After a night of strange, redbull-sabotaged dreams of being chased by a mob of angry animals, I quietly slid out of my pod in the hostel and down the hall for a quick shower. My roomies which included a Chinese girl in the bed above me, a Spanish guy to my left, and a 40+ yr old English woman, were all snoozing away when I left at around 08:00. A shower rendered me half-human again after my night of craic in London and within the hour I was walking to the Piccadilly Tube station beneath the weight of my pack. Inside was a bulging array of nasty laundry, a 4ft tall disassembled shisha pipe, and a collection of oddities from Europe and Egypt, including 4 books (I really need to find a hobby that weighs less).
There was a familiar sadness in my heart of leaving, but also a quickness in my steps because yet again…
I was on my way home!
I have said it before, but home gives you a reference point on which to judge your travels. Coming home is as important to me as leaving in the first place. I speak to travelers all the time that say they have been away for 2 years or more, which is very impressive, but I can’t help to think that they would get so much more from their travels if they came home with new eyes once in a while and established a benchmark. After so long, your mind becomes numbed to new experiences, and things that should blow you away seem like “just another day”. Coming home is as good for the soul as travel in my opinion.
No longer being a London newbie, I knew exactly what to do. I dropped my 3L (about $6) into the machine and purchased a ticket for Victoria station. At Victoria, which is pretty much the main hub for the trains, I purchased a 10L ticket on the surface train for Gatwick airport. When I found the correct platform, the train was already sitting and waiting for me with an inviting, open door. No squiggly Arabic writing to decypher, no policeman with a machine gun sticking out the window, and no touts. It all felt very civilized compared to the last month or so. The train was very comfortable, nearly empty, and within 45 minutes I was climbing out at Gatwick airport.
Gatwick is usually a nice and easy airport to navigate, I much prefer it to Stansted or Heathrow. I checked in, and watched like I usually do as my huge rucksack made its way down the conveyor and through the black curtains to land of the underpaid mishandlers. Its always a scary thing, and I wonder every time if I will ever see it again. I have never lost or had luggage delayed while flying, and I fly so much, I’m sure that statistically my time is up and the party will be over one of these days. 🙂
I made my flight with no trouble, which was a refreshing change given my last couple of airport experiences in Egypt. The turbulence rocked me to sleep and the roar of the engines was my lullaby as my Delta plane fought against the constant headwind of the jet stream for 9.5 hours. I slept like a baby, with my head bouncing around like a Pez-dispenser at every bump. I dont even know what the movie was and I vaguely remember waking up long enough to eat the small dinner they served. I was dead to the world.
As usual I was greeted back to America in Atlanta by some of the most unfriendly and worthless airport monkeys imaginable. I really wish we had a better welcome party for our international visitors from Europe. If this were my first time in America, I would have been tempted to do an about-face and run back to the plane!
The guy in passport control asked me quite a few questions about why I was traveling solo in Egypt, why I did not have a job, and why my passport looks like it went through a washing machine. I answered each honestly, and avoided the urge to tell him that I was in Egypt shopping around for plutonium or to finish construction of my giant robot. That is one obvious difference between Europeans and Americans. If I tell a European that I just spent 1 month in Egypt backpacking alone, the usual response is a slightly unimpressed “cool”, coming from a place where gap-years and international travel is common. If I tell the same to an American, who’s general idea of a holiday is 1 week in Orlando, I can pretty much expect that they are walking away and dialing the Dept of Homeland Security on their mobile to report me. 🙂
I arrived into Lexington, Kentucky around 22:00 to the open arms of my family. Homecomings are always a little uncomfortable at first it seems as we size each other up for changes that have occurred the last few months. I keep forgetting to take my black eye patch with me and to be wearing it when I come down the escalator just to take the crack out of my mom. 🙂 After having experienced 2 deaths in the family (both close to me) this year while abroad, seeing my mom and dad standing there in the airport in relatively good health and smiling is worth more than anything in this world. I felt a strange wave of unexplained tension evaporate off of my body while I was standing there with them praying that my backpack would come around the belt. Good thing I wasn’t back in formation in basic training, I had a smile on my face that a Brillo pad could not scratch off.
My first thought on walking out of the airport is how different the air smells here than in Europe or Egypt. Thats why I love travel so much, something as unnoticed as breathing, becomes a new experience. For a precious couple of weeks, as my body fights the jet lag and my mind fights the reverse culture shock, I am like a 2 yr old in a 31 yr old body…everything is a new or interesting experience. Even driving is fun, after having gone 2 months without being behind the wheel. Of course, all the newness wears off, and reality eventually comes creeping in like a shadow over my happy little candle. For now, I am happier than a pig in a poop factory (so much for my chances of having this article taken seriously by professionals after that statement) 🙂
My apologies to your eyeballs for such a long post but thank you for reading it…life is good!