My understanding of one month seems to have adjusted a little since starting this adventure on 1 January. Instead of one hour, one day or one month, I now seem to think in units of one country, one city, one tube station.
Memories of one month ago seem like snippets from another world, where I had a home and keys, jewellery and dresses, family and friends, a job and bills. One month ago I was wearing cleaner clothes. I was teary and excited, saying farewell in an airport. I had not seen snow, or fjords or a sleigh. I had not tasted Nordic fermented fish or brown cheese or real British bangers and mash. One month ago my head was still ticking over times and tasks rather than musing over the meaning of life and whether to take two lefts and a right or go left, right, left.
This shift in perception happened so gradually. Slowly my body changed time zones. I got used to eating when I was hungry and relaxing when I was tired. I started watching people instead of clocks. Then my sightseeing plans started looking less regimented, becoming more like abstract concepts (…head in that general direction for art, coffee, parks).
Unlike any other holiday I’ve taken abroad, this trip has allowed me to slow down instead of cram cities and attractions into annual leave limits. It is simultaneously liberating and terrifying; sometimes I feel free and wild, and sometimes I feel like a lost wanderer. With more time comes more questions and once again I’m realising that the attitudes of everyday life and travel can be one in the same – find balance, have goals, enjoy the little things.
Sitting in a Stockholm cafe a couple of weeks ago, Dave and I had a moment of slight panic as we looked at one another and thought ‘what are we going to do for nine months?’ Of course there is travelling: being in the moment, spending time with new people, getting to know each other better, exploring new places and planning the journey to come. But, as we are starting to realise, there is also so much potential for more!
There is time and space to think about future plans and the important stuff in life. There is a new abundance of energy that can go into creative things – like sketching and music and writing. There are long bus journey during which we can listen to audio language lessons or physics lectures or poetry. And it is through this realised potential (which has been there for the taking all our lives) that we can really get into this feeling free thing.
So here I am in London, one month into an nine month European adventure. I am feeling a little bit relaxed, a little bit excited and like I’m on my way to figuring out a little more than where to take two lefts and a right. I am also grateful for the remaining eight months; for the space and time to explore myself and the world; for the opportunity to be free.