The train to work feels different to any train I rode while travelling. The language is not foreign. The sights are not new. The air lacks the thrill of possibility and the buzz of adventure.
Of course, this could all be in my head. As I look around with my recently-returned-home eyes and see the straight, close-lipped faces of daily commuters, I wonder, is this what foreigners see when travelling Australia? Do visitors see the mundane when travelling? Can they taste the stale carriage air or do they walk around in a bubble of charged travel excitement? And, did I ever notice the dull eyes and surly stares of work goers when I was travelling? I don’t think so; I was too preoccupied admiring roses, staring at stars, relishing cultural quirks and pledging my love to the universe.
How quickly a mindset can change! Just as the end of a love affair taints a yellow world with puddles of grey, the end of a travel adventure can turn a once sunny, smiley universe into a bleak room of straight faces that seem to taunt my waning wanderlust.
Just two weeks after my return, I have to admit I’m struggling to maintain the easy-paced, happy resilience I experienced while wandering the world. The ‘holiday glow’ everyone admired a week ago already seems to be fading. My ‘relaxed look’ is cracking with squinting eyes and tense shoulders. I take a moment to notice the change in me and will myself not to feel to bad about it. This all makes perfect sense: travel induces relaxation, the urge to remain open-minded and the willingness to tolerate the little things that may, at home, make your eyes twitch and knuckles whiten. In contrast, everyday life almost seems programmed to make you slump your shoulders, sigh in the train on the way home from a long day and veil your imagination with to-do lists and appointments and bills.
So, in honour of the wonderful world I recognised while travelling, my challenge this week is to hold on to the traveller’s mindset. I will remember to look past the ordinary to see the new and interesting quirks of my own culture. I will defy the drone mentality and make an effort to smile for the sake of smiling. I will remember that there are trees and sunshine outside the office that I should make an effort to see. And I will recognise the beauty in my own familiar little world, which I’m sure has the same potential to induce wanderlust as any other place I’ve travelled.