Cheeseboy and his family left yesterday for a couple of weeks overseas, mostly spent in Bali. He came over on Monday night with a bagful of perishables from his fridge and briefly we chatted before he headed off to finalise preparations and packing for the trip.
Not surprisingly I felt wistful. I wish it was I heading off. I recalled to him the thrill of getting to the airport knowing to embark on a journey to a foreign land. I remembered the feeling of having landed and entering in a different, often new world. Even when I returned to places I’d been to times before it was always an exciting sensation – the different sounds and smells, the language and weather and traffic and the people themselves. There was always a sense of things unfolding before me. I was away from the rote and routine of life back home. Here I didn’t know what was going to come next, and it was all an adventure.
It had never become stale for me, but I had become accustomed to it. For years I set myself the target of one overseas trip annually, at least. For over a decade I achieved that, and in some years I travelled abroad multiple times throughout the year. It tells the tale of another time, indeed, another story.
It’s been a few years now since I went away and I’m starting to feel it. Familiarity is fading in me. The simple aspects of travel I came to expect now seem like novelty.
Funnily enough it struck home to me even before Cheeseboy visited. It’s fair to say I was in a hard, if not angry mood on Sunday night, thanks to the footy. I needed to lighten up and to change the mood I watched an old Jacques Tati movie, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday.
This is such a simple movie with very little dialogue, but an absolute delight. I must have watched it first when I was about 19. I laughed out loud then and I’m still doing it now. Hulot is a clumsy, well-meaning character always getting into situations. It’s full of slapstick humour, but also whimsy. It worked the trick on me Sunday night.
The movie is set in a French seaside village. Hulot stays at a beachside hotel where the guests gather for breakfast and dinner in the dining room. As I watch I recall the multitude of times I’ve been away and come down to share in whatever breakfast the hotel has put on. Mostly that’s a buffet of some sort and with a great plenitude of food regardless of what continent you’re in, and a wide variety.
I remembered more specifically the occasions I had spent at the French seaside. I’ve stayed on the Cote d’Azur, but for some reason my mind went to the Normandy coast where I stayed in Deauville, and visiting Trouville (as well as various inland towns). I could remember but fragments of what I did there, but could recall breakfast in the dining room and speaking to a fellow traveller – a French woman visiting the seaside from her home in the interior – in French.
These are simple things. These are the things I miss. I miss the big things too. In fact I miss it all.
I wonder sometimes if my travelling days are over. I can accept if I do it less often. I am older now and it’s high time I settled down. What I find harder to accept is that my circumstances mean that I may never travel again. Imagine that. I need to do it again because I have always taken such joy from it, and because it has always been such a part of my life. And I need to do it again because I’m as inquisitive as ever, and there is still much more to learn and discover. Mostly I need to do it again to prove that my circumstances do not dictate my destiny.