Endings are actually beginnings too. This is what I told myself as I sat in the tiny, oh so tiny, room in Osaka. It’s one of those glass half empty or half full sort of things.
The reality of what we had done was before me and it came in two flavours. One said, “How far have we walked?” The other, “How much we have spent?” They spun around and in and out of each other as I tried to come to terms with the final journey; that of coming home. I am perhaps better equipped to deal with this than most as I have moved home many many times in my childhood, for both good and bad reasons. I have said goodbye to childhood friends, to childhood playgrounds, to schools and family members, and then stepped out into *the next*. It really doesn’t worry me too much. For Cesca, well for her – she spent a childhood away from her family in private schooling. I knew that, once back, she would simply and easily slip back into the slot they had for her, her relationships are defined by the connections to those around her and her family most of all. It has a little Cesca sized space in the family’s geometry and she would slot right back in. My family is very different with no such expectations, indeed redefining ourselves is the only expectation we really have. My brother, mother and I really don’t feel we owe anyone anything.
So, the future didn’t worry me. What about the past?
I once invented a group of secret religious agents patrolling the populous of a future society, using their nannite upgraded brains to become masters of all the big data in the cloud. Just by looking at you, they could access all of this and know everything about you, mining for patterns that suggested crimes. Sort of the NSA mixed with Google Glass. Anyway, they had a secret that all the members of this family were actually ex-criminals captured by their leader. To become one of the “Inquisitors” you had to face your crime (through a virtual machine representation of the End of the World (Earth having been abandoned)) and it would leave a scar. This scar would be both physical and mental and would act as an anchor to reality. They had a saying for this, a mantra, which they would repeat to each other.
“You will carry it with you…” says one.
“Always” returns the other.
I would carry the results of our travels with me. They would be shown on my body and in my mind, they would ground me:
Whenever I felt sorry for myself I would remember the poor, naked, mad and abandoned lady laying in a Calcutta street and it would remind me that I have no right to consider myself hard done by.
Whenever I cut loose I would recall the time floating down Laos rivers on a lorry inner tube and realise that I have nothing to prove by “having it large”.
Whenever I feel spiritual I would walk the mountains of China in my mind and know the truth of the Universe having one heart.
Whenever I feel the rising and setting sun I would think of the hundreds of majestic sunsets experienced from the top of cliffs, beaches, fields, inside busses, out of windows, over great cities and boiling up grand canyons, and I would know that nature and beauty are worldwide – something shared by all mankind.
I recall the food, the drink, the animals, the wonderful plants, forests, wetlands and jungles and these bring me back to peace when surrounded by only the manmade world.
I remember the people, their lives, their travels and trials. They would remind me that there are many ways to live life and that I should never be afraid of trying out something new.
The past, carried with me always, was brighter and more full of lessons. I had seen much while away and learned much, about myself, about humanity and about the world. It didn’t worry me.
The last night in Osaka, we went out to a local restaurant.
It was tiny and full of local Japanese. At first they looked a little askance at the large fellow and his wife ducking under the door hangings, but once we smiled and I bowed correctly (a shallow bow/nod of hello that says “formal nervousness” – the Japanese equivalent of the Indian head wiggle) we were beckoned to a stool at the bar. The menu was, of course, completely Japanese and so I picked at random and we ended up with steak, noodles and veg. There we chatted for a while and held hands.
“How do you feel?” Cesca asked.
“I feel ready,” I said.
She smiled and squeezed my hand.
“What was the best place for you?” She asked.
“New Zealand,” I said with no hesitation. “If we had visited there last rather than at the beginning- well, I would not come back. I could move there”.
“We will one day”. She said.
I wasn’t so sure. I looked around the restaurant and even though it was as foreign a place as I could imagine, even though I was on the very far side of the world, I felt as if I was already home and I realised that home, for me, was where Cesca was. I looked at her. Nothing else mattered.
“We will together” I said.
The next day we took an early bus to the airport and went through the classic rigmarole of modern air travel. As the plane took off I thought again about endings actually being new beginnings. That it is all about perspective. It’s like there are two wolves inside you, one black, snarling and made of fear and hate, the other one glowing white and made of courage and love. They are constantly at war with each other for your heart.
The one that wins is the one you feed.
I knew that by travelling to the far side of the world with my love I had fed the white wolf inside. I relaxed back in my chair and we flew home, together.
Basho and Cesca travelled to 12 countries in 12 months and then returned to England. On their return Cesca decided to retrain as a garden designer and Basho got a new job which led to a new career.
Their first child, Samuel, was born 2 years after their return and their second child, Sophia, was born 2 years after that.
Their home is full of pictures from their travels, helping them to feed the white wolf.
Dear readers, when I started writing about our year away, we were still away! Yes, it has been a 5 year project of epic proportions and I am truly happy to have made it all the way to the end without compromising. There are 102 articles on Outside Context regarding travel, most over 1000 words and some stretching to 5000! This includes adventures in mountains, beaches, temples, with tigers, pandas, spiders, among travelers, locals, and even the Buddha’s remains lost in a Delhi museum. Through it all Cesca and I found our sense of the world challenged, our love of the East renewed, and our love for each other deepened. Frankly, I could never have expected so much. It has been a real honor to recount it all – living through it once again in detail and in the company of others. I’m as unready to leave the writing as I was to return home. Next year will see use producing our first joint project on travel and I plan to redo some of the films I have posted (particularly the New Zealand one). Then I have in mind to actually do what all this is the avoidance strategy for and write a novel. On what, as yet – I am not sure, but I am sure that writing is bug and a huge pleasure. Thank you all for reading our work. Basho