Bittersweet symphony

It’s been less than a week since I came home from my trip to Turkey. My luggage still sits at the side of my sofa, waiting to be unpacked. Apart from the bare necessities like underwair, toothpaste and the little hippo I have had since I was ten days old, I have left everything inside my backpack. It’s a forlorn sight, and a bit messy at that, but I can’t seem to put myself to unpacking yet. Unpacking means I am definitely at home, here to stay for yet another period of time without knowing when I’ll be travelling again. Keeping my backpack stuffed with clothes – filthy as they may be after two weeks of being at the beach, sweating in a hot car and spilling beer and köfte on almost everything I had brought with me – makes me feel as if I can pick it up and leave again any second, ready for the next adventure. It’s silly, I am aware of that. Not unpacking doesn’t mean you’ll leave again tomorrow, nor does unpacking mean you can’t go on adventure soon after. Even during the trip I have packed and unpacked my luggage about a hundred times in order to please the perfectionist in me and to create some space for a nargile and a bottle of shampoo big enough to wash the hair of a whole orphanage and even that only took me half an hour at most. Packing and unpacking during a trip has something liberating, something cleansing to it. Still, unpacking here at home feels more final, constricting.

This feeling is exactly what I dislike about travelling. I hate leaving people I love behind. I hate leaving the sense of adventure, only to return to the same, boring stuff I’ve seen over and over again. I hate how the normalcy of  daily life at home is emphasized by having seen and done so many abnormal things during my travels. It gets harder for me to adjust each time I come home, especially now that I have found a little palace of my own, with subscriptions and contracts that tie me down for at least one year. Things that tie you to one place, make you settle into a life that you’re expected to settle into by society. I’m still not sure what I want to settle into, and where, so having this little house I call home frightens me.

Events of last trip to Turkey have altered me and the way I look on life in such a way, that I’m not sure about anything anymore at all. I feel like I am meant to see more of the world, to roam and meet new people, to find love in all corners of the world and to write about it. To photographe it. To experience it, but most of all, to follow love wherever it may take me. I can’t be settled in a house in a small town in a country so small you need a magnifying glass to find it on a map of the world, with rent and an electrical bill to pay and go on adventure at the same time.  You can’t drag pets, kids, or a job from place to place, just because you have no peace and quiet in your ass, right? Or can I?

Feeling this agitated is also one of the things that I love about traveling. I am grateful for being able to experience, feel, love life so intensely that it hurts inside. It makes me feel alive, as a human from flesh and blood, to be capable of caring for other human beings this much. Despite all the differences in culture, upbringing, languages and much more, people from all over the world are capable of forging bonds for life, remaing forever connected no matter the distance. It was because of my father’s decision to attend one year of high school in the United States that made him meet a family away from his own. The guest family that received him, took him in like he was their own son, and it’s the memories and love he experienced 40 years ago that made sure they are still in touch. It’s the bond that was forged 40 years ago, that made my dad’s American brother ask him to be his best man at his second wedding, seven years ago. I consider these people my relatives, although we share no blood. I feel as close to and as geographically far from this family as to my own two brothers.

If my dad hadn’t chosen to join an exchange programme, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Turkey in the first place.  I wouldn’t have reconnected with Nick in Izmir and Istanbul, I would never have met Elif and I would have never whitnessed the surprise on the face of the groom upon the entering of his bride to be at her Henna party. I wouldn’t have been part of the union of these beautiful souls in marriage. Life would have been entirely different if my dad hadn’t decided to pack up his suitcase and travel to a world far from his own. My life would have been different if it weren’t for travels.

As I sit here in my backyard writing this little tid-bit, the sun warms my face and slowly turns my already tanned skin a few shades darker. The strawberry plant greedily soaks in the heat to provide yet another bright red fruit, probably ready for consumation tomorrow. Strawberry plants act the same way, in Turkey, in Rome, in Brazil. You’d say we are all heated by the same sun, no matter where we are in the world. In essence that might be true, and it is to this thought that I hold onto to prevent from going crazy.  As long as each day starts with the rising of the same sun, we are not that far apart from one another. May it be in a different timezone, my international loved ones and I will see the same sun lighting up the world around us, and this thought offers me comfort, even for the shortest of moments.

As I take one last swig of the beer bottle beside my chair,  I am reminded of how beer tastes different in every country I’ve been to. The Bavaria I’m drinking is a brand I haven’t seen across the Dutch border yet, nor have I encountered any of the beers I so fondly remember here in the supermarkets. The beer, heated a little by the warmth emanating from the terrace tiles, feels soft and sweet on my tongue, and although I like it, it’s nowhere close to the flavor of a Tuborg in the back of a pick up truck. Fellow travelers will know that the flavor of the beer has nothing to do with the amount of hop and malt in the beverage, but everything with the company you have while drinking it.

I open another one, put the earbuds in my ears and blast some country songs that take me back to Turkey. As I close my eyes, the tones fill my ears, the alcohol widenes my veins and the sun touches my eyelids. Everything feels more intense as I enjoy the sensation of a smooth breeze bristling through my hair. Until my next trip, all I have is my memories of international love and my writing. It might not be a lot, but it’s all I have for now.

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