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Published: November 5th 2009
After two years on the road I finally find myself back in an environment that should be comforting, reassuring and familiar. But it is not. Suddenly, after two years of discovery and exploration where conversations more often than not were about new things we had seen or learned, new ways of living we had experienced, new concepts and ways of thinking we had never known existed before, I am trying to fit back into a society where people talk about ordinary everyday topics. My friends, such familiar faces that I was so happy to see again, have lived utterly different lives from me for the last two years. After so many extreme experiences I will take me time to settle back into normal ways of thinking and living. These feelings, combined with the facts that I recently nearly died from malaria and split up with my girlfriend of three years, are causing restlessness and the blues to set in.
I languish, not working, not reading, not writing, unsure what to do with myself. I take up smoking again. When I first came back I had gone running or cycling every day in an attempt to build up my strength after
malaria but now I drop these pastimes in preference of doing nothing. The book I planned to write about my travels goes unwritten.
Everything that should seem so normal is foreign to me. A sign in our village says "This is a neighbourhood watch area!" Strange that they need to announce the fact that this is a community where people look out for each other. In the mountains, jungles, Arctic tundra, taiga forests, Mongolian steppe and Pacific atolls where I have been traveling this is just an accepted part of being a community, something so obvious that it would not even be mentioned. People in communities do, or should, stick together. But my friend's neighbours in Berkshire have refused to speak to one another for many years because one of them built a wall on his own property but in a place that the other did not like. To him this is just so awful that he has completely cut off relations with his neighbour. But in reality the wall is such a tiny thing; take a poor person from any of the countries I have been traveling in and to him owning a house and garden such as
my friend's neighbour's is an utterly unattainable dream whether or not there is a wall in the wrong place.
A sign in our village makes me laugh: "Caution - children and ducks crossing". It reminds me what a privileged society we live in - people can afford to watch out for ducks crossing the road. In any of the tribal communities I have spent time with over the last two years, people do not have this luxury - a bird is just food and if you find one you're very lucky and will eat it.
As time passes I gradually find my footing in my own society but by then it is time to hit the road once again...
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