As I pack my bag one last time, the caipirinha-infused sexiness of Brazil seems like an eternity away. So does Rio de la Plata, the crossing of the Andes and the adventures deep inside the Amazon rainforest. At the end of my trip, Peru still shines brightest in my memory, surrounded now by a dozen other jewels. Maybe it’s a backpacker’s version of a first love thing or maybe it’s real.
Sun-scorched Africa appears barely any closer. It is there that I saw the raw reality of human condition closer than I ever imagined it before. Thinking of the transformational encounters on this trip, the weeks in the Nairobi slum are one of the two experiences that immediately come to mind.
From there to the undefinable Iran, the spiritual Himalayas and the stretched beaches of Goa. These already seem far away as well. Even the streets of old Saigon that I’m looking at as I type these lines seems to be disappearing into the past before my eyes.
Do all these experiences feel so far because they didn’t actually happen a month, two or five ago? Maybe they were always part of me and the landscapes, the people, the ideas and the conversations encountered on this trip have only brought them to light.
That’s anyway how I feel today, pulling the strings on my muddy ripped backpack one last time. I feel less like having seen new countries and landscapes and more like having uncovered new perspectives within myself that allowed me to appreciate life around me, be it in Arequipa, Nyiragongo or Hanoi, differently than before. And wasn’t this the whole purpose of leaving?
Today, my excitement with returning home is close to zero. There will be wet eyes when the cab picks me up in a couple of hours to drive me to the airport and then again when the plane takes off and the pilot sets the bearing westward. The rewards of travelling were so many and so profound that it is hard not to feel sad, fearful that life around the next turn in the road will not be as colourful and rewarding.
But when I cut through the sadness of these last couple of days, I am mostly endlessly grateful. Grateful not only for having had the experience that so few have the opportunity or the self-permission to live, but even more grateful to have a home, kind people, security, freedom, abundance and prosperity to return to. I would have learnt nothing in the past months if I was complaining about what awaits me on Monday.
I also realize that there is no reason to believe that the new inner perspectives that I uncovered in the past months will not be there, still with me, when the plane touches down in Brussels.
Tomorrow, I will visit a new country on the road. Meet new people. Hear new stories. Be perceptive to new ideas. I will enter into a new meditation retreat – different kind, certainly, but still a meditation retreat. I will allow this next destination – the quirky and mysterious ancient kingdom of Belgium – to unlock further perspectives in me just as the previous destinations have done.
Tomorrow, I will be travelling still and again. The road goes on forever!