Pieces of us

Travel. Sometimes it affects us so much that coming home hurts. At times it feels as though we’ve left a part of ourselves in the place we were before.

I always feel this way about places I’ve connected with, places where I’ve lingered and taken things really slowly. Places where I’ve shopped for groceries to bring back to cook instead of dining in restaurants. Where I’ve bussed to town instead of taking taxis and eavesdropped on everyday conversations: What’s the latest with Sue? Ughhh isn’t the weather horrible nowadays? Look, here’s a photo of my new grandson! Better still if I don’t fully understand the language.

I sometimes imagine that we leave tiny bits and pieces of us, scattered about, in every place we go to. Those are my confused boot prints on The Ridgeway where I got lost and later discovered the Devil’s Dyke. Those are my fingerprints on a tree branch in Las Alpujarras in Spain that I held on to, white-knuckled, at the edge of a cliff. And oh, look-those are your footprints on a beach somewhere in southern Thailand.

Belfast

We leave something behind everywhere we go. They could be our own memories, transferred onto everything we touch. Whatever they are, they used to be a part of us but they’ve stayed behind. The more we travel, the more we leave behind. We are no longer complete. And that incompleteness is the space left empty by these pieces of us.

And yet at the same time travel fulfils us. The act of leaving home for a while to see the world completes us and makes us richer. Not all the time but often enough, especially when we try harder. When we have a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like us. When we stay in places far less comfortable than our own homes. That’s when travel completes us.

Sometimes, though, we don’t have to do anything at all. At times a place reveals itself to us and if we are receptive enough, we will learn to love it and leave a part of ourselves there.

I have left memories and pieces of me in far too many places- the curse of wanting to go slow in every place I go to. Even little memories like buying groceries in Pak N Save in Auckland mean something to me. Like eating accidentally overboiled pasta, far beyond al dente, as I celebrated a quiet Christmas in my house-sit in Dublin two years ago. The little things.

Where will you leave a part of yourself this year?

Happy 2019, everyone. May your travels continue to both complete you and fill you with longing.

© 2019, Anis. All rights reserved.

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