Half a world away from Russian lakes, Mongolian goats, Chinese walls, Vietnamese lanterns, Indonesian dive sites and Thailand’s hot noodle dishes, I walk along a road with barren trees, tightly wrapped in my coat.
We returned from the heat of Thailand to a cold spell in the UK, from 30 degrees Celsius on the morning walk past passion fruit juice and iced coffee to the airport, to around zero degrees on the walk past corner shops and Tudor style houses from the train station. After a celebratory cup of tea we took separate paths out into London. I drank in familiar scenes with new delight. The voices on the train platforms announcing arrivals and departures, the well -worn seats on the Piccadilly lines, the accents of the middle-aged women on holiday on their way back from a shopping spree at Harrods, the crunch of leaves underfoot; all were especially exciting.
Both Luke and I returned to brighten our parents’ lives, to hobbies like running and indulgences like ‘real’ tea and tasty bread and to begin writing applications for jobs. In that time we’ve also gone through our endless photographs (almost) finished albums and power point presentations and reminisced, although rarely with other people. I found it incredibly difficult to tell stories on command when asked about our half-years adventures. Summarizing so many different experiences, cultures, people and emotions into half an hours conversation seemed so impossible I didn’t even know where to start.
Even my family complains that they have not really heard about our travels. And it is true, I never once sat down and traced our route, pointed out highlights, or forced them to admire pictures. But here and there I weave stories into our life. In the grocery store we find imported fruit and I begin to talk about our fellow traveller in Beijing who loved them so much she made us try them, or about the unusual ‘snake fruit’ I ate on Bali. When the sky turns an endless blue I talk about Mongolia, and how when the sky clears and the land flattens your eyes constantly play tricks on you, unwilling to accept a great, empty expanse. Walking past the seals in the aquarium I rave about the round Baikal seals and the refreshing cold water after the strenuous long hikes. The news reports about air pollution in Beijing, and I reflect on our luck that we were there right before the remembrance parades for WWII, when all of the industrial plants had been ordered to shut down…
Day by day we experienced new cultures and worlds, day by day I now am processing them.
Around me, the frosty north-German town I call my home also has gained new beauty. I miss the bright tropical colours, sure, but the ‘endless grey’ as one of our visitors recently called it really appeals to me. I like the way the sun rises and the tones of the muted colours change, how shadows are sometimes non-existent. On these days I live, walk and run in a bubble, my focus shifting to details like frozen leaves and small birds, puffed up against the cold. Plus I doubly love days like today which bring back memories of winter mornings in Russia, when the blue sky bursts out from its grey veil and the sun bathes everything in golden light. The familiar landscape still offers many adventures- be they shorter and closer to home- they will still be fantastic.