Another year has passed since we set off on our round the world adventure. I spent the anniversary pottering around our new home, halfway round the world from where we began. I framed some photos of our travels, played around with embroidery thread to make a map of our trip, worked on some more writing about China, drunk tea, went to my yoga class. Watched a movie on the sofa.
Looking at the photos I’ve printed out for framing, and rereading the post I wrote after one year of travelling, I’m struck mostly by how absurdly much we packed into our time on the road. There are inklings of this realisation in what I wrote a year ago, the list of things experienced is long, but the tone a little desperate. Jubilant, but exhausted. I wrote then about how it was too long to be travelling, how I needed a rest. Well I’m rested now, and so the ideas that were nascent a year ago have had the energy to flesh themselves out.
I wonder now if it wasn’t that we travelled for too long, but too fast. If we did it again, I think we would make more of a conscious effort to slow down. To see less, but maybe to learn more.
This realisation has led us to some protracted thinking about how we can continue to travel in future. It seemed like a clever idea at the outset of this trip to try and cram a lot in. Who knew when we’d be in Asia again, without the ease of flight, so if we wanted to see something we’d better see it on this trip. With hindsight, that attitude is a set-up for burnout.
I’m so grateful for all of the wonder we let into our lives on this trip, so it’s hard to regret seeing everything we did. But I question if we could have dug deeper, found the more complex and interesting layers that lie under the surface of a place. This is the stuff that really fascinates me, and to get to it takes time.
Committing to not flying makes slow travel harder in some ways. Stopping and delving into the many places you pass through on an overland journey can add up to a whole lot of time. And if you’re anything like me then there’s a limit to how long you can be on the road without going a little bit mad. Months upon years of rootless drifting seem to unhinge me a bit.
I need some kind of community, my own static space to nurture ideas in, and a little bit of routine to peg myself down with.
Without flying it is harder to balance travel and home. More so now that we’ve based ourselves in New Zealand – strung out down here on its own, in a lonely corner of the South Pacific. How can we build a life here and also travel? The options for escaping these islands at sea-level are vanishingly few.
This is the question that looms big, two years on from our great departure. What next?
I think the answer might be to save overseas travel up for big bursts, and escape to the mountains for our adventures in the meantime. There are endless nooks and crannies of New Zealand we’ve yet to explore. More than we’ll ever have time for.
There was a period for me, before we set off round the world, when the vastness of the planet seemed taxing. How could we ever manage to see it all? Would we have enough money, enough time?
As if it’s a reasonable expectation to see everything. And as if it’s even desirable, collecting places like a greedy hoarder. And as if everything was a static mass, sitting there waiting to be consumed.
Now, I’m approaching the boundlessness of available experience as wonder, and a gift. Never a chore. Which makes the challenge not how to fit everything in, but deciding which things to make space for. You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.
Right now I want to put photos on my wall, sit at my desk to write, and form real friendships and relationships with a place.
In another year? Who knows.