We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T. S. Eliot
Looking back on my Eurotrip photos and e-mails, it seems more than ever like a dream or a past life; so amazing and massive and unreal that occasionally I feel like calling Paul and talking to him just to prove to myself that it really happened - that we were really there, listening to live jazz at a bar in Krakow, walking across the Szechenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, or catching the U-Bahn to good ol' Stephensplatz to commence another day of sight-seeing. It seems so much longer ago than just half a year, and yet, whenever I listen to certain songs - especially my personal Eurotheme, 'Call On Me' by Eric Prydz - it's as if I've just taken some sort of drug; immediately my heart swells and my mind comes alive with images and sensations so tangible that it's almost as if I was back there again, in those incredible European cities with their indescribable European atmosphere.
Of course, my itinerary this time is very different to last: central Europe, which previously took up all of me and Paul's ten weeks, has now been relegated to a mere six days. Most of the places I'll be visiting I've never been to before: London and Southampton in England, Tampere, Jyvaskyla and Helsinki in Finland, Stockholm in Sweden, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Maastricht in Holland. At the end of it all there's two familiar ones: Warszawa, the Capital of Heroes, and Krakow, the most picturesque city in central Europe. I still remember what a thrill it was on the train to Warsaw, to be surrounded by Polish people conversing and joking in the Polish language. I spent almost the entire journey humming Chopin to myself, staring out the window at all the Polish roadsigns and logos, eager for the next ticket inspection so that I'd have another chance to speak Polish to someone, and hear the Honourary P. Z. Stefanski mumble his hesitant "dziekuje" ("thankyou").
Without getting too deep & meaningful here, reflecting on my last trip to Europe actually makes me think of a certain scene in American History X:
. . . . .
Sweeney: ....I didn't get no answers coz I wasn't asking the right questions. You have to ask the right questions.
Derek: Like what?
Sweeney: "Has anything I've done, made my life better."
. . . . .
For me, my Ten Weeks in Europe really made me happy in a deep and ongoing sense - it was the first thing I'd really put my heart and energy into, and the result was deeper and more satisfying than I'd even dared to imagine. Of course, the Eurotrip eventually came to an end but the memories will stay with me forever, and to this day, every time I see Paul dressed in the orange-and-brown shirt he bought in Wroclaw, I smile, remembering the day he bought it, all the nights he wore it out to the bars & clubs in Prague, and even the ridiculous argument it triggered over whether Paul has a preference for earthy-coloured clothing. Even more precious than these memories are the wonderful people you meet and the friendships you make in these beautiful and foreign surroundings, because not only do they help the past live on but, as some of them have for me, encourage you to come back and add more shared experiences and discoveries to the list. I suppose you could say, in short, that the more you travel, and the more contacts you make, the more natural, adventurous and addictive travelling becomes.
Anyway, soon my personal chaffeur Nath will be driving me to Tullamarine airport, where once again I'll become part of that awesome international matrix, step into Austrian Airlines flight OS8 and find myself, 24 hours later, on the Other Side of the World, living life on that amazing Tourist Frequency where virtually everything is possible - everything, that is, except a good night's sleep ;-)
* * * * *
"Life is like a game of cards: The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way that you play it is free will."
- Taisen Deshimaru (Buddhist scholar)
Me in a lounge bar at Melbourne Airport, "relaxing with my Scotch" before taking off to the other side of the world.