Despite bemoaning the lack of a big tickbox item on my sabbatical last month, I have actually been planning a small 'big trip' since January and last month it happened – a two-week, snow-to-sun, mountain-to-sea, 2,000-mile overland trip via eight countries to Eastern Europe. It featured stops in Zurich, Budapest, Belgrade, Podgorica, Kotor and Dubrovnik and finally fulfilled the promise to meet Pete in Belgrade after his fourth Resonate Festival.
'What did you learn, what did you gain?' an old friend used to ask of such experiences.
The short answer is to use a travel currency card when your Visa card fails on the Austrian OBB trains site.
The long answer is… that this was a test. A test of my love of travel, and being older with a backpack, and something around what happens to a solo traveller once they settle down.
How is it, for example, that I still dream of big adventures but find myself yearning for home, my boy and my rabbits when away? What is this almost overwhelming tension between pleasure at going to new places and anxiety over the unknown? And what would 'not going' on new travels mean for my identity, which is so bound up in getting away? I'm not a huge adventurer but I have travelled – a lot – so without it, who am I?
This trip was short but one of the great overland adventures and there shall be photo/diary extracts to come. But where does this ambivalence about travelling leave me? Not necessarily wanting more. Which feels very, very strange and, with a big birthday coming in 2018, I'm left questioning my ideas about going to Nicaragua or back to Indonesia.
Perhaps this lifestyle change process of reassessment is going to affect me more deeply than I planned.
There shall be more blogging about this.
Update: on a more positive note, I did get damn pretty fit on this trip. So many hills, mountains, cliff sides, train platforms…