Original posted in London to New York blog, Cardiff, September 1, 2010
EVER since this blog started nine months ago, one part of the home page has been flashing orange, asking for one simple piece of information – the date it all ended.
For months it remained untouched because there was no end date. The day we arrived in New York was set in stone, but that wasn’t absolute zero.
That little piece of stamped paper in my passport, obtained after much explanation, a lot of form filling and one endless day sat in the confines of the American Embassy in London (give me a day on the pot-filled road from St Petersburg to Moscow any time), enabled me to stay in the USA until mid-November.
All that, plus explaining it all over again when we re-entered the States in Washington and, fortified by a good few beers, at Niagara, was not going to waste, so the plan was to stretch that final date out as long as possible.
And putting up a date would have been too much like a full stop. The end of this adventure. A bloody great stop sign in this new, much-cherished section of my life. Putting a finishing date up seemed like cutting that off, the end of this life, the return to normality and whatever comes next.
Don’t bother looking for that bit of orange text. It’s not there anymore. Finally, after a couple of weeks back in the UK – having returned just before the need for that infuriating visa actually kicked in – the question this site has been asking for months was answered by the flight home
It’s not as long in the States originally planned or hoped for (the visa will just have to be used sometime before it expires).
If that original plan was still in operation, it would probably have taken me to the west coast again now. Or exploring some small town in the south, explaining exactly where my ‘pur-etty’ accent comes from and why Wales isn’t really a part of England. And almost certainly watching baseball.
But coming home is not the full stop it originally seemed. More of a semi-colon – breaking up one part of my trip and laying the ground for the next part of an ongoing tale.
The next few months could have been spent clocking up even more miles in America, to go with the many thousands clocked up on the bus/train/boat/Green Tortoise in the previous 13 weeks.
But it began to dawn on me, quite early on after branching out from the safety of the trip family, that stretching this single trip out for quite so long would have ended with the largest, most abrupt of full stops imaginable on this odyssey.
The bank balance would have been exhausted, the credit card bill would have been out of control and travelling overkill could well have set in. There would have been little alternative than to return to the daily grind, both for financial reasons and to get some grip on reality.
Not that it has been easy coming back. Still living out of the same rucksack and, with my house still rented out, relying on the kindness of others to put me up, being back has been totally disorientating. It still is.
There’s a strange feeling of being out of place, out of time, out of synch with everything and everybody.
From a world inhabited by like-minded souls, be it swapping gossip and kit on the bus or swapping tales from the front line in a New Orleans hostel, it’s back to a world that doesn’t belong to me any more.
People’s lives are going on at a different pace, in a different direction and it’s hard to fall into place.
The closest is that lost feeling after coming out of a relationship, where your idea of normal has been skewed and there’s a constant sense of something missing. Well, apart from the urge to listen to a load of miserable, introspective music – at least, no more than normal.
I’ll get there, it’s just taking a little bit of time. And I’ve got no intention of shaking off the wanderlust. Not yet.
A few days back freelancing in the old office have helped get some semblance of normality – and helped to pay for the seemingly endless trips to the bar which go with this carefree, not working life – and, hopefully, more of the same will help to keep the bank balance in reasonable health and chip away at the credit card bill.
But the long-term plan is not to answer the oft-asked ‘what now?’, but ‘where now?’.
That earlier than originally planned return from the States means never reaching a point where the desire to travel, explore and generally get to know people and places all over this world was quenched. And there’s still enough money sat in that bank account to pay for another trip. For now.
So that’s the plan – or at least the fledgling part of one.
Having headed out to New York this time, top of the options list at the moment is another epic trip, this time veering south east after central Europe and ploughing on down through Asia and on to Australia, ending up in Sydney.
From there, well…. who knows? There’s always the option to get sensible and return to the daily grind, but we’ll worry about that when we get there. The plan has changed, been ripped up, recycled and tweaked so many times in the last month or so, who knows what it will look like by the time some form of decision is needed?
So top of the agenda, with some form of income needed in the meantime is to work out exactly what comes next.
The first couple of weeks back have been largely looking backward, editing the blog, collating an album of pictures from the trip and a variety of reunions – Nick (who lives here, of course), Mike (who also does now), Julie and Gerda, Dave, Pam and Phoebe (who I’d already been reunited with twice in New York) have all made it to Cardiff in the last couple of weeks.
And while more of that remains on the To-do list (yep, that old pre-trip favourite has returned and is breeding), it increasingly involves things throwing my life forward. Earning money stands near the top of the list. Just below not spending too much of it.
But there are a couple more items of business to settle before this blog gets consigned to the past).
First up is the next entry in which the Green Tortoise gets swapped for a little white Pontiac and I head out onto the wide open roads of the USA.
Then it’s time to sort out another date – the start of the next trip…
Next time: Life In The Furnace with John ‘Cougar Soddin’ Mellencamp
NB This entry originally appeared on the original version of this blog on another website (www.travelpod.com if anybody wants a simple way of cataloguing their own travels), which includes the start and end date mentioned in the opening paragraphs.