I’m writing this post in Maidstone, blessedly inside (no more tents!) curled into a knot on the bottom bunk nearest the outlet, where an impromptu electronics charging station has been set up. I am no longer entirely sure what normal life is like. You move every five days, right? Meals are served out of a communal pot? It’s normal to wash your clothes in the shower? Wait, what do you schedule your life around if not visiting art museums? Work?!?
We’re at the end of the trip. And in addition to prepping for the inevitable culture shock that comes with “normal life”, I’m trying to prep the stories I’ll tell. I’ve spent two months on the road, in nine different countries. I’ve visited 18 cities (okay some of them were really only towns), muddled my way through six languages not my own, and visited so many museums I have lost count. I went to so many cafés, (so many cafés). I have crammed so much experience into my head that it all starts to blend together, like watercolour running into itself.
We’re at the end of the trip. And it gets really easy to reduce countries, history, art and experience to a single note, whether I “liked it” or not.
“Oh, I didn’t like France, it smelled of urine.”
“I really liked England— I spoke the language!”
“I couldn’t find the pretzels I wanted. Germany was a waste of time.”
It is really easy to reduce the trip to my personal experience, the “what was it like on the jasmine-train” trip. It’s also really boring. The interesting stuff is what I saw when I looked beyond myself. The stuff, you know, that I went on this trip for. The other people. The history. The culture.
We’re at the end of the trip. And I’ve got to start curating my stories. The tale of the skin I wore off my toes? Boring and repetitive. The tale of the fearsome Spanish nun hamstringing the tourist-bros with a cane on the way to a shrine— much more interesting. With that in mind…
Come over sometime and I’ll tell you about the quasi-religious status of the opera in Vienna. During a performance, they pipe it into the subway! People brought scores to the performance…