging to dry from window ledges, balconies, gutters, and anywhere else they can be attached. The cement smells like rain. Dark clouds loom overhead. I finally found solace somewhere old and dirty. In a city that screams clean and orderly, I feel most comfortable here.
I lost myself in shopping malls today. I’ve never seen so many shopping malls in close proximity. Really. It felt completely foreign to be wandering through aisles of things, and yet it was all so strangely familiar.
You need this. You should buy this. You have to have this. Buy! Buy! Buy!
There were theme parks, cinema theatres, and donut shops luring you in with that chocolate smell that never tastes quite as good as you imagine.
There were bright lights and neon signs, and those annoying men who grab you by the arm and put cream on only one hand so you can see how dry and cracked the other one is.
I don’t want your cream.
It was a familiar chaos. I observed myself as I wandered, like a zombie. And I observed others as they did the same. We were all wandering – together – under bright lights – aimlessly, namelessly, shamelessly.
And I reflected on the times I’d wandered around in shopping centres at home, looking to buy something, looking to make myself feel better about something that didn’t feel so good. It never changed who I was. Never made me any happier. Of course we need things from time to time, but I see in these places now so many people being driven by something other than need…
And so I’m alone again on this grand venture. And I’m restless. But I know myself well enough to know that on the other side of that restlessness, is peace. I also know running too soon, will not fill what is empty. Nor will buying a new wardrobe.
It’s a fine balance. Staying long enough in one place, but not too long. Getting comfortable, but not too comfortable. Pushing yourself, but not until you go under.
As I sit here, after almost five months of travel, I feel at home in the unknown. The unfamiliar is beginning to feel strangely familiar.
And I want you to know, that it isn’t all smooth sailing and beaches. Truly. It is not.
There are good days and bad days. There are highs and lows. There is laughter. There are tears. There are friendly people, and not-so friendly people. And many of the challenges I’ve found have been replications of those I experienced at home. The only difference is the playing field. They are the same battles, in a different context. The same lessons, different teacher. We are still who we are, no matter where in the world we choose to be. The sights we see are viewed through the same eyes. And everything we experience is relative only to what we have experienced before.
I know this is a test. This day. It is sitting raw against my chest, like I should make a plan. I also know tomorrow I will wake up, and it will be a different test, a different lesson. And in two days I’ll be gone. Somewhere else. Sri Lanka as it turns out, but that’s a different story.
The thing is, I don’t miss the life I had. I miss the people who shaped it, but I don’t want it to ever be the same again. I hold no regrets. But I want to wake up and do things differently now. I want to experience each breath fully and stop looking for quick fixes and fast escapes. And here, in this world, I am doing that. The real test will be when I return to the familiar.
See I’ve travelled this road now for miles. Each time I have fallen down I have gathered my things, found somewhere still and created my own little sanctuary. And I have looked at the same ocean, breathed in the same air and watched the same stars… and I have filled my cup. I guess that it’s the same in life, we must always appreciate what we have, especially the simple things. And if for some reason we find ourselves stuck, and wishing things were different, we must take responsibility and change those things. Hanging onto the hope that they will change themselves, is futile.
And so I might start with these dirty feet… 😉