Sunday, August 11, 2019

The More I Wander

When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don't know ourselves. Cool. unlying life will rush in. -- D. H. Lawrence

While a cold beverage intoxicates my soul I find myself overlooking a calm sea, the sun shines unobstructed onto my face, bathing it with intoxicating warm from 93 million miles away. This is the apex to which my subconscious mind takes over my consciousness....What the fu** am I rambling about? Let me translate my brain’s poetic prose into “Ken speak”. I am devouring a beer, overlooking the Gulf of Siam, on a clear warm day thinking about where I am and what I am doing.  Phew, that feels better.

I am a mountain guy at heart and always will be. My sister calls me the billy goat because of my obsession with climbing things. To switch things up a bit, I am about to add SCUBA diving into my travel took kit,  adding another layer into my lifestyle. I have been living this nomadic life for over 9 years now and it is constantly evolving. From its start in Antigua Guatemala in September of 2010, I could never have imagined the path it would take me on.

Countless moments started flooding back while I was drinking that beer overlooking the Gulf of Siam in Jomtien Thailand. The individuals I have met, the places I have been and the expanding appreciation for people of the world, regardless of their country of origin. There have been epic moments such as standing at the foot of Mt. Everest in Tibet to the lowest of the lows, getting my backpack stolen in Bolivia. You really cannot have the sweet without the sour. I found myself completely immersed in my thought bubble. My serenity shaken by a sudden realization. The longer I am away from Canada, the more foreign my life there has become. It is now clear to me that there will be no going back. I can’t go back. This is my life now. Any resemblance of a life in Canada is fading into the rear view mirror of the truck that I no longer have, nor am a slave to own. Ultimately and maybe expectantly, I have become a Stranger In My Home Town. (Lyrics by Foghat @ 1980 ). Let me try to explain. This is not a sad statement.

First, this is not about feeling or being unwelcome when I return to Niagara Falls. Far from it. Always received with open arms, there are smiles, hugs, open kitchens, open decks, open bottles and open invitations to shenanigans. I truly appreciate the time spent with friends and family. This is about me returning and immediately longing to leave again. A strong pull inside me that is difficult to explain.

I am conscious of the gap that grows with personal connections while I am gone. People live their lives and the days pass on.  Social media like Facebook, Whatsapp and Duo provide a means to stay in touch in a virtual sense. Inevitably, the gap still expands over time and distance. While I was thinking about this, I discovered the Gaelic word hiraeth. It should not be taken literally, but it has a good feel to it.

How many times have you heard this chestnut? "Everything changes and everything stays the same".  It can be excruciating to return after a long journey with childlike anticipation of “coming home” only to hit the proverbial "post travel wall" almost immediately. Returning to my friends and family fills my hiraeth. I will always have a connection to home, but when I watch everyone go about their chosen lives, visit the places they always visit, do the things they have always done, the more I know I don’t fit there. What some people embrace as settled and comfortable makes me feel – well…. unsettled and uncomfortable.

The post travel blues are a very real thing experienced and documented by travelers, reporters  and social scientists. There are even travel sites that post how to manage the post travel blues. Here is a good one from Hostelworld. Think about it for a second. When was the last time you went away, for a week or two. How did you feel when you returned? At first, you were excited to share your experiences. What happened the next day? Did you start longing to go back to where you just came from? Did you feel a bit sad or anxious?  Did your mind already start to wander to your next “escape?” Imagine how compounded that feeling would be if you were gone for two or three years.

The overused word Wanderlust  is a reality. For me, it starts to creep in after about a week back home, and eventually takes control of every part of me. I start looking at maps and wonder, "what if?"  Why does this happen? Because this is who I am now. In reality it is who I have always been. It has just taken me time and courage to make it happen. Yes, I did just pay myself a compliment. What of it?! 

This is not about wandering the world like David Carradine in Kung Fu. Contrary to the assumption or misguided perception that I am independently wealthy and travel in the luxurious ways people see on Entertainment Television, I in fact, work. Now my focus is to gain new experiences, explore new places and meet like -minded people who speak the same language as I. Not English, Spanish or Mandarin but the language of being out in the world and knowing that it is available for whomever wants to experience it. The freedom of knowing you can make a decision to move and never in a straight line. To live in a country and experience the people and culture, for better or worse, and then use that country as a base. A base to launch yet more experiences, some of which you never have imagined. Five-year plans are for ancient Communists.

After my third beer I let Springsteen carry my thoughts in all the directions they were going.  I have goals that I still want to achieve before my body and mind say enough. There is Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, which would complete me seeing all the wonders of the world. There are the dark travel zones of Chernobyl, Auschwitz, Galipoli, and Rwanda to name a few. The K2 base camp trek in Pakistan, the Baltics which has fascinated me since grade school for whatever reason. Shark cage diving in South Africa, Kilimanjaro, The Kokoda Trek in Papua New Guinea, The Annapurna Trek in Nepal, and my ultimate quest to spend time in 100 countries. I cannot imagine the other experiences that lay between these large quests.

So, the more I wander the more I become a stranger in my hometown. It’s a natural evolution and one that needs to be embraced to be accepted. The more I wander, the more I ponder what is out there. The more I ponder what is out there the more it makes sense to me. Does it makes sense to you?

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