I have been travelling for just over six months and haven't put finger to keyboard for the whole time beyond the weekly reassuring email home. The good English girl that is still left in me feels like I should apologise for being so slack and not meeting expectations. The gutsy traveller in me, who has negotiated her way all the way across the world thinks I will own my lack of writing.
In some ways it has been an unconscious choice. I have simply been busy, seeing and doing and living. In others it has been deliberate. I have faithfully kept a journal that has been a great comfort and a great resource in looking back over my trip so far. Reading though it I am profoundly grateful that I didn't try and force my feelings into any sort of coherence at the time. The words in my journal are a swirling mass of emotion and experience. At times they are a euphoric outpouring and others express visceral loneliness. I imagine that had I tried to manhandle them into an 800 word encapsulation of a moment it would have been like going up to an impressionist painting with a microscope: all sorts of lovely colours but no sense of the big picture.
For now I am still. I find myself sat on a balcony on Melbourne's Southbank with a Diet Coke in hand (they haven't converted me to coffee just yet) and I finally feel that I can look back at the past months and see them as a whole that has a sense and a meaning.
For me if travelling could be summed up by a noise, it would be the sound of breath catching in your throat. At times this has been through sheer astonishment at the beauty of the world. I was to be found speechless with tears streaming down my face as I flew over the Grand Canyon, and laughing for joy watching a mother whale off the coast of New England teach her baby how to leap out of the water and crash back into it splashing him. Sometimes it has been through exhilaration, plunging in a rickety buggy down a 100ft vertical drop in a Peruvian desert or swimming with sharks in Fiji. And at times it as been with frustration and homesickness.
If I could condense it into one feeling though perhaps it would be gratitude. This is also at the core of the most important lesson I have learnt: that the world is chock full of kindness. I have been profoundly lucky to have experienced countless acts of kindness as I have moved across three continents. From small acts of extraordinary kindness such as the Policeman in Buenos Aires who despite coming from a football fuelled riot shift battered and exhausted, as the only person who spoke English helped me report when I had been robbed and having removed his riot gear drove me safely to my hostel because I didn't want to walk down the road on which it had happened.
I have also experienced huge generous acts of hospitality from people I had never even met. A friend of my father's, Rebecca took me in when I first arrived in New York as my very first stop. She made sure that I wasn't overwhelmed but that I was happy and settled in the Big Apple. Cass and Louis, friends of my mother that she had met at a book group years previously, took me in to their daughter's tiny old bedroom full of books and magazine and fed me delicious home cooked food before sending me out to the Smithsonian with a map and a plan. Cici and Kel, the brother of a friend's husband and his lovely wife hosted me in Cusco when I had been struck by a Peruvian parasite and nursed and nurtured me back to health. The family of a guy I had met in a hostel in Boston treated me like a princess when I stayed with them in Rosario Argentina. The family of a university friend of my father took me in for seven whole weeks in New Zealand and treated me as a full member of the family, right down to the stocking under the Christmas tree for the first Christmas I had ever spent away from my own family. And here I am now in the lovely apartment sourced by my Godmother's nephew, at home, as far away from my home as it is geographically possible to be.
This then has been the first and most important lesson I have learnt while travelling. Not that the world is more unbelievably beautiful and magical than any picture or word could describe which is undoubtably true, but that, despite what we may be being led to believe in the media, the world is full to the brim with kindness and generosity. For that I am truly grateful.