Travel and homecoming are intertwined – in myth, stories and experience. From Homer’s Odyssey to Plato’s cave, ancient stories highlight that return from travel can allow the familiarity of home and everyday life to be seen anew, with fresh eyes. In modern times, authors have drawn on variations of the travel and homecoming theme, from James Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets. I’m thinking of these connections as I write, on my way home from a fascinating trip into other worlds.
Part of the trip involved two conferences. The first was a continuing education conference that reinforced for me the idea that education and learning as we progress through life can potentially transform the way we see the world and our place in it. The second was a phenomenological philosophy conference which, despite my feeling out of my depth much of the time, triggered new insights for me. The crux of phenomenology, as I described in earlier blogs, is to stand back from everyday life – through reflection – to explore what is usually taken for granted in our experience.
Such reflection can also be reached through the distance of travel. Maybe in retirement there wil be an opportunity to write stories about travel or triggered through travel. I really enjoyed some of the stories on ‘Your Life is a Trip’ . There’s no doubt that, for me, part of the pleasure of both travel and homecoming is the chance to step out of routine. The chance to dream ideas triggered by new sights and stories and bring a refreshed imagination home with photos and memories.
When I was young, I was often left feeling flat and depressed after coming back from a trip away. The excitement and anticipation of travel was marred by the shapelessness of days on my return. Everything seemed the same as before. The future stretched towards an empty eternity that eventually filled with day to day busyness until wanderlust kicked in again. I travelled a lot in my twenties, travelled less since having children, but recently had some glorious opportunities to travel through work.
As I’ve become older, I travel in a more mindful way. I’m slower, I take my time to soak up the atmosphere and stories of people and place, and I love coming home. The homily that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ applies to all manner of things. Coming home is sweet. There is a deep joy and content that I seemed not to value in younger years. Apart from missing family and friends and anticipating the exchange of stories, part of the joy of homecoming now is the feeling of being ‘at-home’, the comfort and pleasure of gazing at familiar sights that seem somehow sharper and brighter for my absence.
The joy of coming home to Brisbane, Australia is the light. The intensity of light, clarity of colours and range of hues in flowering trees at this time of year is always intoxicating. Brisbane’s bougainvilleas gathered in a vase on the mantelpiece is my picture for today representing my gratitude for both travel and home. In Eliot’s words (from Little Gidding) , homecoming is about arriving ‘where we started’ and knowing the place ‘for the first time’. Perhaps aging is also about such a journey.