August 6, 2008

The travel quilt: finishing stitches

We're home. Three months of around-the-world excitement, bag-lugging, photo-snapping, talking looking and thinking, and here we are: back in our little house. We close the door behind us and the travelling is all over.

Or not.

I feel like I do when I've just completed a really big, really involving hand-quilted quilt. You plan and cut and sew and work on it for months. Starting it is exciting, but sometimes you have to find the energy to pick up and keep going. You learn to fall in love with it all over again somewhere in the middle. You make mistakes. -And if you're me, you veer of the plan and make adjustments partway through. You see new things in the process, get into the rhythm of it, breathe and relax while you're stitching and think of other things. Sometimes big problems sort themselves out, quietly, at the back of your mind while you are stitching.

So too with travel. A really long trip takes planning, time, and a different kind of energy than a short holiday.

You start off on your adventure, and everything's exciting. Sometime, perhaps several weeks later, you make a few mistakes and you get tired, and perhaps a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the trip (just like a quilt!). You need somehow to learn to love the travel life again - to think about what you're seeing, and to allow yourself just to be who you are, wherever you are. Not defined by house, friends, job, car, clothes, culture, language - all of those things we use when we're at home to say to the world "I am this kind of person". Everything is now, in the present tense.

Weeks on the road and your ties to home re-knot and re-arrange themselves: some friendships become more important to you (as you realise how much you're looking forward to seeing them again), and others are reunited - people you used to see every week but who you've left and moved away from. Those friends are still there, still themselves, only maybe a little bit different, and that can be exciting.

Finally, with the deadline in sight, you start to pack things in. When I quilt, I nearly always miss my deadline by a week or two, and the same with this trip: we decided to extend our stay and return a week later than planned. Which has its own challenges, not least financial! We fell prey to the 'just one more thing' trap as we tried to see to much, got sick, had to sleep - and finally, took those last days in Vancouver, the last stitches on the binding of our travel quilt - nice and easy.

So here we are: back in Melbourne, from summer to midwinter, in our chilly little house with all the leaves off the tree in the yard (hey - who stole the leaves? Oh yeah, winter started while we left).

And we're all wrapped up in a cuddly quilt of our memories.

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