By the time you read this, the grand trip will be over. It was… 4997 miles driven by us in the USA, more as we were driven, more on trains, more in the UK. Of course many more miles flown. This trip has been an orgy of energy use, consumer activity, pay-before-pumping gasoline purchases, scouting out motels and campgrounds, gazing at amazing things, and movement of all kinds.
As another travelling friend has recently written, travel broadens the mind, makes you a better person, and gives you plenty of stories to bore people with at dinner parties. I’ve been a fish out of water for so long that I’ve nearly forgotten how to have a conversation that somehow doesn’t lead to a discourse on the different ways people in different countries interact, how weird this country’s food is or how bad this other country’s weather is. I’d like to be in a place (mentally and physically) where I can just shoot the breeze and talk about simple things like how good this beer or that movie is or was.
This message is being written in an appropriate place to assist: I’m sitting against a pillar in LAX, gate 25, with the Mac plugged in and Nic sitting across from me. A gentle American voice is warning us to maintain visual contact with our personal property at all times, a girl is mouthing along to a song on her iPod mini. There’s a mobile phone call or two, a few empty water bottles scattered, and two other laptop users sitting at a pillar nearby. They may be writing something insightful, balancing their chequebooks, or playing chess; I don’t know.
Most travellers here have that resigned look that you get waiting in airports. We all know we have an hour until boarding, and then another fourteen hours just for this flight. We have another three and a half hours of flying to reach Brisbane. This flight is an interesting one; you’re meant to sleep. Takeoff is at 11.30pm, and arrival at 7.15am, but there’s six hours time difference, and if you can sleep that long, good luck to you. And maybe we’ll be woken up stopping in Honolulu in the middle of the night.
None of that really matters. Flying is like a fast bus journey with increased security. OK, it’s very much faster, but it’s not as fashionable as you might expect. Lots of sitting about waiting. The end product, though, is that you get to go around the world, passing through timezones like a hot knife through soft cheese, and return home in a flash. In less than twenty four hours, in fact very likely before this message is posted, we’ll have finally seen, for the first time, the house we bought about a year ago. (Ask me if you don’t know the story.)
That’s a big, big thing. We’ve been counting down for what seems like months and has, in fact, been that long. Now, we get to see it, and my mother, and my parents-in-law, and Bianca the cat, and other friends, and all the Brisbane stuff I’ve lost touch with. Here’s a handy comparison chart from a couple of days ago which you can try yourself: fire up weather.com and check out the ten-day forecasts for “London, United Kingdom” and “Brisbane, Australia”. London was rain or showers every day, though warmish (11-25°), Brisbane was slightly cooler (9-24°) but sunny daily. Don’t do this if you want to stay in London, it’ll only depress you further. Do it if you need encouragement to leave.
Actually, the weather in LA’s been great. We’ve spent the last day and a half hanging out with Amy and Cam, two Aussie expats spending a few years away from home. Amy showed us around the nice bits of LA (Venice beach, Santa Monica, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood) and took us to nice restaurants and cafes. We swam in the Pacific, in pools and jacuzzis, drank beer. Hung out at their place, talked about TiVo, politics and music. An entirely pleasant way to leave the country, and the only way to enjoy LA. It’s worth a visit if you have a guide, as you need to know where to go and a car.
But that’s LA, and though we’re still here, an airport doesn’t count, it’s anonymous, international ground. The same overpriced food, magazines and duty-free liquor, the same symbols and the same blank looks. Nobody wants to be at an airport, unless, like Singapore, there’s a game show and a massage to be had. Here, they make you pay for internet access and trolleys, so we’re simply leaving.
This post, though, isn’t the last post, simply the last for a while. There are people to see, jetlag to defeat, parties to go to and family and friends to hug. More emails to write, new connections to forge and old ones to strengthen. A knitting book to design, websites to maintain, DVDs to plan, meetings to attend. Colours to pick out, contractors to hire, cars and bikes to buy, consumer advice magazines to read closely. There’s a long trail to follow, and I’m sure I’ll be waylaid. We’ll be more stationary, but hopefully not less interesting.
I’ll let you know.