Travelling on Friday evening from Stuttgart to Villach, Austria, there were no seats free in any of the train carriages, so I joined a few other passengers on the floor. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, really – the trains in Germany are fairly clean and the floor is carpeted, at least I didn’t have to worry about my derrière getting sore. An hour or so later, I realised, happily, that sitting on the floor was, in many ways, better than sitting up there on the seats. I could stretch out my long legs completely and adjust my sitting position to my liking. I could also observe my fellow passengers unobtrusively and from a different angle — how interesting it is to observe humans when they don’t know they are being watched!
The only thing that I didn’t like, was that I couldn’t look out of the window at the passing landscapes. Train travel in Germany is otherwise quite boring. No open windows or doors, no chance of standing in the doorway and feeling the wind whip my hair into a tangled frenzy, no hawkers hawking their wares loudly (chaaai, chaaai, chaaai) all day, no chance to get down at a station and quickly get a samosa to eat…ah, how I miss the Indian train journeys.
Truly, that is not the only thing I miss. I miss the food, delightfully spicy and differing from place to place. I miss the refreshing monsoon and pleasant winter and the summer fruits (though not the summer weather!). I miss having the luxury of hopping on my motorbike and riding to wherever I want in a matter of minutes. I miss my Mum (and her home-cooked food), my sister’s cuddles, my Dad’s playful teasing, my Gran’s comforting and wise words. I miss going to the hill just behind my house with my friends, to catch the sunrise or the sunset, and our meandering talks interspersed with companionable silences. I miss the nature in India —the Western ghats, the dry, stark expanse of Rajasthan’s sand dunes, the Himalayas rising in the north as if standing guard over the heavens, backwaters and coconut trees of Kerala, the fantastic beaches of Pondicherry, Diveagar and Puri.
Simply put, I miss home.
This statement, in itself, is hard for me to accept. Being a person who loves – LOVES – to travel, I have always been more than a little proud of my sense of Fernweh and have never really experienced homesickness…before. That’s not to say that I don’t like living in Germany; I love it here too. It’s just that I have been away from home for too long now to not miss it.
I never thought I would long for home when enjoying living in a different country, and this realisation subsequently shocked me half into denial. Me – who has an unending list of places she wants to visit, who bemoans the fact that the span of human life will never be enough to travel to every place on this earth, and who currently has a Schengen Visa to take full advantage of – was wondering if I could pull off a trip to India with my remaining leaves. How could I? If travelling were a religion, I would be committing blasphemy by thinking about heading home while so many places in Europe remained unexplored. So I locked this thought up in one of the many nooks in my mind; I was afraid that I would become less of a traveller if I entertained it any longer.
That thought would have remained locked up, had I not read something that made me look at it from a different point of view. It made me realise that there are different types of travellers and every traveller’s way of travelling is different. Some people keep moving from city to city and rarely, if ever, go home. Others travel to different places whenever they get time away from their jobs and families. If I felt like going home every once in a while, well, that was just the kind of traveller I was. Seems like a simple thing, but when you have developed a liking for travel influenced by people who tell you about the wondrous sights you get to see when you just move away from home, the chain supposedly holding you back, it takes a bit of time to look at it as an anchor that holds you firm, roots you, through the storms in your life. Just as a ship docks at a port to refuel and stock up on supplies, so also would I be going home to stock up on the feeling of just being home. And of course, nothing fuels my passion for travelling like being at home does!
I’ll never be at peace , this way. When I’m in a foreign place, a part of me urges me to go home. When I’m at home, I yearn to put on my trusty shoes and be on my way again. Oh, the dilemmas I face!
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. (…) Coming back to where you started from is not the same as never leaving.”