I am watching the people passing by, wondering what is on their minds, what are the plans of the day, where are they 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 has been equally my shelter and frustration for so long, I’ve become a chameleon with a colour problem. Sometimes I fade away, dissolve into the background, adapt myself to not appear 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 in 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 harbour but that gives you enough freedom for further journeys, new adventures.
I got 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 which I know by heart, but my heart doesn’t belong in. The houses I know, the people not so much. And isn’t it people that make a place?
She 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. Travelbug 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 off a day to just let it be. 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?’