It’s time to go.
By the time you read this I will be flying from Brisbane back to Auckland, where I’ll tie up some loose ends and have one last ice cream cone. Then I go home.
It’s been eight and a half months since I exchanged final goodbyes with my family at Winnipeg International. Before I disappeared through the security gates, my well-travelled sister hugged me and said, “You’re going to have so much fun.”
I remember thinking “Really?” It’s hard to believe now, but “fun” was not what I was picturing at that moment. That day I was quite nervous about the whole thing — enduring a 17-hour flight, navigating Bangkok’s chaotic streets alone, establishing myself in another country where I didn’t know a soul.
That seems like ages ago.
The gravity of my trip’s ending has been coming down more heavily every day this last few weeks. It’s been a sentimental week, as I seem to be doing everything for the last time: booking the last hostel, buying the last batch of backpacker groceries, confirming my final flight. It really does feel like the end.
It was so much more than fun. I had the time of my life.
Right now Brisbane is grey and rainy and I’m in a 24-hour internet café. I’ve come down with what is hopefully a mild bug, and my head is cloudy. The moment feels very heavy and words are failing me right now. But I’ll just say it feels like the most pivotal chapter of my life is coming to an end.
It doesn’t exactly feel like I’m going back though. My hometown almost seems like a new destination now, because I’ve become a different person.
If I think of how overwhelmed I felt on my first day in Thailand — stepping out of a cab, beyond exhausted, into Khao San Road’s sweltering gauntlet of pushy vendors, trying to look like I didn’t come straight from the airport — it almost seems like that happened to a different person.
The young man who was so nervous to throw himself into a new country last October is not coming back. He perished sometime between the 4am train to Hua Hin and the ice-cold swim in the Clinton River. I’ve never grown so fast as I have this past nine months. I am calmer, more grateful, more aware. I’m much better able to socialize, to walk into unfamiliar settings without trepidation, to live my life without explaining myself, to bear pain and tedium (thank you kiwifruit industry), to live with few possessions, to flirt (with people and disaster), to try new things on a whim, to be upfront about who I am, and to appreciate whatever I have, wherever I am.
My voice is a bit louder, my posture a bit better. I use words like “mate” and “boardies.” I say “it’s meant to…” instead of “it’s supposed to…”
I am still reeling from the whole thing. Something huge has shifted, and I won’t know exactly what until I’ve spent a bit of time back in Canada. There is so much to talk about, but tonight I’m as dull and dreary as the streets outside.
This is my last post from this side of the planet.
Monday evening, I will be home.
Photo by David Cain