I am watching the people passing by, wondering what is on their minds, what their plans are for the day, where they are hurrying, slouching, strolling or pushing their way towards? I try to locate their accent. I should be so much better at this, after all, I am in my own country, my home town, even. I’m a stranger among the familiar.
The unknown and unorganized have been a source of shelter and frustration for so long, I’ve become a chameleon with a color problem. Sometimes I fade away, dissolve into the background, adapt myself to avoid appearing as a foreign object. But a chameleon is not native to many places and so I draw attention sometimes, and when I do, it is full on.
The Japanese took pictures of me, South Africans tried to guide me to safe streets, and Australians helped me with a little soul searching. I am constantly overwhelmed by all this kindness I encounter. So why do I stress over language and culture barriers, why do my blend in ninja skills forsake me when I try to belong? I never quite do. But then again I never did.
That might be a reason to travel in the first place. Finding yourself along an endless path and hoping that someday you can rest and find the tranquillity both within and without a place that is familiar and exciting at the same time. A place with people that accept you for who you are, just as you yourself should. A place that’s a home and a harbor, but that gives you enough freedom for further journeys, new adventures.
I have company. A woman just sat beside me, eating her fish and chips. It makes me sad to be in the middle of this crowd as an observer, as someone who is back at a place that I know by heart, but that my heart doesn’t belong in. The houses I know, the people not so much. And isn’t it people that make a place?
The woman doesn’t acknowledge my presence and puts her bag between us, claiming her space. Building walls. I am an expert at walls. Some of them started falling down when I ate my first fish n chips in England and was called ‘luv’ by the woman behind the counter. A wave of sadness drowns me and I can feel actual pain in my chest. It’s been there for years, reminding me of times past, places I connected to and sights I have never seen in real life.
It’s called wanderlust. But it should be a word with much more impact. Travel bug sounds harmless. It is more like a compulsive want of the brain, some hard wiring that can never be untangled, something that pulls you from within.
I decided to take a day off to just relax. Sitting in the middle of a city that I call home for lack of being able to put into words the sensation that I have left so many pieces of myself in places all over the world, where I knows streets in Seoul inertly, have experienced the daily rut in Tokyo’s suburbs or knocked on people’s door as a salesperson in Melbourne.
“Where is home for you,” I can still hear Australians ask me. I have never heard the question of belonging phrased like that and have never been as reluctant to answer.
Or should I say, “Where should I start?”