"And one day there will be a great awakening, when we shall realize that life itself was one great dream."

- Chuang-Tzu, Chinese philosopher

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For those I've already caught up with, this e-mail is gonna repeat a lot of what I've already said. I may as well write it anyway, partly for those who don't have the privilege of my wonderful company but, above all, for myself, to try to sort out the thoughts and feelings that have been plaguing me since I got back from The Other Side of the World.....

So: here I am, sitting in the living room, my dogs lying under the table, 'Back To Earth' pounding out of the speakers (Back To Melbourne, more like) and forms, letters and other crap spread out all around the computer. It's 5 o'clock in the afternoon and somehow, despite waking up at 5:30am, I don't feel that tired at all - that old adage, "There's No Place Like Home", definitely rings true when it comes to sleeping.

But yeah, now that I'm sitting here, just three days after returning, Europe seems like nothing more than a dream, albeit an extremely long and vivid one. My trip feels like it could've been weeks, even months ago: the fact that I was still in Prague EARLIER THIS WEEK is mind-boggling. In some ways, Europe is still with me: for one thing, I'm nowhere near as tanned as I usually am, although already, after an hour in the sun with my dogs, that's beginning to change. I keep forgetting little things, like that it's OK to drink tap water, and last night, when me and my parents went to Chinta Ria, I told the waitress "Table for three" - and stupidly held up three fingers, just in case she didn't understand English.

But if it wasn't for these little habits, I'd be tempted to wonder if my European holiday even happened; if I hadn't just fallen asleep on the plane and woken up two months later, still on the runway at Melbourne Airport. Maybe that's what happens in planes: they release some kind of hallucinogenic gas that puts you into a lucid coma for several weeks, and you wake up thinking you got what you paid for. It's certainly hard to imagine that when you step out of that gigantic, cramped tube of metal, you'll be on the other side of the world, in an amazingly different place where powdered ice falls from the sky, where people drink warm wine and beer, where there are buildings a thousand years old and more. Now I can't help but marvel at how distant and unreal all those things seem....

For all my European nostalgia, I can't deny that it's wonderful to be back. It was only when I caught up with some of you boys & girls that I remembered why I'd felt compelled to return: because I missed the random, endless phone conversations (the main reason this e-mail wasn't sent out sooner), the late-night gatherings at Pera, the boozy, crazy weekends in the city - all those things that make me laugh, make life enjoyable and prevent me from going insane. It's so nice to have my dogs with me again, and seeing those sun-bleached colours that exist only in Australia.... even having my own private space seems like a luxury. It's also nice to have mummy do all the stuff that I had to do by myself in Europe: the washing, cooking, shopping and tidying... although on the other hand, mummy doesn't have to pick up dog shit or sort out the garbage anymore, now that the household shit-shoveller is back.....

Of course, Europe still calls me relentlessly, and the call isn't going to get any fainter with time - I know I'll have to answer it sooner or later and already, a new trip for 2005 is Under Discussion. At the very least I can say that there is nothing more worthwhile, at our age, than to just travel, travel, travel... because the sights you see, the people you meet, and the funny, meaningful and challenging experiences you have, is something you can't put a price on.

And here, my friends, ends the lesson.

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"In a Wonderland we lie,
Dreaming as the days go by
Dreaming as the summers die;

Ever drifting down the stream –
Lingering in the golden gleam –
Life, what is it but a dream?"

- Lewis Carroll

The last photo of our European Adventure - me & Paul during our final night in Prague.

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