Saturday 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

Right, I'm back. Well, sort of. I was always going to go quiet when I hit Australia. If I've only learnt one thing, it's that I can't write when I stay in the same place and am surrounded by friends. Solitude and flux are prerequisites for my scribbling.

New Year's Eve lends itself to decision making. I've written before about standing on the cusp of things; borders, countries, continents. Decisions. Journeys. When the anticipation of something new mingles with reminiscence over things past, the mind can achieve moments of remarkable clarity.

Here's what I wrote a year or so ago in my first post on this blog:

I don't generally like New Year's Eves, but they do afford one the obvious opportunity, obligation perhaps, to reflect upon the previous twelve months. They also sharpen your focus upon the last one, and force you to join the dots. A year ago I had that moment standing on a balcony of a beautiful holiday home in Fairhaven, down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. I gave myself a year to sort things out.

This year, feeling bloated and suffering from a massive sugar crash, I strolled outside for a breath of fresh air. Leaning on the gate and staring out into a beautiful, cold night's sky, I decided I was probably only halfway to being where I want to be. If it took me a year to get halfway, I'd better have one more to take care of the rest. So that's what I did. I deferred the great decision for twelve months, and resolved to hit the road.

This time round it was different. It's been a long year, and I've managed to fit a lot in. How much of it will stand the test of time? What have I really learnt or discovered? How many pillars will remain standing when the tides of time have washed all the other memories away?

The first thing I realised was that there is no halfway. There will never be a New Year's Eve when you can sit and tell yourself that you are there; nothing left to achieve. So it's not a question of apportioning time, or the years, to some great quest or journey of discovery. That journey is your life, and you'll know when you're finished, because you'll be dead. Between now and then, it's simply a question of how you're going to get there.

So I didn't make any grand decisions this time, rather succumbed willingly to the reality that this is life. But at the same time I gave thanks for all the incredible things I have seen and experienced this year. I thought about what I had learned, about the world, about how old, beautiful and incredible it really is, and how I would carry that knowledge with me into the next year, and use it to guide me. And I guess, if I'm honest, that made me think that I would probably not stop travelling just yet.

But being on the other side of the world from your home is tough. I'm lucky enough to be made welcome into other people's homes and families in Australia. But the warmth and love that they extend reminds me of what sits waiting when I get home, and what doesn't too. So maybe next time it won't be a whole year.

A ball started rolling in 2010, and I don't think I'll ever want, or be able, to stop it.

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