Southern Crossings — Epilogue

Upon my return to Melbourne, the first thing I did was to wash my clothes. This turned out to be harder than it seemed when the washer spontaneously decided that it would get a blockage at one in the morning, and leave my clothes steeping in their own filth for the better part of another hour. Long into the night, I mopped up sudsy water from the floor and tried my best to clear up the mess — unfortunately this did not include clearing out the water in the machine, which upon my departure was still trickling gently in. (If anybody from the hostel is upset about how I left the washer, please know that I am extremely sorry about leaving it to drain in the machine for a couple of days. I have money now, I can pay.)

That’s the whole thing about travel: we expect everything to be exciting and amazing, and yet after it all you have to go back to your daily life, face household and domestic problems and all those mundane things that always seem to disappear whenever you’re travelling. I’m not saying that you don’t have these things when you’re on holiday — fear of heading into restaurants alone, frustrations of wet laundry thirty minutes from checkout time — but these all seem to be minor blots in a rich tapestry, something to laugh at when you look back at those times. By contrast, everyday life comes across as a series of problems you have to surmount, that you keep coming up against and can’t escape from. When you travel, everything exists on a different plane.

Except that’s not the case: as I’ve shown through two travel journals and 68,000 words this past year, travel is still fraught when we sit down and pick it apart, a bundle of anxieties that we look back on affectionately when we’ve finished with it all. I’ve noted in my European piece, and emphasized in this one, the boredom and panic that’s washed through me again and again as I walked through two continents. At the end of the day, everyday life still happens when you travel — the trials and tribulations just take place against a different background.

But enough about my insecurities. Travel is a thing of joy, a change of scenery something to appreciate, not to bemoan. We insist on making good memories out of our mixed bags when we travel because we want to, because it provides the escape we desire. And yes, this is a foolish way of facing life, one that distorts the truth and leaves us hankering for a supposed utopia that doesn’t exist. But if travel has taught me anything — anything at all — it’s that we all need to escape reality for a bit, every now and then. These travel journals, as diaristic and ungainly as they might be, contain memories of a happy time. For the sake of my well-being, I’ll insist on keeping it that way. Perhaps they might make you happy too.

Life goes on, it gets so heavy
The wheel breaks the butterfly
Every tear a waterfall
In the night, the stormy night, she’d close her eyes
In the night, the stormy night, away she’d fly
And dream of para, para, paradise…

— Coldplay, “Paradise”

Thanks for reading, everyone. Hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.

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